ROGERSVILLE — When he installed speed bumps in front of his Hawkins County restaurant last week, Amis Mill Eatery owner Jake Jacobs was more concerned about keeping his customers safe than obtaining permission from the county.
Sometimes its easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, Jacobs told the Times-News Sunday afternoon.
On Monday morning, however, the Hawkins County Highway Department required neither permission nor forgiveness to remove the two speed bumps from Bear Hollow Road at both ends of the Amis Mill Eatery property.
Jacobs said he hopes that decision isn’t going to cause someone to be seriously injured or even killed.
The Thomas Amis House and farm is the oldest settlement in Hawkins County, dating back to the 1770s. The Amis Mill Eatery is on W. Bear Hollow Road near the original Amis House, and there are walking trails throughout the property that are open to the public.
It’s a popular tourist attraction, and among the most popular features of the property is the Big Creek Falls and Dam, which was constructed in 1779 directly across the road from the eatery.
The creek bank on both sides of the dam is a recreation area, and Bear Hollow Road in front of the restaurant is often heavily congested with pedestrians, especially on weekends and around lunch and suppertime.
That’s why the Hawkins County Road Committee agreed two years ago to lower the speed limit on that section of Bear Hollow Road to 15 mph. There are also three striped crosswalks painted — one at each end of the property, and one in front of the eatery at the waterfall.
Jacobs said that not all motorists comply with the 15 mph speed limit, however, and at times it becomes a dangerous situation when the road is clogged with tourists.
“The whole area is a park,” Jacobs said. “Basically it’s a park that we, the Amis family, have decided to share with the community. To get from one side of the property to the other, they must cross the road, and we put the crosswalks in now, so hopefully that will help some. We just ask people to please be aware and slow down.”
There was an incident two weekends ago, however, which convinced Jacobs to install speed bumps at both ends the property. A family visiting from Asheville, N.C., watched as their little girl was almost struck by a vehicle that was speeding in the 15 mph zone.
“(The motorist) actually squealed tires, swerved, and then kept going and didn’t even stop,” Jacobs said. “It scared the little girl to death, not to mention her parents. We witnessed the whole thing.”
Jacobs added, “We took this measure (of installing speed bumps) on our very own. I didn’t ask anybody. I just did it myself. I bought and installed speed bumps at the beginning and the end of the property in the 15 mph zone. I did that in an attempt to prevent someone from being killed and a very sad situation.”
Hawkins County Highway Superintendent Lowell Bean told the Times-News Monday he’d received numerous complaints about Jacobs’ speed bumps. Some complaints were about the speed bumps being there, and some complaints were from people who wanted speed bumps in their community as well.
“I talked to Mr. Jacobs about it, and he was very cooperative, and apologized for all the phone calls we received,” Bean said. “We took them up this (Monday) morning because we don’t put speed bumps on county roads. People were complaining about hitting those bumps. They didn’t know they were there, for one thing. Then everybody else wants them in front of their house too.”
Bean added, “But, I’ve had to tell people in the past we couldn’t put speed bumps in their community because the county can’t stand the liability. But I’m willing to work with Mr. Jacobs on different ways of making it safer over there. I agree that not everybody obeys the speed limit, but that problem isn’t isolated to Bear Hollow. It’s countywide.”
Jacobs said he was told by County Mayor Melville Bailey that he could be held liable for the speed bumps if they caused an accident.
“I said, ‘Well, so be it’,” Jacobs said. “I’d rather be liable than see somebody get killed.” Jacobs added, “If this speed bump causes somebody to wreck, they’re speeding. I promise you, if you go over it at 15 mph, which is the speed limit, you’ll have no problem. ... I think that safety is more important than somebody speeding.”