On New Year’s Eve, just before toasting in 2016, I made a startling discovery.
I was playing around with the “snow globe” Santa left for me under the tree as Alabama scored what seemed like its tenth touchdown of the night over my cousin Conner Cook’s hapless Michigan State team. The snowflakes aligned in the darned globe and gave me the final score of the Cotton Bowl, 38-egg.
Nah, can’t be. This isn’t really a crystal ball, is it? I tested it with a quick question: Who is going to win the Tennessee-Northwestern Game? Vols 45, Wildcats 6. Who would of thunk that?
So, I began asking the “snow globe/crystal ball” to make some predictions for what may be in 2016 in good ol’ East Ridge. Here are some answers to my random questions late New Year’s Eve.
Editors Note: This is for amusement only, no wagering, please. This is a joke, OK?
Bass Pro opens its doors to wide acclaim. First day sales break every retail record known to Capitalism. The buying frenzy continues unabated. In honor of its unqualified success, Mayor Brent Lambert floats a measure to rename Ringgold Road to Bass Pro Boulevard.
Biggest snowfall in the history of the region dumps 27 inches of the white stuff on Pioneerville. Never caught off guard, the city scrambles every available employee _ including Gail Varnell from the library _ and clears all 100-plus miles of roads within the city limits in a matter of hours. When temperatures soar to 81 degrees the following day, Johnny Morris of Bass Pro Shops donates canoes to every man, woman and child in East Ridge. The city becomes Venice for the next few days. Mayor Lambert floats a measure to rename Jack Sharp Memorial Bridge, “The Bridge of Sighs II.”
The city enters into a long-term contract with the outfit running Christmas Nights of Lights to put on light shows for every holiday on the calendar. The Easter Nights of Lighs show draws the Pope, Joel Osteen and Rev. Billy Dean on the same day. ERPD seamlessly handles the more than one million visitors to the spectacle. In honor of the event, Bass Pro sells camo Pope bobbleheads.
The East Ridge City Council passes a new wrecker ordinance. I know this is kind of far fetched, but that’s what the “snow globe/crystal ball” said.
A new East Ridge Animal Shelter opens in the building once used as McBrien School. The green space behind City Hall is fenced and the dogs held at the no-kill shelter have the run of the yard. Now, when some crackpot makes the statement “City Hall has gone to the dogs,” it will have the ring of truth.
Renovations on the city’s sewer system get underway by WWTA. Workers laying new lines on the old Superior Creek Lodge site find an 18-inch seam of gold running north onto property owned by Henry Luken. In a 3-2 vote (Denny Manning and Jacky Cagle voting nay) the City invokes imminent domain. As of the end of 2016, The Council is unable to agree on awarding a contract to a vendor to mine the gold, which one geologist said could amount to $3 billion. While mulling over its options, city leaders plant wildflowers on the property to make it more attractive to passing motorists on Interstate 75.
City leaders move forward in taking over the operation of East Ridge schools. Councilman Larry Sewell is named transportation director. He announces that he intends to run the operation from his new headquarters, his family condo in Gulf Shores, Ala.
Amanda Miller, longtime aide-de-camp to Freida Wheeler, is named to the post of East Ridge City Manager. Miller’s first act is to create the position of City Planner/Engineer. Thad Jablonski returns as Chief of Staff for Miller.
Citing his ability to draw even more businesses to the I-75 area, Parks and Recreation Director Stump Martin pitches the idea of a sports stadium in Camp Jordan. Martin says the 35,000-seat facility could be home to an NFL expansion team. Financing the stadium could be done with the proceeds from the recently discovered gold. Martin said it was not out of the question that the NFL could consider the stadium as host site for Super Bowl 55. The economic impact of hosting such an event would be incalculable.
In order to deal with the ever-growing number of surplus vehicles in the city, it enters into a contract with former City Councilman and car salesman Jim Bethune to sell off the vehicles. In a matter of weeks, Bethune sells all the cars and is named Used Car Salesman of the Year by a national organization that pays attention to that sort of thing. The money from the sales is used to finance Fire Hall No. 2, which is still on the drawing board.
After a successful last minute bid, Brent Lambert defeats incumbent Marc Gravitt and becomes our state representative. Facing the loss of our mayor, the newly-seated City Council, in a 3-1 vote, appoints Frances Pope to fill the vacant seat. In its second official act, the council names her Mayor and appoints Jacky Cagle as Vice Mayor.
Not thrilled with the job that Miller is doing as City Manager, Pope floats a measure to change the form of government to one of Strong Mayor. Thrilled that her title would no longer be a ceremonial one, Pope promises, as her first official act as Strong Mayor, to rename Tombras Avenue Wood Brothers Way.
In an effort to draw even bigger crowds to the Christmas Nights of Lights, organizers increase the number of lights in their display by a factor of 15. The new mega-light show draws cars by the tens of thousands. The glorious twinkling monstrosity is short-lived, however, as complaints from blinded pilots landing at Lovell Field cause the FAA to demand half the lights to go dark. In a conciliatory gesture, Mayor Pope proposes renaming Frawley Road, Christmas Nights of Lights Way.
In early spring the city utilizes a grant to install a beautiful median with green space along Ringgold Road/Bass Pro Boulevard. Citizens enjoying the pristine beauty of these spaces rejoice. In late fall, after citizens sour on the beauty of the boulevard because it hinders navigation, the city caves to public pressure, rips out the median and replaces it with a left turn lane down the entire street. Overjoyed at the prospect of turning left again, citizens rejoice. Mayor Lambert (Or is it Mayor Pope?) considers changing the name of the street yet again. The new name? Left Turn Lane!
Denny Manning, facing the prospect of no longer being a Councilman because he’s term-limited by the City Charter, mounts a write-in candidacy for a fourth term. Every single voter writes in his name on the ballot and he is returned to office. He joins his lovely wife, Shirley, on the dais, becoming the first husband and wife team to serve as Councilpersons in Tennessee history ….PERIOD.
_ Matthew DeGlopper contributed to this article