Residents raise concerns, fear of mass shootings at Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting

Jonathan Roberts • Updated Aug 12, 2019 at 9:23 PM

Following a pair of mass shootings that left 31 people dead in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, a pair of Jonesborough residents voiced their concerns about safety and large gatherings at Monday night’s Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting.

“I am just so, personally, very afraid,” Jonesborough resident Frances Lamberts told the board. “Especially thinking about the (International) Storytelling Festival and how there are hundreds of people sitting together in this tent.

“I’m really very, very much afraid of what could be coming down,” she continued. “I am wishing, as a town government, thinking about the safety of all the people who come to the festival, if you could show support and maybe ask for stronger gun control legislation.”

Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest thanked Lamberts, and said he “understood” what she was saying and that they’ll “probably be more aware going forward than we might have been.”

Following the meeting, Lamberts said she feels “we have the right to be free from the threat of being mowed down because someone likes to mow us down. As citizens we have that right.” Lamberts said that she hopes she and another man who raised the same concerns were heard by the board.

Speaking to the Press after the meeting, Vest said that they had.

“There’s not been an event that we have where we don’t have that concern,” Vest said. “We’re, as a town, always going to take that seriously. … Our hope is that our federal government and state can pass some things that keeps everybody safe, so we’ll see how that plays out.

“We’re never going to let our guard down during these events and festivals, we’re always going to do what we can to keep people safe and secure,” he added.

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy, who also attended the meeting, said he felt people across the nation were “a little nervous” following the shootings, and that “everybody knows they could happen anywhere.”

“Wherever we have gatherings of people, there is definitely a higher, intentional effort to keep people secure,” he said, while also pointing to mental health as a big reason for the shootings.

Other notes:

The board approved permits for five area events, including:

• A special Music-on-the-Square concert featuring Polyphony Marimba on Aug. 22.

• Hogs-N-Hollers Hog Rally on Sept. 16.

• American Cancer Society Witches Ride on Sept. 28.

• 2019 Halloween Haunts and Happenings on Oct. 25.

• And a Haunted Half-Marathon on Oct. 26.

Vest said the events are “a great revenue producer” and that “it’s also something that enhances the quality of life in Jonesborough.” 

Vest also told attendees at the meeting about a scheduled Washington County Board of Education meeting set for Thursday, Aug. 15. Vest told the Press last week that he wants to add the town’s “voice” to the Jonesborough K-8 debate.

“If there’s one thing I hope to accomplish, that would be that our board, the school board and the Washington County Commission realize that we can trust each other to come up with a good final product for the Jonesborough community,” Vest said Monday night. The meeting will be held at McKinney Center at 6 p.m.

Vest also issued a proclamation recognizing September as “Suicide Prevention Awareness Month,” and town employee Glen Woodfin was named “Employee of the Month.”