(Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series)
I do not attend county fiscal court meetings ordinarily, but I had a very special favor to ask of Bell County Judge-Executive Al Brock. I was a bit apprehensive because the evening before the fiscal court meeting, the judge and I almost had words. I had unintentionally offended the judge with an off-hand remark about one of his favorite projects, the Adventure Tourism off-road ATV and horseback riding park. Nine thousand acres of land on Asher Land and Minerals property, with access to the Asher Industrial Park.
Let me explain further. On Sept. 9, I met with Judge Brock, Deputy Judge-Executive Rob Lincks and magistrates Coy Silcox and Junior Maiden at the Bridge to Nowhere, right off U.S. 119. The four had kindly agreed to show me around the industrial park where Adventure Tourism held its events, concerts and get-togethers. I could tell Judge Brock was doing his best to be nice about this, and that it was taking an effort on his part.
FYI, the judge-executive and I do not get along. We have been feuding since the last judge-executive election. I backed his opponent and had what I considered constructive criticism which I delivered by way of the Middlesboro Daily News. The judge took it the wrong way and lambasted me via the same route.
Unfortunately for me, the Middlesboro Daily News had a strict policy about publishing political comments three days before an election; consequently, Judge Brock got in the last word, and I was unable to defend myself. However, I believe that history has proven me right and the judge wrong. Wrong or not, Judge Al is a formidable adversary.
To return to Sept. 9, the judge was making an effort to give me all the info he could on Adventure Tourism, and I was taking it all in. The tour came to this big field where Adventure Tourism had held the Ricky Skaggs concert. At that point we were standing in tall grass, and I was constantly swatting away bugs, and so I said, “Is this all there is?”
Apparently, the question cut Judge Brock to the quick, and he commenced to lambaste for the second time since I first made his acquaintance. This time, it came in person, not in print. Fortunately, I was able to cut the judge off at the pass by explaining that I meant no offense and there was no need to get huffy. I explained I was only going to ask about “creature comforts” provided at these open-to-the-public events.
Judge Brock, apparently mollified, then explained that there would be no permanent structure placed on the property… no bathrooms, no picnic tables, no hitching posts, no parking lots, no etc.
After I had obviously hurt the judge’s feelings, I thought better telling him that his answer about creature comforts had disappointed me. I enjoy a Ricky Skaggs concert as well as the next fan, but I’m 64 years old now and I need creature comforts. The last thing I want to do is try to find a private area on top of a mountain, in the dark, with hundreds of people around and several of them searching for the same thing.
All I could think of was, number one, I’m old and stiff and it’s difficult to maneuver; number two, if I do find an area with tall grass or a discreet bush, there are still these pesky bugs; and three, with my luck some bird watcher, horse person or ATV rider would see me and put my big bare bum on YouTube.
But, I did see a beautiful piece of land that would provide a great site for a state-of-the-art, $200 million drug treatment and mental health facility. I pointed it out to Judge Brock, but naturally, he was skeptical and gave me constructive criticism, which I took to heart. Honestly.
I decided that because of the judge-executive’s sensitive reactions about the concert site, I would save my opinions for magistrates Silcox and Maiden, who took them under consideration and made sure I got off the mountain safely.
I wish I had had time to visit Bailey Hill Cemetery, which is preserved up there within the park area. I hear there used to be a whole community in the area. For anyone who knows the history, please find a way to share it with Bell County’s people.
Look for part two of the Bell County Fiscal Court meeting held Sept. 10. Find out how Bell County Judge-Executive Al Brock came through.