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Harkins addresses Farragut GOP


Speed control in Farragut was the guest speaker focus during the monthly Farragut Republican Club meeting Thursday, May 10, in Gondolier restaurant.

Capt. Ben Harkins, Farragut precinct head with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, stepped in for Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones — the scheduled speaker called away on family issues — and highlighted residential speed calming, traffic light cameras and possible KCSO zone patrol changes during a 35-minute address.

“I get more complaints about speeding vehicles, especially in residential areas, than I get complaints about anything,” said Harkins, a former military policeman with the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne and KCSO S.W.A.T. team commander with 27 years on the force. “I think that’s going to be one of the major problems we’re going to continue to see.

“West Knox County and Farragut is a fairly affluent area, and many sixteen-year-olds on their birthday are getting new cars,” Harkins added.

Concerning a traffic-calming program through the county engineering office, “That’s a program where they’ll come and look at your subdivision and they’ll try to determine what they can do from an engineering standpoint to slow people down,” Harkins said. “The most visual that we have are the speed-calming humps.

“I have been to hundreds of homeowners’ meetings in the years — I have never seen people more upset about traffic ... people either love the traffic-calming or they hate the traffic-calming,” the captain added. “Both side are very vocal about those speed humps, more so than any other subject I’ve ever talked to them about.”

However, Harkins added the county engineering office requires seventy percent approval from a given homeowners association before the speed humps can be laid. “It’s very difficult to get seventy percent of anybody in subdivisions to agree on anything, much less something this controversial,” he said.

Harkins said the town of Farragut also has a speed-calming program.

Saying he hears concerns about rear-end collisions at intersections featuring traffic light cameras, “the numbers don’t bear that out,” Harkins said. “The City of Knoxville ... they have had a tremendous reduction in the number of T-bone crashes. ... They’ve also had a small decrease in rear-end

collisions.”

Requiring a full-time officer if the program goes into effect, “Farragut will have to reimburse” KCSO the cost of that full-time officer, Harkins said.

As for alleged revenue motivation for using traffic light cameras, “What they’ve told me, from the mayor [W. Edward “Eddy” Ford III} on down, is that nobody has shown any interest in revenue — they said they hope to make enough revenue to pay for the officer they have to pay for to administer the system,” Harkins said to a small gathering after the meeting. “The mayor initially said, ‘we’re going to look at this, will you help us? I don’t care about any revenue. If it’s a good thing for the town of Farragut, I want to have it — even if we have to spend money.’”

As for general KCSO patrol coverage in Farragut, “We’re in the process of looking at the zones that we have in Knox County that we cover,” Harkins said. “Just based on my knowledge, I think that we do need to have more.”

The town of Farragut comprises one zone, “with one officer dedicated to Farragut” around the clock, Harkins said. “That doesn’t mean there’s just one officer — there could be many officers out in the general area [assigned to] West Knox County around Farragut or in Farragut.”

Coverage “could change to two zones, it could change to three overlapping zones to the surrounding areas,” the captain added. “I would suspect to see some changes in the coming months.

“We haven’t done it in a long time, it’s been years.”

After the meeting, Harkins added about zone coverage: “What’s being considered right now are the numbers, where the calls for service are, where are populations are, where are big traffic problems are.

“It may not change Farragut. I suspect that it will.”

 

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