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Horses and lunatics, oh my: Town charter has unique policies in place

Men living in Jonesborough might soon be able to breathe a little easier after the town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen removes a part of its charter that requires male residents between the ages of 21 and 45 work on the streets at least six days a year.
According to Section 20 of the town charter, the BMA has the right to assess a certain number of days worth of work each year on the streets and alleys of Jonesborough.
Lifelong Jonesborough resident Jimmy Rhein doesn’t recall ever being asked to put in any sweat equity for the town, and found it to be a rather unusual rule.
“I have never heard of something like that in all my life,” Rhein said. “I arrived on the scene in 1947, so I’d say they’d done away with that by then because I’m not familiar with it.”
According to the charter, no more than six days can be assessed to a male resident and the BMA is required to give two days notice or warning before requiring an individual to show up to do his work.
As currently written, the charter does give a man the option of paying up instead of laboring. The cost to get out of a little dirty work? Fifty cents per day.
“It’s nuts,” said Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe. “These are the rules governing our town.”
And that’s not the only unique rule listed in the current charter of Tennessee’s Oldest Town.
According to Section 5 of the charter, which addresses the powers and authority of the board, the BMA can “take charge and care for any lunatic or crazy person that may be found at large within the corporate limits.”
According to the charter, the BMA can then make arrangements as it sees fit for the person deemed to be a lunatic and recover costs from anyone chargeable by law for the care and keeping of that individual.
And when the BMA isn’t busy picking up lunatics off the streets of Jonesborough, members can also set aside an area of land in or near town where horses and other animals can be raced, exhibited and jockeyed, according to the charter as it is currently written.
“I’ve never heard anyone mention horse racing in Jonesborough,” Rhein said. “Of course, anything is possible.”
The charter first passed 108 years ago, on March 11, 1903. It has been adjusted a few of times, but no comprehensive overview has taken place, at least since the 1970s, according to Town Administrator Bob Browning.
Now, Wolfe and other town officials are hoping to get state approval to eliminate or change some parts of the charter to better reflect today’s lifestyle in Jonesborough.