Send in the shrinks. With construction only just beginning, the well-heeled occupants of Curtiswood Lane, unaccustomed to not getting their own way, are coming unhinged as Tennessee first lady Andrea Conte blasts a gigantic hole in the front yard of the governor’s mansion for an underground banquet hall.
The blasting contractor set up the videocam on a tall tripod to counter residents who might make exaggerated claims about dynamite damage. As a bonus, it caught the sounds of outspoken bunker foe Lorelee Gawaluck having a hissy fit in her driveway across the street. The Scene, tipped to the existence of the video, asked the governor’s office for a copy, which now can be viewed by clicking here.
The video begins with a bucolic scene like something out of a Disney movie—we hear chickadees singing and see the Executive Residence before us in all its stately glory. Then we hear someone, identified by construction workers as Gawaluck, leaning on her car horn. Then a worker shouts, “Fire in the hole!” and puffs of smoke and dust waft up—at which point we hear Gawaluck yelling.
“Get out of our neighborhood!” she screams.
After another dynamiting, she shouts, “You people are really obscene. What are you doing in our residential neighborhood? What is wrong with you people doing this? Would you want this across the street from your home where you live with your family? Answer me!”
Workers say Gawaluck, who didn’t return a phone call for comment for this article, also has blocked Curtiswood Lane with her car and stood on the street ranting against the bunker to puzzled motorists. She has told the media that neighborhood children will need psychological counseling to cope with the blasting at the mansion.
The Bredesen administration, evidently looking to have a little fun at the expense of one of the first lady’s chief tormentors in the controversy, sent Gawaluck a fiendishly hilarious letter admonishing her to behave herself in public. Here’s the text of the missive from General Services Commissioner Gwendolyn Sims Davis:
Dear Ms. Gawaluck:
As the state agency that manages the state of Tennessee’s facilities and properties, including the Tennessee Executive Residence, the Department of General Services is committed to ensuring that the ongoing restoration and renovation of the property results in the lowest possible impact on Curtiswood Lane and the surrounding area.
Unfortunately, some of your recent actions have resulted in unnecessary noise, traffic and inconvenience to other neighbors and disruption of the project work.
We understand that you oppose the planned construction on the 10-acre site. However, we do not believe it is reasonable for you to express your objections by honking a car horn for extended periods of time, shouting at workers and stopping motorists on Curtiswood Lane.
Moving forward, we hope that you will find more civil and less disruptive ways to express your concerns and opinions about the project, and allow work to proceed as swiftly as possible.
Should you have any questions, feel free to contact my office. Thank you for your cooperation.
The governor, every state legislator, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security have been on the receiving end of letters from another resident, retired telecommunications executive Eugene Lotochinski, who’s staying up nights worrying about terrorist attacks at the bunker, which the first lady has named Conservation Hall.
Noting that an atrium will top the banquet hall, Lotochinski warns, “a terrorist lobbing one or two explosive devices into the opening…would cause shattered glass and shrapnel to blanket the entire reception and dining areas.
“This, of course, would injure and/or kill everyone inside,” he writes. “Furthermore, the atrium opening is a nice large target, so accuracy is not critical.
“Another explosive device lobbed at the single point of entry would finish the job by preventing evacuation and by keeping emergency assistance out.
“These devices could be lobbed in by small cannon, rocket, mortar or other means which have been perfected by terrorist groups in the mid-east,” he observes, helpfully. “The only feasible protection against this would be to set up a large ‘Green Zone’ around the executive residence akin to that in Baghdad. This would be extremely disruptive because of the need to stop all traffic and search all buildings within a large radius around the hall. Of course, it would also be horribly expensive.”
In an interview with the Scene this week, Lotochinski expounds on his theory. “I’m deadly serious,” he says. “I’m attempting to notify everybody I can think of.” A successful attack could be accomplished, he explains, by “rocket-propelled grenade or mortar or, if someone’s got a good arm, even by hand grenade.”
He says he’s surprised that his letters haven’t prompted much reaction. “I’ve only had a few legislators write back and say, ‘Yeah, we hadn’t thought about that.’ If I were the governor, I’d say, ‘Let’s rethink this.’ If there were an event there with the entire state legislature attending, what better terrorist target than to wipe out the entire state government of a place like Tennessee? And that’s what might happen.”
As for the construction work, Lotochinski says, “What’s actually more disturbing than the dynamiting is the drilling. That’s continuous all day. The dynamiting is only once a day. It does shake the house. It upsets our cats. They look at us saying, ‘What the hell?’ ”
Lotochinski phoned back later and left this voice mail message: “Here’s something else you might want to include in your article. When I look across the street, it’s like they’re strip-mining for coal. What they’ve done is cut down the trees, stripped away the topsoil and now they’re digging, which means we’re strip-mining in the heart of Nashville.”
The governor’s office says the blasting is nearly finished. So far, dynamiting has been no louder than 110 decibels, about as loud as a chainsaw, according to the contractor.
“First, we were going to have to provide psychological counseling for their children,” a Bredesen administration official says. “Then we were accused of building a facility to have sleepovers for the legislature. Now it’s a terrorist target. The whole thing is getting kind of ridiculous.”
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