Mystery signs raise curiosity

Vehicles pass by a sign placed on Highway 11 near Highland Park Elementary School.

Small signs placed around Loudon County have raised questions by residents and officials.

Lenoir City resident Mark Rogers first noticed a small sign on the corner of his Stinnett Road property about a month ago. The sign had no writing.

Other small, rectangular signs with a pink and black outline have popped up.

“I was kind of curious and started looking around and saw other signs,” Rogers said. “There’s one right there next to the entrance of the (Highland Park) Elementary School. ... I noticed a couple on Shaw Ferry and kind of a weird one at the end of Shaw Ferry at the median of that four-lane going to the (Lenoir City Utilities Board). Then I saw one on the way back from the utilities board in front of one of those empty, vacant lots. That kind of (got me thinking), ‘I wonder why this sign’s here and not over there?’ Some of these signs had handwritten markings on them, letters and numbers that didn’t make any sense.”

Rogers has since removed the sign from his property and placed it on his front porch. The sign hasn’t been replaced.

“I called the street department and asked this lady who answered the phone and said she’d noticed them and she’d like to know who put them out because the people working in the street department’s got to throw them away,” Rogers said. “She didn’t know. The utility board didn’t know. A few of the landscaping crews that I was able to stop and ask, they didn’t know. I asked three policemen, they didn’t know. They were the ones that suggested the street department and ask them.”

Eddie Simpson, Lenoir City councilman and Loudon County road superintendent, said he first started receiving calls to his office about two months ago.

“I just had to tell them I don’t know what they are,” Simpson said. “We don’t control those signs. Codes enforcement tells people, ‘You need to take these signs down. They’re illegal.’ If they were blocking something, it’d be different, but these folks, whoever’s putting them up, they put them up next to the stop signs and all that so they’re not really blocking anything. We’ve just waited patiently, I guess, to see what they were about. ... That crossed our mind when we first saw them that maybe it was going to be some runners or some bicyclists or whatever, but then it didn’t make sense as to where they were to be that. Still today I don’t know what they were.”

Loudon County codes enforcement planner Jim Jenkins said the signs are illegal.

“They for sure should not be in the (right of way),” Jenkins said in an email correspondence. “The state could also remove if on a state highway.”

Mark Nagi, Tennessee Department of Transportation spokesman, said the signs were not state-related.

Amber Scott, Lenoir City administrator, said the signs had “nothing to do with city projects/business.”

“It’s raised some curiosity but no harm, no foul is the way we have to look at it,” Simpson said. “Like I said, as long as it’s not causing a safety issue or they’re doing damage to the rights of way.”