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published on 03/13/2002

March Town Council Meeting

By staff writer

The regular monthly meeting of the Town Council of Signal Mountain met Monday, March 11, 2002 at 7:00 PM at the Town Hall.

Mayor Althaus called the meeting to order and began by offering a prayer. Afterwards, town recorder, Diana Campbell called the roll. Present were Mayor Jim Althaus, Vice-mayor and Councilmember Bob Steel, Councilmembers Billy Steele and Steve Ruffin. Rachel Bryant was absent. According to Mayor Althaus, her son was cut and bleeding, so she might be late if she was able to attend.

Also present at the meeting were town manager, Hershel Dick and town attorney, Phil Noblett. In the audience were several department heads including Karen Shropshire, director of MACC; Scott Cook, recreation director; and Connie Pierce, town librarian. Bill Wilkerson, chairman and Lou Oliphant, secretary of the Planning Commission were present as well as Mike St. Charles representing the “blue ribbon” committee reporting on the “curfew ordinance.”

After approving the minutes of the regular meeting of the Town Council on February 11, 2002, the Town Council began the approval of four resolutions presented this evening for approval. Mayor Althaus pointed out that town attorney Phil Noblett was making sure the Town conducted business in a proper manner and therefore most of the resolutions were “housekeeping” items to keep the Town legal.

The first resolution passed was a “Resolution Authorizing the Mayor to Sign a Landlord Waiver and Estoppel Agreement Requested by AmSouth Bank for Signal Mountain Golf and Country Club.” -- Basically what this means is that the Club is getting a loan from AmSouth Bank and because the Town of Signal Mountain owns the land the Club is on, then a co-signer of the loan is required by AmSouth. There is no liability as far as the Town is concerned. The Town is only signing the agreement to acknowledge the loan exists, according to Mike St. Charles, who spoke representing AmSouth. Councilmember Billy Steele abstained from the vote on the resolution.

The second resolution passed was “A Resolution Authorizing the Mayor to Sign a Consent to Transfer of Control and Reorganization of Comcast Corporation to AT&T Comcast Corporation.” -- Because of the ownership change, the Town of Signal Mountain must recognize AT&T Comcast Corporation as the new company providing cable on the mountain. Mayor Althaus reminded members of the audience that the Town of Signal Mountain receives over $79,000 in revenue for allowing the company to come up the mountain and provide service to the residents. The motion passed unanimously.

The third resolution passed was “A Resolution Authorizing Town Recorder to Negotiate with the Tennessee Municipal Bond Fund Concerning Possible Refinancing of Existing Capital Outlay Notes and to Execute Any Necessary Documents for Possible Refinancing of Such Capital Outlay Notes.” – To remain in good financial shape, the Town must from time to time refinance the loans it has. Town recorder, Diana Campbell has secured a loan by refinancing with lower interest rates which will save the Town $127,000 over the life of the note. This motion passed unanimously, also.

The fourth and final resolution presented tonight was “A Resolution Authorizing Town Manager to Implement a 2002 Fee Schedule for Sports, Recreation, Leisure, and Other Town Services for Non-Residents of the Town.” -- After reviewing the recommendations made by the Tennessee Parks and Recreation Technical Advisory Services last month, town manager, Hershel Dick recommended changing the policy for charging non-residents of the Town of Signal Mountain for services provided by the Town. According to PARTAS, charging more for non-residents is appropriate but it must be “fair, accurate, affordable, and consistent.” A formula for what the current resident “pays” with their taxes was determined and that amount was then put on each service the non-resident would actually pay. A non-resident can come to the Town Hall and pay $179 a year and then for all practical purposes would have the same privileges of a resident of the Town of Signal Mountain.

For example, pay the same fee a resident would pay to use the swimming pool, recycle center, transfer station, etc. This $179 is a one-time fee for each family paid annually. It can be broken down by services if a non-resident doesn’t use some of the Town’s services, which are provided. If a non-resident wants to use the pool only they pay $21, plus the cost to get into the pool the same as a resident. The formula for each service determined that the costs for each tax-payer for each service was as follows: swimming, $21; tennis, $3; ball field, $34; gym, $9; MACC, $34; Library, $49; recycle, $17; transfer station, $8. Therefore the fees are the same, but the residents’ fees are included in the taxes they pay.

The only fee that was questioned by members of the audience was the Library fee, which came down only $3 from the current fee of $52. Some questioned why the Library cost so much for the Town to run and asked the Council to rethink the cost and come up with another option in the future. Mayor Althaus reminded them that the object of the formula was to be consistent with the fees. Although the Mayor began with pointing out that the Town of Signal Mountain had made some people mad because of the high fees charged to non-residents, that was not the intent when those fees were implemented. The Library fees are still the highest fees charged to non-residents and are still an issue the Town needs to deal with to make amends for the hurt feelings the Town has caused, according to some in the audience.

The motion passed unanimously. Fees already collected by non-resident families will be prorated and refunds will be given for some services like recreation. But this plan runs from January to December so non-residents who pay the full amount for 2002 will only benefit from this point forward on most services.

The second reading of the ordinance adopting the updated Municipal Code was approved.

During the opportunity for citizens to speak three people addressed the Town Council. First Mike St. Charles, representing the “Curfew Committee” made their recommendation to the Town Council. According to Mr. St. Charles, the committee met and discussed the proposal made by Police Chief Eddings and came to the conclusion that the Town of Signal Mountain did not need a “curfew ordinance” at this time. Chris Albright, a former DA and a member of the juvenile court met with the committee. He was most impressed with the Signal Mountain Police force and because of the low number of incidents, he did not recommend a curfew ordinance to the committee. Mr. St. Charles pointed out that the committee was very sensitive to the requests of the Town’s police force. Mayor Althaus thanked the committee and Mr. St. Charles for their recommendation, and though he may not have agreed with their decision, he felt that since the Council had asked them to come up with a recommendation, it was their responsibility to adhere to that recommendation. The Council voted unanimously to accept the curfew committee’s recommendation and there was no second reading of the “curfew ordinance.”

The next person to address the Town Council was Lara Caughman from the Signal Mountain Welfare Council. Ms Caughman gave the Council a history of the Welfare Council and brought them up to date on services currently provided by the non-profit organization which ministers to the needs of all residents up on the mountain. According to Ms Caughman, the Welfare Council has out grown its existing spaces (Food Pantry, office, and Clothes Closet). They have made a bid on a building on Mississippi Ave/Signal Mountain Blvd. and need to secure 25% of the financing before they can receive the other 75% from grant money. The purpose of her address to the Council was to request the Town of Signal Mountain pledge $1,000. Mayor Althaus thanked Ms Caughman for all the Welfare Council does, but pointed out that the there is not money budgeted for this so therefore they could not consider giving at this time. Councilmember Billy Steele disagreed with the Mayor saying he thought they could just give less to something else like the $5,000 that is budgeted to the PBS television station. Councilmember Bob Steel told Ms Caughman that if she waited and allowed them to put it in next year’s budget the Welfare Council would get a lot more than $1,000.

The final person to address the Council was Marian Riggar representing Signal Place Historic District (Old Towne). The residents of this historic district have been raising money to improve the community and make it more distinctive now that it’s registered with the National Historic Registry in Washington DC. Because there is no official neighborhood association, fees can’t be charged to resident to maintain the area or to erect light poles or street signs. Monies have been raised for light poles and Mrs. Riggar’s request was that once the lights are in place would the Town consider paying the electricity. Town manager, Hershel Dick said he had a problem with that because the lights would not be big enough to replace the current lights and would cost the Town extra.

Mrs. Riggar then asked if the Town would give the District permission to pursue changing YIELD signs at the Triangle Well. Town attorney, Phil Noblett said he had a problem with that as the Town had to conform with state law and that Mrs. Riggar would have to take the signs to the Design & Review Commission to get approval first. Finally, Mrs. Riggar asked for permission to let the Historic District continue raising money for new street signs throughout the District like the ones in Westfield. Town manager, Hershel Dick said that might be a problem too because all street signs had to be the same and that Westfield has private streets so they had that option.

Bill Wilkerson then added that it is not unusual for a town of Signal Mountain’s size to support local neighborhoods by contributing to the cost of lighting especially when the residents come up with the money for special lights. He wanted the Town to really consider doing this to help make Signal Place Historic District special. Hershel Dick said he would get with the town engineer, Art Perry, and determine if some of the requests Mrs. Riggar made were feasible so that she could pursue them with the Design & Review Commission.

Mayor Althaus then pointed out that the Town of Signal Mountain is proud as can be that part of it is being named an Historic District, and that he felt certain that the Town would work with the neighborhood to make it special. He also gave Mrs. Riggar an article outlining ways to obtain federal preservation grants.

Under new business, Councilmember Steve Ruffin complimented the Signal Mountain Police for keeping speeders on Signal Mountain Blvd. in check, but at the same time he requested some check on the drivers exiting Timberlinks at James Blvd. without stopping first, and not yielding to the drivers stopped to their right at Texas. Town manager Hershel Dick said he would follow-up on it.

Town attorney, Phil Noblett presented two items. The first was an update of the revision to TCA 40-4-121 which concerned the ruling that if Hamilton County reached a certain size then the Town of Signal Mountain would no longer be able to hear DUI cases in court. However, according to Mr. Noblett, because of the revision this will no longer be a problem. He also reminded the Council and members of the audience that the Town must have on file a form signed by non-profit and civic organizations stating their i.d. number signifying their tax free status before the Town can make any kind of donation to that organization.

Before the meeting adjourned, a member of the audience, Debbie Trumpeter, addressed the Council in response to their decision to not make a pledge to the Signal Mountain Welfare Council. She reminded the Councilmembers that she paid taxes and therefore paid their salary. She also stated that the churches in the community who were being asked to make a pledge had their budgets in place but were willing to make a contribution. She wanted to give each of the Councilmembers and anyone in the audience a pledge card that she had on hand and said she expected them to make up the $1,000 in personal pledges since they weren’t willing to make one on behalf of the Town.

The meeting adjourned at 8:50 PM. After the meeting the Town Council met with attorney Phil Noblett in a private meeting concerning a pending lawsuit.

Editor’s note: The Town of Signal Mountain is going to try and send me the agenda of each meeting. Sometimes it is not set until the day of the meeting, however, I will post it on the sight as soon as I get it so that you can be informed as to what to expect at the Town Council Meeting. PNS

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