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published on 04/08/2002

April Town Council Meeting

By staff writer

Green Giants Swim Team
The Regular Monthly Meeting of the Town Council was held Monday, April 8, 2002, at 7:00 PM. Present at the meeting were Mayor Jim Althaus, Vice-mayor and Councilmember Bob Steel, Councilmembers Billy Steele, Steve Ruffin, and Rachel Bryant. Also present were Town Manager Hershel Dick, Associate Town Manager and Town Recorder Diana Campbell, and Town Attorney Phil Noblett.

Mayor Althaus welcomed everybody and called the meeting to order. After offering a prayer, Mayor Althaus asked the town recorder to call the roll.

The minutes of the regular monthly meeting of the Town Council on March 11 were approved.

The first resolution presented for approval was: A Resolution Authorizing the Town Manager to Sign a Contract with the Humane Educational Society. This resolution would extend the Town's contract with the Human Society (Dog Catcher) at a cost of approximately $23,000 a year, which is a slight increase in the amount, charged last year. Councilmember Rachel Bryant questioned the high cost of the charge. Vice-mayor and Councilmember Bob Steel agreed that at one time he and Police Chief Eddings figured out the cost for each dog caught was around $149. Mayor Althaus said that even if the process is ineffective, it is better than nothing. And after the chaos ten years ago with the residents on the mountain battling the issue, he felt that was one road they didn't want to go down.

After more discussion the motion passed with Councilmembers Steele and Steel and Mayor Althaus voting yes, Councilmember Bryant voting no, and Councilmember Ruffin abstained.

The second resolution presented for approval was: A Resolution Authorizing the Town Manager to Negotiate and Enter Into a Contract for Medical Insurance for Employees. The Town’s insurance plan with Blue Cross/Blue Shield is due and has come with, according to Mayor Althaus, a significant increase in costs. This resolution would allow the Town to accept the new plan for two months which Blue Cross/Blue Shield has offered them to do with the option of renewing it or canceling July 1. That would give the Town two months to find a less costly insurance carrier. Town Manager, Hershel Dick offered to compare prices with other municipalities to which Councilmember Rachel Bryant agreed was a good idea.

There was a lengthy discussion that followed and then a vote of three for (Steel, Althaus, Steele) to two against (Ruffin, Bryant) to pass the Resolution.

There were no ordinances tonight.

Under opportunities for citizens to address the Council, the coaches for the Signal Mountain Swim Team, the Green Giants, presented the Town of Signal Mountain the trophy received for winning the Chattanooga Area Championship. The coaches and many of the swimmers received applause from the audience and stood with the Mayor and Councilmembers for pictures.

John Clark presented an update on the park at Shackleford Ridge. He proudly announced that the soccer fields are the finest in Hamilton County and better than both Baylor and McCallie Schools. The Tennessee State regional soccer games will be held for the first time up on Signal Mountain this year because of the fields. He also said the baseball fields are some of the finest in the County with big boys having seven teams last year and middle schoolers were able to play for the first time on a real field and not a softball field. John said the trails are coming along and that Sam Powell has made good use of the grants that have become available as well as taken advantage of Boy Scouts eager to work on the trails as part of their Eagle Scout Badges. The only problem is the ATV’s which are vandalizing the park. The Signal Mountain Police were praised for their effort, but it is a big problem, and not just a local one, according to John but a national problem.

The main purpose for John’s presentation was to encourage the Town Council to once again support the park as it did in last year’s budget by making a contribution in the 2002/03 budget. When asked how much the other municipalities contributed, John said last year the Town of Walden gave $3,500, Hamilton County gave $5,000 and the Town of Signal Mountain gave $10,000. Mayor Althaus thanked John for coming to them in such a timely manner and said they would take into consideration his request. Jean Dolan, a regular member of the audience added that the vandalism at the park and on the trails is becoming more than a nuisance. She said Sam Powell tells her that no sooner is something built then vandals tear it down. Dr. Nolan, also in the audience suggested residents nearby Edward’s Point be asked to lookout for ATV’s and report them to the Police Department. Jean reminded everyone that it started with educating the people on the care of the land to which the Mayor thanked her.

Lou Oliphant, Secretary of the Planning Commission, reported that the Commission is waiting on a report from member Brendon Olin and then they would be making their final report.

Greg Goodgame, another regular member of audience asked if there were going to be any budget planning meetings planned in the near future. Mayor Althaus said yes. Then Greg asked how they planned to let the people know and what were the residents chances of seeing the proposed budget before the meetings so the people could be prepared when they got to the meetings. The Mayor said that they would notify press when such a meeting would be planned but that working budgets would not be available for public view. (Editor’s note: I offered to post the dates of any public hearing on the budget, which after the meeting Diana Campbell said she would notify me as soon as they are scheduled.PNS)

Perry Piper, a resident on Palisades addressed the Town Council with concern for a letter he and other residents around the Tabb property received. In that letter, according to Mr. Piper, the Town of Signal Mountain seems to be changing its’ mind about an earlier decision to not allow the Tabb family the opportunity to change the zoning of a portion of the property from residential to commercial. The Mayor said that in fact no decision has been and that he and the Councilmembers were going to be in a closed meeting with their attorney to discuss the matter. He also reminded the other Councilmembers that Chancellor Brown had prohibited them from speaking in public about the matter. So no discussion followed.

Under motions, reports, and discussion items, residents Ken Gross and Glen Showalter from MACC came to address two issues. The first concerned the new non-resident fees. The fees are not the problem, but because their program runs September to May and is structured in such a way that it makes paying the new non-resident fee now difficult for some users. They requested it be pro-rated so it won’t be so hard to collect and they requested the fees be collected on the site and not at the Town Hall. Mayor Althaus said that there had been much discussion on this issue and the answer to both questions was no. They cannot prorate the charges because it would not be fair and/or consistent. The same with collecting it at the Town Hall; they must be consistent. The Mayor did thank both men for being so kind in the request and not being so angry like the leagues who hollered and screamed, but said everyone was just going to have to bite the bullet this first year.

Councilmember Steve Ruffin said that he was disappointed in the headline in the Signal Mountain Post after the Town changed the fees for non-residents. One of the best things the Town had ever done, according to Mr. Ruffin, and the paper’s headline made it sound like a bad thing. He in turn praised Bob Anderson and the Signal Mountain Mirror for reporting it in such a good manner. Mr. Ruffin also reminded residents to slow down and not speed on the streets of Signal Mountain. He reminded Hershel Dick that the Police still need to be patrolling at Timberlinks, Texas, Maryland, and James Blvd. (This is the problem with drivers on Timberlinks not yielding to cars on Texas, who are on their right, and James Blvd, coming from the right, who have a yield sign and the right of way of both streets.) Mr. Dick said he would follow up on it.

Vice-mayor Steel reminded everyone that “Woofie”, the Town drug sniffing dog is eight years old and about to outlive his life as a drug sniffing dog. He felt the Town needed to begin thinking about adding $7 – 10,000 to the budget for a replacement.

Mayor Althaus followed up on the Duke Energy issue saying that FERC has approved the property on Kell Road. Residents in the area have been granted a meeting on May 21 to argue the issue and have requested a site in the Town of Signal Mountain big enough to hold a large group of people. At this time, the Mountain Arts Community Center auditorium is the probable place.

The meeting closed at 8:18 PM

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