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published on 05/15/2007

E.coli Lives in Signal Mountain Streams

By staff writer

If there was one thing we learned at the Signal Mountain Town Council meeting on Monday, May 14, 2007, it was DO NOT SWIM, PLAY, AND ESPECIALLY DRINK the water in Bee Creek, Short Creek, and Shoal Creek. In addition, DO NOT swim in Rainbow Falls.

The regular meeting of the Town Council met with all five members of the Council present: Mayor Paul Hendricks, Vice-mayor and Councilmember Hershel Dick, Councilmember Annette Allen, Councilmember Bill Lusk, and Councilmember Susan Robertson. In addition the Town Attorney Phil Noblett, Town Manger Diana Campbell, and Town Recorder Sherry Morrison were also present.

After leading everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, Mayor Hendricks invited the Reverend David Harrison Strong from St. Paul AME Church in Chattanooga to give the invocation. Roll call and approval of minutes to three meetings came next.

Dr. Richard Urban, a resident of the mountain, then gave an update from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Speaking on behalf of Commissioner Jim Fyke, Dr. Urban whose department is water pollution control, spoke on two issues. We learned that the septic tanks in Brow Estates are corrupted and poisoning Shoal Creek as well as the septic tanks in Hidden Brook are doing the same to Bee Creek and Short Creek, which runs into Rainbow Lake.

Residents of Brow Estates and the Town of Walden are negotiating with the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater and Treatment Authority (WWTA) to correct the problems by hooking up to the sewer lines in the Town of Signal Mountain. According to Dr. Urban, the Town of Signal Mountain must find out what septic tanks in Hidden Brook are corrupted and require the owners to correct them.

The second issue is the stormwater run-off leaking into the sewer lines causing over-flows at the treatment plant at the bottom of the mountain. Henry A. Hoss, chairman of the WWTA was present at the meeting to address issues and answer questions. According to Dr. Urban a moratorium on installing any new hook-ups to sewer lines will be in place by September which means no house or development can be built on a sewer line until the moratorium is lifted or until the WWTA earns “credits” by correcting a problem and therefore lifting the ban in certain areas. Although the moratorium will not go into affect until September, Dr. Urban said it would be highly unlikely and not very prudent of the WWTA to give permission for a sewer line between now and the moratorium. All construction already under contract, including the new school complex, is exempt from the moratorium.

Mr. Hoss said, “This information is not a surprise to us. We knew we had a five-year window and that everything that is happening is what we anticipated.” He went on to assure the Council that the WWTA has some serious plans to resolve the problems and hopefully will be within the next year. Dr. Urban followed by saying he is not optimistic that the problems can be solved in that time frame.

The Town is obligated to educate the residents on the seriousness of both these issues and to find ways to correct the problems with the septic tanks leaking. The WWTA is obligated to find the leaks in the sewer lines and correct them or make the homeowners, if they are causing the problem like among other things, residents who still have their rain gutters draining directly into their sewer lines, which is not permitted. All these issues must be addressed or fines well over $32,000 A DAY will be charged to WWTA and the Town of Signal Mountain by the state of Tennessee and the Federal government.

In other business the Council appointed Jeff Duncan to the Planning Commission and Noah Long, Glenn Baird, Steve Monroe, and Nancy Evans to the Mountain Vision Sub-committee of the Town of Signal Mountain Citizen Advisory Committee. Mr. Long spoke on behalf of the sub-committee’s chairman David Reed reporting on five issues to be addressed. They include: 1.) Issues of zoning density and types of development; 2.) Transportation concerns; 3.) The look and feel of the community; 4.) Quality of life issues related to biking, sidewalks, greenways and the safety issues connected; and 5.) Review the whole commercial property and the impact the current laws have on the town.

In conclusion, Mr. Long brought to the Council a recommendation that a “Vegetation and Landscaping Ordinance” be approved in concept and then formalized for Council approval at a later date and to be in place by this fall. This ordinance would address the natural beauty of the Town.

A resolution was also passed called “New Rules of Decorum.” Using Robert’s Rules of Order, Mayor Hendricks pointed out that these rules are common sense rules that show respect to all in the room. A list is available at the Town Hall. Enforcing the rules will prove to be harder than expected as it was clear citizens in the room were not going to follow them. People refused to walk up to the podium to address the council, continued to talk among themselves, and clapped at inappropriate times. (It is one thing to clap to congratulate someone but another to clap in support of an issue or statement made by someone.) Councilmember Lusk pointed out that these rules are for all meetings of the Town including commissions, boards, and committee meetings, not just the Town Council meetings.

Two ordinances were passed on first reading. The first lowers the speed limit within the Town limits to 35 mph on Highway 127 also known as Signal Mountain Road, Ridgeway Drive and Taft Highway. Although one resident spoke against the decision, Police Chief Boyd Veal said that the decision to make the speed the same throughout the Town was a consistency issue and professionalism in enforcement. Mayor Hendricks reminded all that a public hearing on the issue had been held at the last Town Council meeting when we learned that the most dangerous section of the road was NOT at the CVS but below it along Shoal Creek and the cliffs where the current speed is 40 mph. However, the problems at CVS will be addressed when the town puts into place signage directing residents to turning procedures.

Town Manager Diana Campbell invited John M. Combs, president of Horvath Associates to give an update and timeline on the sidewalks to be installed along James Boulevard. According to Mr. Combs, bids will be awarded on June 11th with a projected completion date of August 3rd. A map of the proposed sidewalks is on display at the Town Hall.

Councilmember Allen spoke on behalf of the presentation of Randall Arendt, a nationally known proponent of conservation planning and open space design who has reviewed the Town’s land use plan and zoning ordinances and will be addressing those issues at a public meeting at MACC on May 16, 2007 at 7:00 p.m.

After citizens had an opportunity to address the council, Mayor Hendricks closed the meeting by praising the good works going on in the Town and what an honor and privilege it has been to represent the Town at these events.

Also present at the meeting were Lou Oliphant, Secretary of the Planning Commission, Loretta Hopper, Public Works Director for the Town of Signal Mountain, John Houstrup, long-time resident and frequent attendant of Town Council meetings who was celebrating his 83rd birthday, and Margaret Spitler, recipient of this year’s “Woman of the Year” Award presented by the Signal Mountain Community Guild at the annual Dogwood Luncheon on April 25th.

The meeting ended at 8:45 p.m. The next regular meeting of the Town Council is Monday, June 11, 2007.
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