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published on 03/11/2003


By staff writer

Sam Powell and Stormwater
SEE PICTURE --The regular meeting of the Signal Mountain Town Council met Monday, March 10 at 7:00 PM at the Town Hall. Mayor Althaus called the meeting to order and asked Councilmember Steve Ruffin to open with prayer. Town recorder, Diana Campbell called roll. All the councilmembers except Robert White were present. Also present were town attorney Phil Noblett and town manager Hershel Dick.

After the minutes of the February 10th regular meeting were approved, a resolution appointing Connie Ratchford as a board member to the Scenic Cities Beautiful Commission Board was approved; recommended by Carolyn C. Skipper, Director/SCBC. Councilmember Rachel Bryant asked what this committee was and no one was able to tell her. (Editor’s note: According to the new Boards and Commissions Manual, the Scenic Cities Beautiful Commission Board is, “A joint city/county agency devoted to the betterment of the community through liter pickup, recycling, and beautification efforts, especially the big spring cleanup (Great American Cleanup) and also through river rescue.”) Click here to view the new Boards and Commissions Manual.

A second reading of the Ordinance Amending the 2 Town Budget was approved as amended. It was amended from the first reading to correct the term “police to fire” in the added expenditures line. This ordinance you may remember pertains to the purchase of the Firetrainer for the SM Fire Department, which was approved at last month’s meeting. All but $16,201 to purchase this unit is provide in grant money which will come into the town budget then exit out, hence the budget change to reflect this action.

Sam Powell, chairman of the Parks Board, made a presentation to the council concerning the damage to the bluff below Signal Point as a direct result of the rain we have had recently. A five hundred foot slide dropped off, fortunately, toward Middle Creek, and not off the mountain. According to Mr. Powell, no flood damage of this intensity has occurred since the flooding in 1982 when 350-year-old trees were toppled into Suck Creek. There is concern for the future of the trail, but he feels currently it is safe having been re-routed to adapt to the new face of the bluff. (Editor’s note: See picture of massive rainwater under bridge.) When the mayor asked Mr. Powell about his opinion of other possible changes in the mountain landscape as a result of rainwater, he said Birnam Woods with it’s intricate caves and Ballad Bluff (where so many new houses are being built) moves 1” a year. But now that we have the federally mandated stormwater program in place, Mr. Powell feels the town should be able to keep up with the stormwater problems.

Jason Farmer, representing the Signal Mountain Chamber of Commerce, addressed the Council. Mr. Farmer asked permission to post a permanent sign on the Town’s sign board at the edge of town. The Chamber has secured a telephone number which residents can call to hear updates on upcoming events. Jed Mescon has volunteered to record the messages once a week. It would be called, “Tell it on the Mountain”. Mayor Althaus thanked Mr. Farmer for the suggestion and appreciated the Chamber’s desire to help with the clutter of signs. Councilmember Ruffin expressed concern that other organizations would still like to post their signs and that some sort of competition might come into play. However, Mr. Farmer assured the Council that the Chamber’s intentions were to support the community. The mayor suggested it go to committee for approval before the Town Council approve it.

Councilmember and Vice-mayor Bill Leonard suggested that the sign not only have a telephone number but also the Signal Mountain Community web site, meaning this web site. According to Mr. Farmer the designers of the sign felt that would be too much information for the average driver to see coming up the mountain, but Mr. Leonard disagreed, as the whole point of the sign is to get information to the public the most efficient way.

Lou Oliphant, secretary of the Planning Commission, passed out the report of the last meeting to the Councilmembers noting that a resident of St. Ives, Mr. Thelen, who was present at the meeting, is asking for clarification on a piece of land he thinks he owns and has in fact been paying title insurance and taxes on. There is some dispute as to whether or not the he or the Town of Signal Mountain owns the property and she asked town attorney Phil Noblett to check into it. Mayor Althaus thanked Mr. Thelen for being so kind and good-natured about the misunderstanding.

Under new business, Councilmember Rachel Bryant brought up several concerns. One was a letter she received from a resident concerned about speeding cars in Old Towne, another was the Garner property dispute and the manner in which the town employees treated the Garners and asked if an apology had been given to them, and the third issue she brought up was the Recreation Committee appointed last year after the state came through with an evaluation of our parks and equipment. She wondered if this committee was ever going to report to the Council. Hershel Dick responded by saying they were going to make their report this Thursday, March 13 at the regular Recreation Board meeting but were not scheduled to report to the Town Council.

Councilmember Steve Ruffin asked if any of the Town’s fire or police officers had been called to active duty to which Hershel Dick responded, no. Mr. Ruffin called all residents to support the men and women in the service of our country.

Councilmember and Vice-mayor Bill Leonard reminded everyone that the council was in the beginning process of working on the annual budget. He commended the department heads for already working on their budgets as well as complying with the new job description revamping the Town is in the process of doing. Town recorder, Diana Campbell reminded all that the budget process starts now, is presented to the residents in May for approval and must pass final approval with two readings by June 30th.

Mayor Althaus reported that the Tennessee state government is looking at a 9% reduction in the Hall Tax which will have a large impact on our local budget, but not nearly what the town would have been faced with if the entire Hall tax had been removed. As it is, a 9% reduction will mean $120-130,000 cut in the budget. Then add cost of living raises, increases in utilities, and insurance, all of which will be reflected in next year’s budget.

Town attorney, Phil Noblett, reported that a special called meeting, March 24 at 7:00 at the Town Hall will be held for the public to discuss the Tabb property lawsuit. According to Mayor Althaus, the Town of Signal Mountain in essence lost the court battle and it would be best for the Town to settle with the Tabb family. They have agreed to forgo any damages to the Town, if the Town will make a settlement that is agreed upon.

The meeting adjourned at 8:05 PM.
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