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published on 08/12/2003

Signal Mountain Town Council Meets

By staff writer

From time to time, I ask myself, “How much do I write about what goes on at each of the Signal Mountain Town Council meetings?” More often than not I try to touch on the subject matter and not the conversation surrounding each, but it’s really hard, folks. My husband Mark says, “You have to be present to win.” And that about sums it up. Unless you attend one of these meetings, you cannot begin to appreciate their importance. And attending on a regular basis, you come to realize even more the complexity of the day to day running of our town.

On Monday, August 11, 2003, the Town of Signal Mountain Town Council met in the Town Hall. Mayor Jim Althaus called the meeting to order noting that town recorder Diana Campbell was absent due to the pending birth of a grandchild and thanked Jane Wilson for standing in for Diana. He also noted that although Councilmember Rachel Bryant was not present for roll call, she would be arriving later, which she did. In addition to town manager Hershel Dick and town attorney Phil Noblett, also present were Vice-mayor and Councilmember Bill Leonard, Councilmembers Robert White and Steve Ruffin who opened the meeting with prayer.

After approving the minutes of the last regular meeting on July 11th, the Council approved the renewal of a dental insurance contract with Kansas City Life. According to Mr. Noblett, the town picks up 80% of the family’s expenses and 90% of the employee’s. After receiving bids from eleven companies and reviewing them, Hershel Dick recommended the contract go to Kansas City Life. This will reflect a 2% increase in premiums. The Council approved the resolution.

The second resolution presented at the meeting was one to appoint Jeff Duncan to the Parks Board for the Town of Signal Mountain. Included in the resolution request was a packet with a bio of Dr. Duncan, recommended by Parks Board Chairman, Sam Powell. Vice-mayor Leonard commented on the bio given the Council. Jeff and his wife Laura were present at the meeting. The Council approved the appointment with pleasure. It was also noted that filling this position became necessary after the resignation of long-time member Nancy Goss who served on the Parks Board over 20 years.

Resident Jo Kellum addressed the Council by expressing her concern over the Rainbow Lake parking lot. Not only was she concerned about the apparent decision to move forward with it, the lack of publicity to surrounding neighbors in Old Towne about meetings concerning the parking lot, and the safety hazards for pedestrians on Ohio, but also was concerned about the children in the neighborhood, vagrants, and strangers. She pointed out what also became known at the last town council meeting, was that due process was not followed; private citizens must follow rules that need approval whereas it appears the town does not which town manager Hershel Dick affirmed until town attorney Phil Noblett pointed out later in the meeting that a state law does require the town to go through the Planning Commission for any change to town property.

Bill Sonnenburg, representing the group of citizens surrounding the parking lot addressed the Council sharing the results of the meeting after the last Council meeting. Listing the residents at the first meeting last month, he then went on to say many met at the site of the parking lot on August 1st. After much discussion a plan was devised which everyone present agreed upon which included among other things off site parking, landscaping, and a scaled down surface area. It went to the Planning Commission on August 7th for approval and will go to the Design Review Committee on August 21st.

Another resident of Old Towne, Dave Gardner spoke on two issues. He first asked, “Do we really want to do this? (Build a parking lot at that entrance to Rainbow Lake. Maybe the entrance at Signal Point would have been more appropriate.)” He then went on to express his concern over the decision of the town to transfer the surplus sewer funds to the general fund without taking into consideration the feelings of the residents who paid on the sewer fund.

In anticipation of the question, Mayor Althaus read a memo prepared by Diana Campbell, which detailed in legal terms why the town could do this. Basically what it boiled down to is that the Town paid for the sewers and deserved any money left over when the Hamilton County Wastewater Sewer Authority took over the sewers. Resident Mark Shartle pointed out that although he respected the numbers and believed them to be true had the Town explained this from the beginning and not used the “shoe box” theory of never taking funds from one box to another, a lot of confusion over the subject would have been eliminated. Dave Gardner added that when the town increased the sewer rates significantly anticipating the repairs required by the EPA, it gave the people paying on the sewer fund the impression that the $209,000 surplus was a direct result of the increase in rates. He asked what the surplus was before the increase and Hershel Dick told him to call Diana Campbell to get the answer.

Lou Oliphant presented the Planning Commission Report. She noted that they did approve the Rainbow Lake parking lot plans. The next scheduled meeting of the Planning Commission is September 4th at the Town Hall.

Under motions and reports, Councilmember Robert White introduced Leanne Williams, the new chairman of the Thrasher GYM Committee. She reported that currently $230,000 has been secured which included $40,000 received from Hamilton County due to the effort of Commissioner Richard Cassavant. According to Leanne, there are $60,000 left in pledges with a total anticipated cost of $410,000 for the gym. The committee has decided to let the Hamilton County Board of Education build the GYM overseeing construction in hopes that all will be complete by next spring. Former chairman of the GYM Committee, Lisa Hawkins, was also present and she expressed her appreciation for the support of the Town of Signal Mountain. Attorney Phil Noblett presented the Interlocal Agreement which authorizes the issuance of approximately $100,000.00 in General Obligation Bonds by the County, guaranteed by the Town of Signal Mountain and to be repaid by the Thrasher Elementary School PTA. He is awaiting a review of the documents by the Hamilton County Commission before progress can be made with the agreement.

Councilmember White noted that the Signal Mountain Golf and Country Club is going to host the “Mountain Golf Championship” on Monday, October 6, 2003. All proceeds to the tournament will be donated to the Thrasher GYM. The Club will donate all services, as they wanted to be good stewards to the community. The committee planning the golf tournament hopes to raise between $15, and $21,000 for the GYM. Hoping to make this an annual event, the golf tournament will benefit a different organization each year.

Mayor Althaus invited each Councilmember to address issues of concern. Councilmember White read a portion of a letter written by resident John Glass praising the public servants in our community especially police officer Russell Craig and his partner who Mr. Glass witnessed sharing time with children from the mountain. Councilmember White introduced the idea for a strategic plan for the Town of Signal Mountain; including core values, a mission, goals and strategies to achieve these plans. He volunteered to head up a committee that would begin to implement the strategic plan to which the other members of the council and audience whole-heartedly agreed.

Just when you thought the meeting was about over, Councilmember Bryant asked about the status of the Playground Committee. Present at the meeting were the three newly appointed members of that committee, Coughlyn Cooper, Brandi Bunton, and Jock Dunbar. Jock Dunbar spoke sharing their confusion, concerns, and frustrations. It became clear that little progress was being made so Councilmember Bryant offered to facilitate the process to which the rest of the Council thought was a good idea.

The meeting ended with Mayor Althaus suggesting that the Town come up with an amendment to the existing ordinance concerning garage sales. Currently a resident can hold up to four garage sales a year. Residents are asked to register at the Town when they have a garage sale. This is purely voluntary and there is no fee. However, the Mayor would like to make it mandatory and make the Signal Mountain Police enforce the ordinance by putting the people out of business who disregard the ordinance. There was no action taken or decision made at this time; just a discussion on the trials and tribulations of the 450 Mile Garage Sale.

The meeting adjourned around 9:30 PM.
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