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published on 06/15/2004

Signal Mountain Approves 2 Budget and Sets Tax Rate

By staff writer

Mayor Jim Althaus presents check to Jean Trohanis,
prinicpal of Thrasher Elementary School

The regularly scheduled meeting of the Signal Mountain Town Council met Monday, June 14th at the Signal Mountain Town Hall. Although notice of the meeting had been posted throughout the Town, there were only sixteen people in the audience. Mayor Jim Althaus presided over the meeting with Vice-mayor Bill Leonard and Councilmembers Rachel Bryant and Robert White present. Councilmember Ruffin was out of town. Also present were the town attorney Phil Noblett, town recorder Diana Campbell, and town manager Hershel Dick.

Boy Scout Ethan Hammett from Troop 116 led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance and Mayor Althaus offered prayer.

The Agenda for the meeting was long and included the approval of minutes from three meetings, the last regularly scheduled meeting of May 10th and two budget meetings of May 15th and May 22nd. In addition there were three Ordinances up for approval and eight Resolutions.

Before the business of the meeting could be taken care, the Mayor called for a Public Hearing on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2 Budget. Mayor Althaus remarked on the ½ cent sales tax that the Town of Signal Mountain had been collecting for the schools on Signal Mountain noting that beginning July 1st only half those funds would stay up on the mountain with the other half going to Hamilton County. The mayor also pointed out the increase in salaries to town employees, which will be an average of 3% based on performance. Also reflected in the budget is a 10% reduction in health insurance.

Resident Mark Shartle questioned the State Street Fund noting that every year it is going down and asked if the Town Council was comfortable with this and what expectations they had in building it back up. The mayor responded with saying that it was a challenge and something the Town Council would have to address next year and would most likely have to supplement the Fund from the General Fund or have to float some bonds to build the State Street Fund back up. There being no other questions, the mayor closed the Public Hearing and reopened the Town Council Meeting.

The first Ordinance approved on the Second Reading was one pertaining to monies within the FY 2 being moved from one fund to another, which were basic “housekeeping” transactions.

The second Ordinance approved on the First Reading was the proposed FY 2 Budget and setting of the 2 tax rate for the Town of Signal Mountain. Since most of the discussion concerning the proposed budget was done during the Public Hearing very little was discussed at this time. However, it was noted that the proposed budget is lower than last year’s. Mayor Althaus pointed out that if the County Commissioners vote to finance a high school on the mountain, then according to attorney Phil Noblett, it would be necessary to file an amended Ordinance to increase the current tax rate of $1.65/$100.00 assessed value of taxable property to $2.00/$100.00 assessed value. Councilmember Bryant pointed out that before this be done the town manager and recorder should consider some options that are being tossed around by concerned citizens including Mr. Tom Caldwell and FOSMHS co-chairman, Bruce Novkov. Councilmembers voted unanimously to approve this Ordinance and will vote on the Second Reading, Wednesday, June 16 at 12:00 Noon.

The third Ordinance pertained to the wording in the two Stormwater Ordinances referring to “Public Safety Director” changing to Designated Police Department and Fire Department Representatives due to the fact that the position of Public Safety Director had been eliminated. The Second Reading for this Ordinance will also be held at the called meeting on June 16th.

There were eight Resolutions that needed to be voted upon:
1.Resolution A appointed Greg Goodgame and Doug Johnson to the Design Review Commission for three-year terms ending December 31, 2006.
2.Resolution B appointed Cathy Belcher to the Recreation Advisory Board, for a three-year term ending June 30, 2007, replacing Debra Blake who has resigned.
3.Resolution C, in compliance with state law authorizes retirement credit for military service.
4.Resolution E authorizes the town manager to inter into a contract with the EPB for telephone service, including Internet service for a three-year term.
5.Resolution F renewed the medical insurance of Town employees including family coverage with a 10% decrease in premiums.
6.Resolution G renewed the dental insurance of regular Town employees and families reflecting a small increase in premiums.
7.Resolution H authorizes the town attorney to inter into negotiations with Hamilton County, Hamilton County School Board, and the Town of Walden to develop an interlocal agreement for the funding of a high school and middle school in the Town of Signal Mountain.

All seven of these Resolutions passed. However, Resolution D concerned the renewal of the contract to the Humane Education Society for the control of animals. After a lengthy discussion, Vice-mayor Bill Leonard suggested the new director of the “Humane Society” be given a chance to make amends for the poor actions of the previous director and staff. Councilmember White suggested the town manager invite the new director up and sit down with him to address the issues at hand, the service to which the Town is paying for and the expectations the Town has. Because these issues need to be addressed the vote on this Resolution was tabled until the July meeting.

Councilmember White presented to the Council and members of the audience an action plan for the four goals in the Mountain Vision Plan. Each action item listed addressed the person responsible, comments concerning the item, follow-up, and in some cases projected completion dates. Vice-mayor Leonard pointed out that this is a on-going plan where items are deleted and others added as needed. One important item, Councilmember White pointed out was that the SM Library will become the central location for all official documents for the Town of Signal Mountain. Librarian Connie Pierce will be responsible for managing the documents, which will make them more accessible to Town residents.

Present at the meeting were Jean Trohanis, principal of Thrasher Elementary School, Lisa Hawkins, past chairman of the Thrasher Gym Committee, and current chairman Leanne Williamson. Mayor Althaus presented a check in the amount of $5,000 from the Town of Signal Mountain, part of the commitment the Town agreed to last year. Mrs. Trohanis thanked the Town for the support and Mrs. Hawkins announced the upcoming Second Annual “Mountain Scramble,” which will be held August 16th at the Signal Mountain Golf and Country Club. Benefits from this event will once again go towards the completion of the Thrasher Gym.

Mrs. Lou Oliphant presented the Planning Commission report. Included was information concerning property in Orchard Subdivision where a resident is building a swimming pool and needed to purchase the adjacent lot to meet certain requirements; the continued review of zoning ordinances by Mr. Brendan Olin; and the continued education studies of members of the Commission.

Under new business, Councilmember White thanked Councilmember Bryant for her support to the Playground Committee and the Committee for their excellent work on it. She responded with accolades to the committee as well. When asked if all was finished, she said no as there were some unexpected expenses when filling in the old pool so money designated for landscaping had been spent and other forms of revenue were being pursued. She wanted everyone to know that a special dedication will be held at the Lion’s Club Labor Day Barbeque and there is going to be a contest to name the playground. Ballots will be placed at Pruitt’s Grocery, Signal Mountain Pharmacy, the SM Swimming Pool, Signal Mountain Cleaners, and Mountain Top Toys. Volunteers are still needed. Vice-mayor Bill Leonard also praised the playground but pointed out several things that need to be addressed like the height of the hill to the older children’s equipment, the lack of a fence separating the older equipment and the road, and the height of the small children’s equipment area. These are issues that will have to be dealt with in time and by volunteers or organizations will to take on the expense and responsibility.

Final reports presented by the town manager pertained to three items. One was a bid for the Public Works Department, the other was a satisfactory rate received at a Compliance Evaluation Inspection for the Town’s municipal stormwater system, and the final, notice of a surprise inspection of the Water Department, wherein the town received a 100% on their yearly survey of the water system which is the second year the Water Department has received this rate considered hard to obtain, according to the town manager.

The meeting adjourned around 9:30 PM.
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