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published on 05/10/2005

County Commissioner Cassavant and School Board Chairman Baker Address Town Council

By staff writer

The Signal Mountain Town Council met on Monday, May 9, 2005, at the Signal Mountain Town Hall. Over seventy people were in the audience including at least fifteen students from Red Bank High School. Several residents of the Town of Walden were also present. After the formal opening with the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, the opening prayer led by Vice-mayor Steve Ruffin, and roll call by Diana Campbell, town recorder, Mayor Bill Leonard called the meeting to order and welcomed everyone.

Councilmember Bob Linehart then introduced the guest speakers, Mr. Chip Baker, chairman of the Hamilton County School Board and County Commissioner, Dr. Richard Cassavant. Each man greeted the audience with a brief statement and update on the status of the school situation in Hamilton County and especially the future of a high school on our mountaintop. Mr. Baker touched on the exciting times for the School Board especially with the presentation of a balanced budget to the Hamilton County Commission and the many positive points the School Board is experiencing and the need to focus on those positive issues. Dr. Cassavant noted that the gift of $10,000,000 that the residents of Walden and Signal Mountain had offered Hamilton County to help build the high school was unprecedented and without it, he felt that a high school on the mountain will not happen in his lifetime. Mr. Baker introduced Mr. Tom Caldwell and Mr. Glen Baird, attorney and chairman of the Friends of Signal Mountain High School, respectively. Mr. Caldwell noted that the first time a high school on Signal Mountain was suggested was in 1959. And Mr. Baird spoke on the negative impact and loss of families to the Signal Mountain communities since the County Commission declined to accept our offer to help build the high school.

Students from Red Bank High spoke up against a high school on the mountain referring to poll taken last year after the referendum vote saying the majority of students at Red Bank would not want to go to a high school on the mountain. Councilmember Lizetta Paturalski pointed out to them that they should be proud of their high school and that their loyalty to Red Bank is not any different than the loyalty the children of today would have one day at their own high school on Signal Mountain.

When asked what impact a high school would have on Red Bank, Dr. Cassavant explained how the more crowded schools would be rezoned to Red Bank and reminded everyone that currently 53% of the high school students on Signal Mountain donít attend public schools and, except for those families with long ties to the private schools, many would go to a high school if the high school were in their own community. He further noted that Signal Mountain is the largest community in Hamilton County without itsí own high school.

Resident Dean Holland spoke once again against the referendum vote last year speaking for senior citizens in the community. However, Mayor Bill Leonard and Attorney Phil Noblett, both explained to Mrs. Holland that having a referendum to hear the voice of the people was a decision the former council made instead of voting to raise the taxes automatically, which they had the power to do. Mr. Noblett further explained that when and if the county does vote to accept the offer of the ten million dollars the current town council will have to vote on the gift shared by the two towns.

In further business, the Town Council voted to divert funds designated for Hedges Ball Field in the amount of $50,000 and give it to Hamilton County through an interlocal agreement for the purpose of building two more ball fields at Shackleford Ridge Park. Although funds for this project are in the current budget, Vice-mayor Ruffin voted against the resolution because he is concerned about the fact that the town is spending $78,000 from its reserves in this year's budget. According to Mr. Terry McElveen, who serves on the Town of Signal Mountainís Recreation Board, making this gift is a window of opportunity we shouldnít let close and noted that girls softball will catapult to a new level once the fields are built. Signal Mountain Middle School Principal, Bob Walters, also in the audience, added that this reaffirms our support to the children in our community.

Town Manager Hershel Dick responded to concerns from the Councilmembers over the status of the Rainbow Lake parking lot on Ohio Avenue. They agreed that this should be a priority and although a recent bid to repair the lot was not accepted due to it being over the budgeted amount, Mr. Dick assured the Council that by the end of the year the parking lot would be complete.

Councilmembers Robert White and Bob Linehart both recently attended Thrasher Elementary third grade classes giving each a civic lesson. Each came home with a great assortment of thank you notes from the children who seemed to have gleaned much information from both men.

On a final note Mayor Leonard reported that Anne Ozburn announced that the Olde Town Association is planning the Second Annual Fourth of July parade throughout the Signal Mountain Historic District. A meeting is planned for May 16 and anyone interested in attending or helping is to call Anne for details. He also reported that Officer Greg Hill, is planning a Clean-up Day at Edwards Point on Saturday, May 14th and people are invited to come out and help. People are to look for the announcements in the Summer Recreation Newsletter of all the activities going on in the Town of Signal Mountain for children and adults.

After setting dates for budget discussions, the meeting ended at 9:15 PM
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