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published on 12/13/2005

New Site for High School?

By staff writer

Dr. Richard Casavant and Mr. Dan Saieed
Once again the Signal Mountain Town Council meeting proved to be interesting and informative at the same time. Residents of Signal Mountain met in the Town Hall on Monday, December 12, 2006, for the regularly scheduled meeting. Present were acting town manager, Diana Campbell, town attorney, Phil Noblett, Mayor Bill Leonard, Vice-mayor and Councilmember Steve Ruffin, and Councilmembers Bob Linehart, Lizetta Paturalski, and Robert White.

After the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag led by the Mayor, Councilmember Linehart led everyone in prayer. The minutes were approved as corrected, although the members of the audience were not told what the corrections were.

Mayor Leonard thanked David Thorn, who was not present, for his service as interim Town Building Inspector and introduced the new Building Inspector, Chuck Gearhiser, who greeted the audience.

Signal Mountain resident, and chairman of the Planning Commission, Mr. Dan Saieed and Hamilton County Commissioner, Dr. Richard Casavant presented the Town of Signal Mountain a plaque honoring the Town for its partnership in the implementation of the new Three-Star Program. This honor comes from the Community Development Division of the Tennessee State Department of Economic and Community Development. According to Mr. Saieed, “Receiving this award will assist Signal Mountain in their effort to achieve excellence in community and economic development.” In addition, the Town will receive points that go towards applications for grants, which the Town may want to pursue.

Dixie League coaches, Mark Feemster, Alan Koenig, Bill Queen, and Paul Weidlich came before the Council to present a trophy which the eight-year-old team won this past season. Having been passed around to each teammate, it now belongs in Town Hall along with the other trophies in the Trophy Case. President of the league, Mark Feemster, also thanked the Town Council for their support throughout the year and especially the rebuilding of the dugout and restrooms at the ball field.

On Monday, December 5th the Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE) held an informational meeting with the architects, Derthick, Henley, Wilkerson, who have the contract to build the new high school. At this meeting they reported on a request from HCDE on a site analysis for the future high school. Because the results of the site analysis was a surprise to many people, Councilmember Bob Linehart asked the firm to give an update to the entire Council. Present at the Council meeting from the firm were Bill Wilkerson, Sandy Hausler, and Andrew Hausler. Not there to give an opinion on which site is best, they were present to only share the results of the site analysis.

Residents were reminded that Shackleford Ridge Park, although within the Town of Signal Mountain, belongs to Hamilton County. Considered a “jewel,” it is the most beautiful county park in the State of Tennessee. Site one is the original site, situated on Shackleford Ridge Road, next door to Nolan Elementary. This is the site most everyone assumed the school would be built. However, now that the land has been analyzed and a cost analysis has been done on all three sites, site one would require going up maybe three stories high as well as building a parking garage, and would allow for only 41% growth, which would not meet Hamilton County growth projections of 50% in ten year’s time. There is also some question as to whether or not there would be room for an auditorium and/or football field later on.

Site two would place the high school further down Sam Powell Parkway, behind the current ball fields, in what is currently wilderness and trails, including several bridges built as Eagle projects by local Scouts. The advantage of using this site is that it leaves room for expansion, would not require blasting rock as much as site one, and would allow for use of existing parking and ball fields. Sam Powell, chairman of the Parks Department, was notably distressed with the possibility of the school being located directly in the “heart” of the park, as he put it. Hamilton County School Board chairman, Chip Baker, noted that any trails or bridges that needed to be moved or rebuilt would happen with abundant community support, if site two was chosen.

Site three placed the school South of Sam Powell Parkway and would cost around $200,000 more than site one, which would cost $100,000 more than site two. This is because it would require digging into the hill.

Councilmember Bob Linehart was not happy with the timing of all this information hinting that the process appeared to be forcing the Town to make a hasty decision. Superintendent, Dr. Jesse Register, acknowledged Mr. Linehart’s concerns but assured him and the others in the room that in no way was the HCDE rushing into anything. According to Dr. Register, everything is on schedule and proceeding as expected. Dr. Casavant added that to delay would be a mistake and that everyone owed it to the parents of current 5th graders who have the biggest decision in their lives right now as to stay in public school or enter private school to which the audience responded with a loud hand of applause in support.

Other business at the meeting included Resolutions appointing various people to boards and committees. Owen C. Leslie, Jr., Herbert Haile, and A. Vincent Keyes were reappointed to the Board of Directors for the Health, Educational and Housing Facility Board for six (6) year terms. Debra Blake and Bob Anderson were appointed to the Library Board for three (3) year terms. Reappointed to the Design Review Commission were members Karna Levitt and Cheryl Graham to three (3) year terms and George Kangles to a one (1) year term. Mike Feher was appointed as the Town representative to the Signal Mountain Golf and Country Club for a three (3) year term. And finally, Larry Trabucco was appointed to the Board of Zoning of Appeals and Judy Ekiss was reappointed, both for three (3) year terms.

Lou Oliphant, secretary of the Planning Commission presented the minutes of that meeting on December 8, 2005. The next meeting is January 8,2006, at Town Hall.

Under remarks by visitors, two residents of Carriage Hill, Eugenia Allderdice and Thomas K. Jones, both expressed concern and dissatisfaction at the way the Natalie Sitton memorial was handled at the last meeting by the Town Council. She called for a resending of the vote to allow a memorial and he reminded the Council of the precedent being set. Mayor Leonard thanked them and took full responsibility for the manner in which the situation was handled.

Councilmember Linehart asked Phil Noblett to draw up an ordinance that would create a sub-committee of the Design Review Commission, which would over-see any future memorials or markers within the Town of Signal Mountain. He also called for the entire Council to support him in letter to HCDE recommending that they consider building the high school on site one and not the other two sites. Councilmember Paturalski was the only member to respond but did so saying not to include her in that letter as she had already stated that she leaned toward site 2 and also felt that the architects were better trained at making this decision than she.

Mayor Leonard closed the meeting with several remarks, one being an apology to the citizens for any mistakes made during the Natalie Sitton situation. He also announced that a new Town Manager had been hired and that he would be introduced at the January 9th meeting. And finally he announced that the Sunday on Shoal Creek will be on the first Sunday of each month beginning in January for the winter months.

The meeting ended at 9:20 PM.

Caption under first picture should read:
Dr. Richard Casavant and Mr. Dan Saieed presenting Three-Star Plaque to Town Council

Caption under second picture:
From Dixie League Baseball, Paul Weidlich, Alan Koenig, Bill Queen, and Mark Feemster

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