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published on 01/10/2006

Town Council Meets

By staff writer

Each month the members of the Town Council for the Town of Signal Mountain come together at the regularly scheduled meeting. Held in the Town Hall at 7:00 PM the second Monday of each month, residents are invited to attend and hear the proceedings of each meeting.

The first regular meeting held in the year 2006 was on January 9th. Presiding over the meeting was Mayor Bill Leonard. Also present were Vice-mayor and Councilmember Steve Ruffin and Councilmembers Bob Linehart, Lizetta Paturalski, and Robert White. Acting town manager, Dianna Campbell and town attorney Phil Noblett also were in attendance.

After the opening prayer and Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, Mayor Leonard asked Councilmember White to introduce some of the many guests in the audience. Councilmember White, Commissioner for the Signal Mountain Flag Football League, then called up the Razorbacks football team, made up of first and second graders who won first place in this year’s championship. Members of the team were: Charlie McLean, Nicholas Najjar, Tate Prater, Jason Roth, Zachery Taylor, Grant Galbraith, Noah White, David Markovich, and Alec Kadrie. Coaches for the Razorbacks were Robert White and Moe Galbraith. Mr. White then introduced the third, fourth, and fifth grade champions, the Colts. Members of this team include: Avery Launerie, Andrew LeVan, Clay McEvoy, Henry Hammett, Joseph Greer, Isaac White, Evan Jacoway, Nicholas Najjar, and Austin Rehm. Coaches for the Colts were Robert White, Steve Jacoway, Jason Rehm, Lee Greer, and Ricky McEvoy. Both teams presented the Town Council signed footballs.

Mr. Brian Wright from Johnson, Murphy, and Wright, PC, presented the annual financial statements for the year ending June 30, 2005. As in previous years, the audit was a clean report. Each member of the Council had copies of the report and were able to preview it before Mr. Wright’s presentation and so there were few questions. But he did point out that the, “Town made money,” in 2005. Part of this was due to the way funds were handled, by not transferring from one fund to the general fund. The other, which Councilmember White pointed out later in the meeting, was due to the commitment of the Council to balance the budget and build up some reserves at the same time in lieu of raising taxes the next year.

Further business to come before the meeting included voting on the number of members of the Planning Commission. Councilmembers voted on returning that number to the original nine instead of the recent 10, which was changed to accommodate adding Brendon Olin to the Planning Commission as he was in the middle of a project and wanted to complete it. Now that he is rotating off the commission, the decision to go back to nine members was agreed upon. However this posed a problem as there were three people up for appointment to the Planning Commission and now only two positions available. A resolution to appoint two new members was approved and Lou Oliphant and Don Moon were appointed. Mayor Leonard asked the acting town manager to write a letter of appreciation to long-time Planning Commission member Jean Bullard for her service to that commission and the Town of Signal Mountain.

Two ordinances were read and approved on the first readings. The first pertained to terms of board members with indefinite terms. Terms of boards and committees, where not otherwise specified, shall be for three (3) years from and after the date of appointment. Mayor Leonard pointed out that by putting this in an ordinance, it will create turnover and more involvement and encourage more citizens to serve on the committees, boards, and commissions.

The second ordinance approved was one amending the Town Code pertaining to duties of the Design Review Commission, adding to their responsibilities the establishment of certain procedures for the review of proposed memorials and monuments within the Town of Signal Mountain. Details on the language of this ordinance are available at the Town Hall. Greg Goodgame, a member of the Design Review Commission was present at the meeting. He commented that he hoped they never had to use it, but felt it was a good ordinance. Councilmember Linehart thanked Mr. Goodgame for his advice to him and the town attorney during preparation of this ordinance.

Lou Oliphant thanked the Town Council for their vote of support in reappointing her to the Planning Commission for the next three years. The Planning Commission meeting was to be held after the Town Council meeting, therefore, there was no report, however she did remind the Council that the zoning recommendation requested by the Planning Commission needed to be resolved before any annexation could happen. Mr. Noblett, then pointed out that the Planning Commission’s request would soon expire, if action were not taken to at least accept it and defer or table any action. The members of the Town Council voted to accept the Planning Commission’s recommendations on the zoning ordinance and defer any decision until the February meeting.

Under citizen’s opportunity to address the Council, resident Jim Webster asked if the Town was aware of the proposed new addition to the Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church and what impact that construction would have on him and the other residents in close proximity to the church, especially the stormwater runoff which is still a problem after the last construction. Mayor Leonard responded, not knowing about the proposed construction but said the Town would find out details and see that stormwater does not become an issue. Vice-mayor Ruffin suggested that Mr. Webster go to the church and find out first hand, what the details are and offered to go with him.

I asked the members of the Council to consider thoughtfully about the needs of the different departments in preparing the next budget pointing out that if the Town made money last year, then some of that money might have been better used toward the programs of the departments. I was told the budget had not been cut in any departments and that in fact there had been an increase in most. I pointed out that the cuts are made before they are even presented to the Council to which DeeDee Ralston, president of the Library Board, present at the meeting, verified. This was news to the Councilmembers who said they would look into it and be more conscious of the needs of the departments in preparing next year’s budget.

Councilmember Linehart welcomed former Councilmember Dr. Bob Steel, who addressed the Council and audience. Mayor Leonard also welcomed the acting town engineer, Mr. Jim Cawthorne, thanking him for his continued service to the Town.

Councilmember Steve Ruffin commented on the Hats Off column written in the January issue of the Signal Mountain Mirror which I wrote. He wanted to remind people that he voted against the settlement that allowed the building of the CVS.

Town attorney, Phil Noblett, reported that the contract with Comcast Cable will be up for renewal next month which caused some discussion on the monopoly and cost of cable connections. Resident Polly Regan asked that the Town wait until a new federal law being considered pass, but the town attorney said the Town would not have the option of waiting. Comcast pays the Town of Signal Mountain over $90,000 to provide service to the residents on the mountain.

The Council agreed to allow the acting town manager to secure the services of Marion Environmental for emergency oil spills within the Town.

And on a final note, Mayor Leonard was sad to report that the future Town Manager, which had been hired and was to be presented at this meeting and begin working full-time in February, had called on Thursday, January 5th to say he had changed his mind and would not be taking the job. Needless to say, the Mayor and Councilmembers were distressed but optimistic about continuing the search in hopes of having a new town manager before February 20, 2006.

The meeting ended at 8:15 P.M. The next meeting will be Monday, February 13, 2006.
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