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published on 11/13/2001

November 2001 Town of Signal Mountain Council Meeting

By staff writer

Mayor Jim Althaus opened the meeting of the Town of Signal Mountain Council on Monday, November 12, at 7:00 PM with prayer. Councilmembers Steve Ruffin and Billy Steele were absent as they were out of town. Town manager, Hershel Dick, town attorney, Joe Wagner, town recorder, Diana Campbell, and attorney Phil Noblett were all present. Councilmember Steve Ruffin was able to join the meeting later in the evening. There were over fifty citizens in the audience, most concerned about the proposed ordinance for a curfew which was slated to be voted on a second reading.

The minutes of the last regular meeting were approved.

Brian Wright presented the 2000/2001 Audit for the Town of Signal Mountain. After some brief explanations, he said everything was fine and that it was a good report with no suggestions for changes. One thing he noted was that as of June 30, 2001, $273,519 had been collected from sales taxes toward the high school fund. (Editor's note: Looking back at this report last November the amount collected was around $97,000). This Audit is available at the Town Hall for viewing.

Mayor Althaus closed the Town Council Meeting and convened the Beer Board which consisted of the Councilmembers present. Two applications from Bill Woodcock owner of the Top of the Mountain were presented. One permit was to allow ?brown bagging? on the premises and the other was a permit to sell beer for consumption on the premises. Assistant town attorney, Phil Noblett reported to the Council that Mr. Woodcock had paid the $100 fee for the ?brown bagging? permit and the $250 fee to sell beer for consumption and in doing so he had met all the requirements. The Beer Board granted the applications. The Beer Board was adjourned and the Town Council Meeting was re-convened.

Mr. Bill Wagner, town inspector and in charge of the new stormwater committee presented the ordinance for stormwater control. Mr. Wagner reported that the EPA has required the Town of Signal Mountain to comply with the law by the year 2003 or be fined $10,000 a day. Although there are no problems on Signal Mountain and all our streams are clean and environmentally safe, the Town of Signal Mountain is included in this requirement because of it?s proximity to Chattanooga. Five steps must be taken to adhere to the law. The first is to come up with an ordinance, which we are doing now. The second is to produce a stormwater map, which the town is in the process of doing also. The third is the BMP or Best Management Practice, which is the development of a manual with six more steps that are required, one of which is to recruit a citizen to serve on the stormwater committee. The fourth step is to submit the application by 2003, which Mr. Wagner feels certain the town will be able to do. And finally, the last step is to make sure all streams are clean and not dangerous which Mr. Wagner assures us is not a problem. Sixty-five thousand dollars has been budgeted to get this committee going, but according to Mr. Wagner it will probably take at least that much or more every year to maintain the stormwater control. He said this to make sure the Councilmembers understood that the $65,000 or more would need to continue to be a budgeted item. This ordinance needs two readings to pass. The Stormwater Ordinance passed on the first reading unanimously.

Although there were many citizens in the audience who were at the meeting to address the council with their concerns for the proposed Curfew Ordinance, Mayor Althaus announced that because so many members of the Council had received letters and phone calls about this ordinance, he had appointed a ?Blue Ribbon? committee to address the issue. If the committee came back and said yes there was a need for the ordinance then the Council would proceed with the process. If the committee comes back saying there is no need for a curfew ordinance then it would be dismissed. The mayor did not want to address the issues and wanted the citizens to address the committee with their concerns but he conceded that many were there and many had questions and concerns so he allowed the audience to speak out. Most parents felt that if the police see a car that is doing something that is inappropriate that the police already have the authority to stop it and question the driver. Even though the ordinance has many exceptions, most agreed that this ordinance gives the police permission to harass the teenagers, or at least that is the impression it gives. The members of the Mayor?s committee are Bonnie Hamilton, Fay Rothberger, Mike St. Charles, Chris Albright, George Galloway, and one member of the Town of Signal Mountain police department (not the chief). After more discussion, which was becoming more and more heated, Councilmember Rachel Bryant suggested that one additional member of the audience be added to the committee. The Mayor deferred the vote on the Curfew Ordinance until after the committee meets. Councilmember and Vice-Mayor Bob Steel spoke in support of the Police Department, saying he felt certain their intentions are good and would not stop a teenager randomly. This comment sparked more discussion to the fact that the town?s police department is already doing that. Finally, Councilmember Rachel Bryant suggested three people be added to the committee which the Council agreed to if she would be responsible for appointing them. She agreed. Greg Wright and Larry Welch agreed to serve. A third person is being approached.

Attorney Joe Wagner presented a High School Resolution, which Mayor Althaus read to the audience concerning the Town?s desire to have a high school on Signal Mountain. After all the members of the Town Council sign this resolution it will be mailed to the Hamilton County Commissioners and to the Hamilton County School Board.

During the opportunity for citizens to speak, resident Sam Powell addressed the Council. He reported that the Cumberland Trail had received a $40,000 federal grant to connect Green Gorge to Rainbow Falls to the Cumberland Trail. They still need $8,000. Mr. Powell asked that the Town take into consideration donating the cash instead of giving inkind money. The Councilmembers agreed to consider it in next year?s budget.

Another citizen asked what the situation was with the police service to the Town of Walden. Mayor Althaus said that the Town of Signal Mountain put in a bid, which they felt, was a fair one but evidently the Hamilton County Sheriff?s Department put in a lower bid because the Town of Walden turned down Signal Mountain?s bid. Mayor Althaus said that servicing Walden would have been a good thing because it would have brought the two communities one step closer to being a metro government.

Lou Oliphant, chairman of the Planning Commission presented her report for information only to the Council.

Pat St. Charles, Mayor Althaus? son-in-law has resigned from the Design Review Commission. He has served on the commission since it was formed. Mr. George Cangles has agreed to serve on the commission. His background is commercial real estate like Mr. St. Charles. Although a formality, the Council approved the appointment of Mr. Cangles.

Town recorder, Diana Campbell read several bids for different things, none of which needed approval by the Council but which she wanted them to be aware of.

Under new business, Mayor Althaus brought the citizens in the audience up to date on the Duke Energy problem at the Baird property. After giving some background and history, he shared what happened at the meeting in East Ridge last month. He was most proud of Congressman Zack Wamp and his aggressive attitude to fight the pumping station in the Town of Signal Mountain. According to the Mayor, Mr. Wamp sits on a committee, which appropriates funds to the FERC, which gives authority to Duke Energy. He threatened to withhold funds if they didn?t leave Signal Mountain alone. Mayor Althaus said that it looks like they have decided to move the pumping station ? but not very far away. Yes, outside the town limits but still on the mountain, maybe a half a mile from the first planned sight near Kell Road and Fox Run. The Mayor said residents of Fox Run have hired a lawyer. Mayor Althaus said resident, John Houstrup who has a background in nuclear safety said some very important things at the meeting last month. Mr. Houstrup, who was in the audiance, said that he plans to follow-up and make sure safety is included when the station is built.

Councilmember and Vice-Mayor Bob Steel spoke once again on the derelict houses and properties within the town?s limits. He had made contact with the town of Montgomery, Alabama and received a copy of the ordinance which they have in place to correct the problems occurring when homeowners neglect their property. He wants the Council to consider Montgomery?s laws and come up with something similar for Signal Mountain. Councilmember Rachel Bryant suggested town manager, Hershel Dick give them everything the town already has in place to correct the problems before they create more laws which need to be enforced. Mr. Dick said he would do that. Councilmember Steel also said he was in support of the parents who don?t want their children harassed by the police and would go with anyone who felt their child had been treated unfairly, to the police to make it right.

Mayor Althaus had a request from the Mountain Education Fund for $500 over the budgeted $5,000. The Council agreed that it would consider raising the amount next year but would stick with what was budgeted this year.

Councilmember Steve Ruffin thanked the Baird family for being such good stewards for the Town of Signal Mountain. He also requested that the police continue to monitor the speeding on Ohio and Texas as what has been done is not enough because the speeding is still occurring.

Councilmember Rachel Bryant reminded us that Duke Energy doesn?t play fair and although the pumping station is not going to be in our town, it is going to be still on the mountain and we need to keep that in mind. What might be good news for us is bad news for someone else.

Finally, the Mayor once again asked Hershel Dick how we can justify spending over $300 a month for three handicapped people on Signal Mountain to ride CARTA?s private bus up and down the mountain. He asked Mr. Dick to look into alternative transportation for these people.

The meeting ended around 9:00, give or take ten minutes. A lot of people stayed around to discuss the curfew issue including who would volunteer to serve on the ?Blue Ribbon? committee.

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