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published on 01/15/2002

January 2002 Town of Signal Mountain Council Meeting

By staff writer

The Town of Signal Mountain Town Council met at 7:00 PM. Councilmember Billy Steele opened the meeting with prayer. Town Recorder Diana Campbell called roll. All members of the Town Council were present. Also present was Town Manager Hershel Dick and the new Town Attorney, Phil Noblett.

The minutes from the December 10th Council Meeting as well as the minutes of the Special Meeting held December 14th were approved. (The special meeting was with the Tennessee American Water Company.)

A Resolution to appoint Phil Noblett as the new Town Attorney was approved unanimously by the Town Council. Mr. Noblett is currently an assistant attorney for the City of Chattanooga. Mayor Althaus commented that the Town of Signal Mountain, “Will miss Joe Wagner who resigned (as the Town Attorney) after fifty years of service to the Town, but are proud and happy to welcome Phil as our new Town Attorney.”

The Town gave Mr. Wagner a reception on December 28 at the Town Hall, which was attended by many friends. Mayor Althaus passed around a note from Mr. Wagner’s wife thanking them for the reception.

The second Resolution passed was to appoint Ollie Benton as liaison to the Signal Mountain Golf and Country Club. The current liaison, Dick Yankee, is resigning from the position. A member of the Club, Mr. Benton will serve on the Club’s Board, representing the interest of the Town of Signal Mountain. According to Mr. Benton, not only will he bring important information to the Town when necessary, but he will also be able to consult the Club’s Board on issues that affect the Town. Mayor Althaus reminded members of the audience that the land the Club is situated on belongs to the Town and is leased to the Club.

There were no Ordinances presented, however there is a meeting of the Citizens Committee to review the Curfew Ordinance on January 16th at the Town Hall.

Secretary of the Planning Commission, Lou Oliphant reported that the 2001 Annual Report is complete and that the review of the Town Zoning Ordinances is being made with recommendations to come at a later date.

At the Special Meeting on December 14th, the Tennessee American Water Company presented options to members of the Town Council to buy the Town’s water and lease it back to the Town. It was not a concrete offer, but Mayor Althaus suggested a letter be sent to TAWC thanking them for their interests, but letting them know that now is not the right time for the Town to look into selling their water. He felt a letter would allow them to move on without getting their hopes up. Councilmember Rachel Bryant suggested the Council rethink writing a letter saying no, until after a work session with Town Treasurer, Diana Campbell. Mrs. Bryant said the Special Meeting was very confusing, financially speaking, and she would like to hear what they were saying in more “layman’s” terms. Vice-mayor and Councilmember Bob Steel agreed. He said he went into the meeting confused and left even more confused. Councilmember Billy Steele agreed with the Mayor, however, saying he would rather focus on the sewer problems to which Councilmember Steve Ruffin agreed. The Council agreed to table the vote on a letter until next month’s meeting.

Mayor Althaus read a complaint from a citizen about a neighbor whose dogs are barking in access and are a disturbance. The Mayor pointed out that the citizen had taken the proper course of action by first approaching the neighbor with the barking dogs, then making a complaint to the police, and finally taking it to Judge Rothberger. After a lengthy discussion between the Councilmembers, Mr. Dick, and Mr. Noblett a decision was made to see if one of the existing ordinances could solve the problem before the Town create new ordinances. The issue at stake is what determines a nuisance? It means many different things to many different people and how would the Town go about enforcing a barking dog ordinance? Mr. Noblett agreed to look into the Town’s ordinances and see if the owners of the barking dogs are breaking the law. If so then action can be taken.

Diana Campbell read a letter to the Council requesting a bid for emergency repairs for the boiler at the Mountain Arts Community Center. Both Hershel Dick and Mayor Althaus admitted that the Town was not prepared to maintain a boiler and so it was neglected these past few years causing sediment to build up in the pipes. It would cost less to buy a new one than repair the broken one. A bid in access of $18,000 was approved but not without some second guessing by Councilmember Rachel Bryant on the question as to how wise is it for the Town to lease the building considering its age and the fact that the new roof and boiler repairs have already exceeded the amount budgeted for MACC. The Mayor pointed out that MACC is not a private business but a part of the Town of Signal Mountain. All monies received by MACC go through the Town general budget and all bills for MACC are paid by the Town including the salaries of the two staff people at MACC, according to Town Recorder Diana Campbell.

The last part of the meeting can sometimes be the most interesting, as this is the time for Councilmembers to address issues they have concern for. Vice-mayor and Councilmember Bob Steel asked once again that each Councilmember go over the ordinances of the Town of Montgomery, Alabama concerning derelict houses. He also spoke in support of the Curfew Ordinance.

Councilmember Billy Steele asked about the status of the property on Timberlinks that was discussed at last month Council Meeting. The conversation that followed was almost identical to the one that was held last month. The only difference was that there was a member of the audience who was permitted to speak later in the meeting who is a neighbor of the property in question. He would like the man not to be allowed another permit, and would like the Town to do something about the existing property. What is at issue is the law. According to Attorney Phil Noblett, if the owner of the neglected property is not breaking any law or ordinance than nothing can be done. However, if the man in the audience wants to seek some civil action he can do so on his own. Town Manager, Hershel Dick said that the Town is hearing two sides to the story and that even though the Town may not want to give the man a new permit to continue building on the property, it may be legally bound to do so. Councilmember Steele also brought up the subject of a proposal by the Tabb Family to have a CVS built on their property. This proposal was given to Attorney Phil Noblett just before the meeting so the members of the Council had not had an opportunity to address the issue. Part of the incentive of the proposal is that the Tabb family is willing to give to the Town a portion of the property for a park in return for permission to have parking in a residential zoned area of the property. No action was taken or was the issue discussed in length.

Councilmember Steve Ruffin commended Hershel Dick for the beauty of the mountain but asked that he make contact with the State of Tennessee about the trash along the side of the mountain approaching the Town. Mr. Dick agreed to make the call. Mr. Ruffin also praised the Town of Signal Mountain police department for their continued monitoring of speeders especially along Signal Mountain Blvd and James Blvd. He also asked what the situation is with the law suite brought on by Judge Moon. Attorney Phil Noblett said that there is no action being taken on the part of Judge Moon at this time so nothing is happening.

Councilmember Rachel Bryant asked about the possibility of the Town’s snowplows grading the circular drives at the schools on the mountain when they do the street in front of the schools after a snowfall. Attorney Phil Noblett said that there is an issue of liability and that it would not be wise for the Town to assume that responsibility. Town Manager Hershel Dick agreed that it was the County’s responsibility and they should continue coming up the mountain to grade the school’s parking lots and driveways. Mrs. Bryant also asked that the lines be repainted within the Town’s parking lot as they have faded.

Mayor Althaus used his time to talk about Mr. Ronnie Simpson’s decision to continue selling used cars in front of his business on Ridgeway Avenue. Mr. Simpson continues to be cited and was almost arrested once for refusing to sign the citation. Councilmember Ruffin pointed out that when Mr. Simpson puts ads in the paper to sell his cars, then he is breaking the law and should be cited for that also. Mayor Althaus said that there had been a burglary up on the mountain but that it had been solved with the criminals caught and property recovered.

When members of the audience were permitted to speak one asked if anyone from the Town was going to attend the Tennessee Municipal League meeting and the Mayor didn’t have an answer. Another resident asked if the guardrail on Mississippi Avenue was going to be installed and Mr. Dick assured her that the grant money was available now and that it was being scheduled.

Town Attorney, Phil Noblett pointed out that the Town’s codes and ordinances are all on computer disc now and available for the Town web site when and if that ever comes about.

The meeting adjourned at 8:45 PM.

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