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published on 09/12/2006

Town Halts Annexation Process

By staff writer

Signal Mountain Firefighters, representing the police, fire, and emergency personnel who lost their lives on 9/11/01, opened the regular meeting of the Signal Mountain Town Council, Monday, September 11, 2006, by leading the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. They came at the invitation of Mayor Bill Leonard who, after a moment of silence, offered a prayer that began with mentioning those who lost their lives five years ago this day and ended with prayers for our community.

Present at the meeting were Councilmembers Robert White, Lizetta Paturalski, Bob Linehart, and Vice-mayor Steve Ruffin. Also present were the town manager, Diana Campbell, town attorney, Phil Noblett, and town recorder, Sherry Morrison. In addition Loretta Hopper, the Public Works Director was present as were four of the citizens running for town council, Paul Hendricks, Hershel Dick, Annette Allen, and Greg Goodgame.

The meeting began with a presentation by members of the Signal Mountain swim team, the Green Giants. Representing the largest number in recent year, 226 members, these young people presented two trophies. For the first time in seven years the Dalton swim team surpassed the Green Giants taking first place. Coming in second at both the City Meet and over-all, the Green Giants still felt it was a very successful year. Co-President of the Swim League, Tracy McHugh thanked the Council for the generous gift to help purchase the starting blocks that were replaced before the season. She presented a signed poster/picture of the new blocks and asked what the procedure was to secure the next set. Mayor Leonard said they needed to bring a proposal to the Council for approval.

Four resolutions were up for approval. The first authorized the Mayor to enter into a bond contract/agreement for the purpose of providing funds for the new high/middle school in an amount no higher than 7.7 million dollars. After hearing presentations at workshops previous to the meeting, the Council voted at this time to accept the one made by the Tennessee Municipal League because the TML Bond Fund, according to Mayor Leonard, “Is there to assist small municipalities in acquiring bond funding.” Councilmember Linehart added that although the Council had agreed to go with the TML Bond Funding, the presentation made by Sun Trust Bank was excellent and he appreciated their effort and thanked them.

The second resolution was related to the first in that it provides for the reimbursement of expenditures in connection with the building of the new school that the Town’s Public Works department might incur. Repayment would come from the bond money.

The third resolution approved a contract with Kleenco Construction to repave Rolling Way, Glamis Circle, and Middle Creek Roads.

And the fourth and final resolution approved was one to renew the Town’s contract with the Humane Educational Society. Noting once again that the Town is not happy about doing this, they, however feel like they have no other choice at this time. The town manager feels that they have improved their commitment to the agreement as requested last year, but in looking at the agreement, the council asked that when the town manager signs the contract, attach a letter along with the list of expectations. Vice-mayor Ruffin added that a note saying, “Councilmembers expressed concern,” should be included in the letter.

Three ordinances were approved on second and final reading. The first amended the 2006-07 Budget to include the property tax levy to help finance the construction of the new high/middle school. The second established a rate schedule for water rates within the Town to reflect an increase from Tennessee Water who supplies water to the Town of Signal Mountain. Mayor Leonard reminded all that over 1 million gallons of water is pumped up the mountain every day and that several million gallons are stored on top of the mountain, and maintenance of the pumps at the bottom of the mountain is also the responsibility of the Town. The final ordinance approved was that renaming the portion of road between Middle Creek and Shackleford Ridge (Edward’s Point Road) to Timberlinks Drive. Timberlinks Drive will end at Edward’s Point Road and Shackleford Ridge Road now.

During citizen’s opportunity to address the council, Anne Roza, president of the Signal Mountain Playhouse asked the Council’s support on securing a grant to make improvements at the SM Playhouse outdoor theater. Because the property belongs to the Town, the grant would be secured through the Tennessee State Parks and Recreation Department. Once secured, the Playhouse would contribute and they are asking the Town to make up the difference. Estimated cost of improvements is fifty to sixty-five thousand dollars. Mayor Leonard asked if they had considered finding a larger spot and Mrs. Roza said no that they, “Loved our little corner of the world.” The Council told her to move forward with the request with Councilmember White adding that once they secured the grant, he would personally make some calls to friends and contribute $5,000 towards the project. Attorney Phil Noblett reminded them all that this is Town property and all improvements must be bidded out and any improvements must meet town codes.

DeeDee Raulston, president of the Library Board, came before the Council to share her disappointment in not hearing back from any of them since her presentation at the meeting last month over concerns about the SM Library. One concern is the rumor going around town that the Library is being closed and is going to be moved to the new high school and the other is the way donations are budgeted. Councilmember Linehart responded to the rumor saying it was totally untrue and he too had heard it. Diana Campbell responded the donation issue saying any money received by the Library belonged to the town and would go into the general fund and asked if this is what they wanted to change. Councilmember Linehart suggested a workshop between the Library Board, Town Council and town manager to find a way to make it work for all parties concerned.

Another issue is the hiring of a new librarian to which Mrs. Raulston said sixteen applications were being considered and hopefully the name of the new librarian would be approved at the meeting next month.

Vice-mayor Ruffin noted that in the six years he served on the Council the Library budget had been increased every year and Mrs. Raulston reminded him that all those increases were not for the library but for salary and benefits to the staff.

Under motions, reports, and discussion Vice-mayor Ruffin shared his concern for the people in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast who he helped a year ago after the hurricanes. He then praised Councilmember White and Mayor Leonard and explained why he decided to not run for re-election.

Councilmember Linehart suggested that the request to the Planning Commission to establish a plan of annexation of Fox Run and Windtree be delayed. He felt it was necessary but due to the issues the town has been faced with over the summer, he felt that not enough due diligence had been given to the project. Councilmember Paturalski agreed.

He addressed concern over the misunderstandings many people have in the community over the zoning ordinance approved at the last meeting, noting that he hoped that the intent of the people spreading the rumors is not to spread fear. He stated, "The recall proponents continue to tell the community the Council approved 7 homes per acre, condominiums, patio homes, etc. This is false. The high density residential component of seven homes per acre and other variations was in the previous zoning ordinance and it was kept in this current ordinance - the approval process for this high density provision is identical in both the previous and the new ordinance. The Council made no changes to this provision. The only significant changes the Council made to the zoning ordinance was to move the minimum lot size from a half to a third of an acre and to allow the alternative plan of 2.25 homes per gross acre. To move to seven homes per acre would require three additional votes by three different governing bodies."

He then added that the uncivil treatment of Councilmember Robert White was uncalled for reminding all that it was Councilmember White who went to the SM Golf and Country Club and established the Golf Scramble for to which the gym at Thrasher Elementary was the recipient two years in a row. He further noted that Councilmember White has donated funds out of his pocket for the Flag Football League to help support it as well as other projects in town including his generous offer at tonight’s meeting for the SM Playhouse.

Councilmember White thanked Vice-mayor Ruffin and Councilmember Linehart for their kind words and support. He then responded to rumors heard on talk radio, the newspaper and around town that he owns property on the Shackleford Ridge. He said he didn’t know how many times he could say NO, but that he does not own property there. He reminded everyone again that he voted for the zoning ordinance because he supports smart growth and feels the ordinance reflects that. He commented on the recall petition noting that fake signatures were used as well as hearing from people who had signed the petition under false pretenses and then learned the truth and wanted their names taken off, but were not allowed to.

Attorney Phil Noblett reported that there was a recall petition at the Hamilton County Election Commission and that it was their responsibility to inform those being recalled to which they had the option of resigning or “sticking it out” until after the vote in November. As their attorney, it was his duty to inform them of their options.

Mayor Leonard thanked everyone for the many notes and cards he received after the passing of his father. He noted that he was honored to be at the City Council Meeting in Greensboro, NC, where he grew up and his father lived, and at which time his father was honored for his civic duty to the city of Greensboro. He discussed a candidate forum to be held at MACC in October providing an opportunity for the candidates to speak to the public. And he noted that although absent at the last meeting, he heard there was some concern that the vote should be postponed because he wasn’t there and he assured all that he had expressed that, "By all means they were to carryon and do the work of the Town."

The meeting ended at 8:50 PM. The next regular meeting of the Town Council is Monday, October 9, 2006.
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