Lookout Mountain, Tn., Commissioners on Tuesday night approved two unbudgeted capital expenditures to buy equipment for the police department. The motion to purchase a new Ford Explorer was approved unanimously. In 2012, commissioners established a plan to buy one new car each year on a rotating basis. In order to keep the fleet in good working shape, after five-six years, one vehicle will go out of service when a new one is bought. Commissioner of Fire and Police, Ernie Minges was authorized to order the SUV from Mountain View Ford, equipped with the police package.
The total cost of $26,500 includes money allowed from a state grant. Dwight Montague, town consultant, told commissioners that enough had been saved in insurance costs for the year so that nothing would need to be eliminated in order to buy the vehicle. The new car should be delivered about three months after placing the order.
The town’s police force has been training in preparation for unusually bad situations. Because Commissioner Minges trained with them, he said he could see what was needed. In the case of a shooting, the Lookout Mountain, Tn. police would be the first responders. He recommended that a ballistic shield be purchased which would allow police to make a faster entrance. Police Chief Randy Bowden added that the officers have body armor, but it does not protect their heads. Because this capital expenditure was not in the budget, commissioners voted to authorize spending up to $2,000 for the equipment.
Chief Bowden compiled fire and police department statistics for the month of January 2013 which show the police had 78 calls, patrolled 3,631 miles, responded to 22 burglar alarms (all false), had 12 assist citizen calls, four 911 calls, one auto accident without injury, and 18 traffic stops. There was one burglary and two thefts with no arrests. Jewelry has been recovered from one of the thefts, and the second incident involved a worthless check. During the month, 14 medical calls were answered in Tennessee, and two calls to aid residents in Georgia. There were seven fire alarms in January, all false.
Commissioner Minges also had a message for all citizens. He asked for doors to be locked in both houses and cars, and if a purse is left in a car, to lock it in the trunk out of view. He suggested notifying the police department when going out of town, and to carry a cellphone when walking. It is better to call the police immediately if suspicious behavior is observed. Drive the speed limit and stop at stop signs, he said, and drivers and pedestrians should watch out for each other.
The only item unusual in the financial report, said Mr. Montague, is that two months of each year have three pay periods, with January being one. Because of that, payroll expenses appear higher in this report. February is the last month property taxes can be paid without a penalty and so those revenues are increasing. He also reported that the “on-going confusion” concerning the change to Cigna for employee health insurance should be settled by March. The town went three months without being billed and was then billed for a partial payment in January.
Commissioner of Parks and Playgrounds Joe Hailey updated the commission on the tennis court grant. It has been approved, but the town is waiting to receive a state contract which both parties must sign before the work can be started. Lacrosse sign-up is underway and the first practice is scheduled for Feb. 21. Sign-up for baseball will be Saturdays, Feb. 16 and Feb. 23, at the LMS Gym. The first baseball practice will start around the third week in March. Commons camp will be from June 3 through July 19, and registration is currently in process. Mr. Hailey also told the board that new grant money is being offered from the Tennessee Parks Division at an 80/20 split to build nature or bike trails. The grant proposals are due in mid-May. He asked the commissioners to suggest projects to make use of this state funding.
"You don’t find a community like this anywhere else," said Commissioner of Schools Don Stinnett. This was in reference to having a top school in the state where teachers are always getting special training and where children can walk to the school in a safe environment. He urged support for Night out for Lookout, a major fundraiser for the school, the evening of March 1. Grandparents' day will be held that morning.
Since there has been little snow, the public works department has been keeping up with the brush, but, said Commissioner of Public Works Walker Jones, the snow equipment is ready if needed. He told the commissioners that everyone thinks having the dumpster available is a great service. Having it located at the maintenance shed on Saturdays every three months has been very successful. It fills up quickly and may need to be available every two months, he suggested.
Mayor Carol Mutter reported that the beer board met Jan. 22 and granted a beer permit to Eric Wood for a new restaurant that will be in the location of the old Hill City Pizza. The new restaurant is named Talus and will be opening toward the end of February. Mayor Mutter urged everyone to support both the Café on the Corner and the new restaurant as well as the Mountain Market and other businesses on the mountain.
The new sewer bills that are separate from the Tennessee American Water bills have received a lot of initial complaints, said the mayor. Modifications have been made to some additional fees on these bills after the billing company in California received thousands of calls complaining.
An update on the Hall Tax was also explained by Mayor Mutter. She said Governor Bill Haslam has proposed changes in the tax that would raise exemption levels for individuals 65 and older beginning Jan. 1, 2013. Revenue from this tax will likely continue to decrease. Knowing that, Commissioner Hailey said “we need to anticipate that money no longer exists. We should set it aside and operate on a tighter budget.” Commissioner Walker Jones agreed, saying the city needs to be prepared. Mayor Mutter said in the next budget cycle that commissioners will need to see what cost cuts to the budget can be made.
Chief Bowden told the commissioners that he is very proud of his department. On the snowy Saturday morning of Feb. 2, the department received two back to back emergency calls caused by slipping on ice. One involved a leg fracture and the other was for a broken wrist. Ambulances and medic teams from Hamilton County had a hard time getting up the mountain, he said. Corey Evans’ crews responded clearing secondary roads so that medics from the town could reach the injured in order to take action and splint the fractures. Chief Bowden commended all the town’s departments for working together.
The next meeting of the Lookout Mountain, Tn. Commission will be Tuesday, March 12, at 5 p.m.