Lookout Mountain, Tn., Ends Fiscal Year With $216,195 Surplus; Town Looking At Expanding Cell Phone Antennas Beyond The Water Tower

Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - by Gail Perry

Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, ended the fiscal year June 30 with a surplus of $216,195, commissioners were told Tuesday night.

Town Consultant Dwight Montague also presented the budget for fiscal year 2014 which was passed on second reading. Total revenue is projected to be $3,209,967 and, with the carryover fund balance of $2,263,399 from the fiscal year just ended, the city is in good financial shape having a total of $5,473,366 available in the general fund, he said.

The town will receive $660,686 from the Hall income tax, which is based primarily on stock dividends. Property taxes are projected to produce $1,725,000.The county re-appraisal of real estate showed an average reduction of 1.85 percent. The property tax rate was increased from 1.62 last year, to 1.65 per $100 of assessed value this year because of the reduced assessments, in order to keep the property taxes revenue neutral.

Expenditures from the general fund are anticipated to be $3,334,733. Some planned capital projects include safety equipment and vehicles for the police and fire departments, repairs to the town hall, three trucks and a salt spreader for the public works department, six water fountain replacements, benches and picnic tables for parks and recreation and the replacement of all three tennis courts. Capital expenditures will be significantly more than previous years because of work on the tennis courts.

Another new expense for the town will be the joint website that is now in development for promoting the mountain community. Lookout Mountain, Tn. and Lookout Mountain, Ga. have each put $15,000 into a restricted fund for this project. Tubatomic is the company that has been selected to design the website. It will work in conjunction with Paul Rustand, who specializes in marketing and is helping with branding the community.

The State Street Aid Fund that comes from the state of Tennessee and is restricted to road work contains $240,579 at the beginning of fiscal year 2014. Projected expenditures from the State Street Aid Fund are $165,000. Of this, $155,000 is the estimated cost of repaving and $10,000 will be used to complete the sidewalk along Scenic Highway.

 Ernie Minges, commissioner of fire and police, told the commissioners that he had received a letter from Lookout Mountain, Ga. Chief Todd Gann, praising Police Lieutenant Don Massengale for a job well done when he responded to a medical call on July 8 at Rock City. He said that not only was the patient treated, but the family was also helped.

Commissioner Minges also wanted to remind citizens to walk and drive safely and to keep dogs on a leash. 

Mayor Carol Mutter reminded that a service that the police department offers is to check on homes when a resident is out of town. They can be notified by calling the department to let them know the dates.

The monthly statistics for June from the fire and police department complied by Chief Randy Bowden show 71 police calls, 4,635 miles patrolled, 23 burglar alarms - all false, three assist citizen calls, nine 911 calls, one auto accident, 13 traffic stops, one theft from an automobile and no arrests. Eight medical calls were responded to on the Tennessee side and one mutual aid call in Georgia. There were no fire alarms during June.

Joe Hailey commissioner of parks and playgrounds, reported about modifications that have been made for work on the tennis court project at the commons. A preliminary engineering study had estimated the cost to replace two courts at $200,000. The town applied for and received a 50/50 grant for the work, which left the town responsible for $100,000. Last month an extensive engineering study was performed prior to beginning the actual work and the recommendation was then made to replace all three courts. It was determined that the upper retaining wall needed to be removed for the work, and that would cause damage to the upper court. It is expected that bids will be put out in around six weeks and work would begin in two-three months. Because now three new tennis courts will be built instead of the two that had been planned for, the cost to the town will be $200,000.

Commissioner Hailey also said that Commons Camp is over for the summer and that it was a great success.

Don Stinnett, commissioner of schools, said teachers are beginning to plan for the upcoming school year. Teachers start work on Aug. 2. Students return to the classroom on Aug. 8.

The public works department will begin paving roads around Point Park, said Commissioner of Public Works, Walker Jones. Another project that needs attention is a retaining wall on North Bragg near the Presbyterian Church. The wall is below street level and is beginning to lean. The fear is if it does collapse, the road above it may be damaged. Commissioners were told that an engineer has been asked to look at the damage and advise what needs to be done.

Mr. Montague told the commissioners that over the past couple of years, he has had many requests for cell phone providers to address the issue of dropped calls and dead zones in the town. He has been advised by more than one provider that there has been a massive increase in cell phone usage, tablets and other wireless devices. With many families abandoning land lines and depending only on cell phones, the importance of good cell phone coverage has increased. It is also important for the town’s ability to receive 911 calls, he said.

The current ordinance requires that antennas can only be put on the water tower. The ones in place are no longer adequate to handle the demand. Additionally, there are new FCC regulations that require cellular providers to be allowed to construct equipment necessary for adequate coverage. If the town does not comply, changes could be forced and might reduce the town’s ability to maintain the highest aesthetic qualities.

Town Attorney Brian Smith is researching the requirements and the town’s ordinances to recommend the changes that will be necessary to comply, said Mr. Montague. New technology is available called “stealth facilities” that better blend in with the environment than the old towers, he has been told. After the ordinances are changed, proposals will be received from the service providers on how to implement the needed improvements. This will be followed by a public community meeting for information.

GPS student Hope Newberry is making a gift to the town. She sells books at the Mountain Market and has announced that all profits from her business will be donated to the Lookout Mountain Employees Christmas Funds, Mr. Montague told the commissioners.

Mayor Mutter announced that Wednesday, Aug. 7, will be “Lookout Mountain Night” at the Lookouts game. Fans from both the Tennessee and Georgia sides of the mountain are urged to come and participate in the fun. Mayor Mutter suggested that she may toss the first ball to Lookout Mountain, Georgia Mayor Sandy Gothard who will then throw out the first pitch.


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