Collegedale Gives Unmarried Couples Similar Benefits To Same-Sex Couples

Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - by Gail Perry

After first extending employee family health insurance coverage to same-sex couples, the Collegedale Commission Tuesday night extended the benefits to unmarried couples.

The revision was recommended by city attorney Sam Elliott. The resolution that was adopted Aug. 15 extended family health insurance eligibility to family members of same sex couples that have been legally married under the laws of another state, even though the marriage is not recognized by the state of Tennessee.

The revised law will now give those same benefits to opposite sex couples that are unmarried but in a committed family relationship. This move prevents the city from granting same sex couples more benefits than opposite sex couples, attorney Elliott said.

To qualify, documentation must be provided to the city manager and the human resources manager to determine if the criteria have been met. The couple making an application for coverage must show proof of a continuous committed relationship for not less than six months. It can be evidenced by a deed reflecting jointly owned property, utility bills or other documents. They must be jointly responsible for each other’s welfare and financial obligations, cannot be related by blood and must reside in the same household.

Updates were discussed about building a sidewalk to connect the Wellesley subdivision to the city’s existing greenway along Ooltewah-Ringgold Road. Since the last commission meeting, an application has been made for use of the right-of-way on TDOT property. Bill Reed Road, the connector path into the neighborhood, is city owned so it is already OK to be used. Once approval has been given by TDOT, the next hurdle is financing the project.

The entire greenway in Collegedale has been paid for with money from “alternative transportation grants.” City Manager Ted Rogers said that grants usually work in two-year cycles, and, depending on where in that cycle the city now is, will determine when a new application can be made for building this sidewalk.

The development community has found many flaws in Collegedale’s official landscape ordinance and brought forth many items they consider contradictory, said Strategic Planner Kelly Martin. He said there were too many changes that needed to be made to do them individually, so the entire ordinance has been amended. 

The modification “cleans up” the ordinance and makes it more user friendly and less confusing, Mr. Martin told the commissioners, but it is substantially unchanged. The vote was unanimous to approve the revisions.

The commission also voted to accept the lowest bid that met specifications for a heavy-duty trash/brush loader. The new equipment will be purchased for $119,983, which is less than the $130,000 that was budgeted for it. Director of Public Works Rodney Keeton told the board that the new truck requires only one man to operate it. Once the new truck has been received, for efficiency there will be two trucks in operation at the same time on collection days.

Commissioners also voted to approve Barn Owl Street as the proper spelling of the public, open city street in Collegedale.

In recognition of appreciation for the volunteers that run the city’s recycling center, Commissioner Larry Hanson requested that some small gifts be given to those 16 people. The person currently in charge of the operation wishes to resign, and a replacement will need to be found. The hours of operation are now 1-4 p.m. on Sunday and from 4-6 p.m. on Wednesday. Commissioner Hanson suggested making Sunday hours the same as Wednesdays, which may make it easier to recruit people to volunteer.

Commissioner Hanson also made a proposal to give a plaque and resolution of appreciation to Richard Hickam for the recognition that he has brought to Collegedale by the formation of the East Tennessee Symphony Orchestra. The commissioners all agreed and voted to present the awards to Mr. Hickam the next visit he makes to Collegedale.

Functioning as the beer board, a unanimous vote of the commissioners approved giving a beer license to the steak and sushi restaurant NOBU. A new license was required because the existing business had a change of ownership.

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