Concern over a new cell phone tower brought several residents to speak at the Lookout Mountain, Tn., commission meeting Tuesday night. Federal regulations require the town to accommodate communication services. With increased use of cell phones and wireless data transmission it is not only a matter of convenience but also one of safety since many families no longer have land lines, officials said.
The old ordinance concerning cell phone towers restricted them to the location of the water tower on North Bragg.
The town has been told that a second tower location will be needed to improve service. Mayor Carol Mutter took the matter to the Regional Planning Commission for review and received approval.
The town does have discretion under the law for aesthetics concerning what is built. Placing it on city-owned property near the town hall is believed to be the least obtrusive location that would impact the fewest homes, and would be more secure from curious teenagers, said Dwight Montague, town consultant. The site is not yet definite and he has set up appointments with both AT&T and Wireless Properties to investigate other potential sites. One proposal that has been made is for a structure 100 feet tall and the other is for a 120-foot tower. Wireless Properties would disguise the one they proposed as either a tree or a flag pole.
Carrington Montague, one of the citizens who spoke in opposition to the tower as proposed, said there are no trees that tall in the surroundings, and suggested floating a weather balloon the height of the tower to determine how many people could see it. He told the commissioners that technology has moved on, and there are other technologies that could take the place of a tower. He also said it would be disrespectful if was in the viewshed of the National Park. He has hired an attorney and plans on talking with an engineer to get other suggestions. “I hate blight,” he ended.
Lee Franks, who lives on West Sunset, agreed. He said that his would be the property most affected if a tower is put near the town hall. The technical information that is being relied upon has all come from the companies that have a vested interest in the project, he said, and he proposed hiring an independent consultant for an opinion.
Mayor Mutter said that other technologies can be explored, but that a new cell phone ordinance was needed in order to consider any location other than the water tower. She said the new ordinance that was passed does not obligate the town to any proposal - it will just allow the project to move forward. This will require a second reading to be held at the commission meeting April 8. After that, final proposals will be needed and a public meeting will be held at a date yet to be determined.
The mayor gave an update to the security project being done jointly with Lookout Mountain, Ga. Two cameras are now operational at the top of Scenic Highway and will be followed with the installation of two at the entranced to the mountain on Fleetwood. There are five entrances to the towns, and two cameras will be at each location. They should all be up in a couple of weeks. Ms. Mutter stressed that they will only be used for security, not tracking individuals or for speed traps.
“The long-awaited tennis courts project is about to start,” said Commissioner of Parks and Playgrounds Joe Hailey. He said everyone is finally happy with the details and Bailey Construction had the low bid. Construction should begin in the next 30 days, with completion expected in 120-150 days. A pipe that fills the fountain froze and replacement parts are being sought. That repair should be finished by the end of March. He also announced that the annual baseball parade will be April 26.
Ernie Minges, commissioner of fire and police, told the commission that Lookout Mountain, Tn. will be hosting a “storm-medic class” in April. It will be for teaching tactical rescue and medical classes. Emergency personnel will be coming from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s department and EMS. Lookout Mountain, Tn. will benefit from having three medics attend.
The monthly fire and police department statistics from February showed 89 police calls, 3,906 miles patrolled, 26 burglar alarms, all false, 10 assist citizen calls, nine calls to “911,” no auto accidents, 24 traffic stops and one burglary. During the month, 14 medical calls were answered in Tennessee and four in Georgia. Response was made to one fire alarm to assist Lookout Mt., Ga. with a structure fire.
With spring, comes walkers and Commissioner Minges urged drivers to slow down and walkers to be mindful of cars. He also announced that new car decals are now available for $5. The price will increase to $10 after June 1. He reminded everyone to remove the decals when selling a vehicle. He also said that the rabies clinic will be held May 3.
Commissioner of Schools Don Stinnett said the fourth annual auction/party, Night Out for Lookout had the largest crowd and raised the largest amount of money in the history of the event. Important dates for the school in the upcoming months include March 20 and 21 for the school musical “Lookout Mountain Grammys.” Kindergarten registration will be April 2, spring break is April 14-18 and graduation is May 22.
Toni Gwaltney, who has taught art at the school for 25 years, came to the meeting to show the commissioners examples of the work her students have been doing and to explain her passion for art and how she ties it into teaching any subject. The art program exists because of the generosity of the Lookout Mountain Commission, which funds her position. She teaches each student once a week for an hour, and 40 minutes for those in kindergarten. She also offers an after-school course for the 25 percent of children who want extra art. Commissioner Stinnett said this program is one of the reasons that the school is so special.
Walker Jones, commissioner of public works, asked that when doing spring cleaning, for residents to separate leaves from branches and brush to make pickup easier. He also announced that the dumpster will be back at the public works barn April 5.
Dwight Montague gave the financial report for February. He said the town has received $1.5 million, year-to-date in property taxes. The last day to pay without penalties and interest was Feb. 28. Building permits are up significantly this year compared to last, and revenue from parking meters is up $5,000, he said. The local option sales tax is down $5,000, most likely because Twigs was closed for some time and people need to learn that Yessick’s, a new business, is now in that location.
This month a new dump truck was bought, and town hall repairs were more costly than the previous year. Another expense that will need to be adjusted for in the current budget is additional salaries for public works overtime due to the bad weather. The cost of health insurance is under budget. Overall, the town is currently under budget for the year, he said.
In new business, Erick Wood, owner of Talus, asked for and received permission to paint the restaurant charcoal grey and put up black awnings. He also plans on adding a garage door to the bar side of the business and will do the same for the restaurant if he sees results.