Lookout Mountain, Ga., Sewer Board Gives Options On Upgrading Sewer System; Glascock Says New Cell Tower Needed On The Mountain

Friday, March 21, 2014 - by Gail Perry

The Lookout Mountain, Ga., Sewer Board on Thursday night presented recommendations for the future maintenance of the system. The city is attempting to put a plan in place for replacing the 600 grinder pumps that were installed 16-20 years ago and that are nearing the end of their life expectancy. The cost for replacing them all is estimated at $l.3 million, but that may be lowered by $350,000 by using a new, less costly pump. The proposal the board made will help provide funds for replacing the old equipment.

The sewer board wants homeowners to have a vested interest in the proper use and maintenance of the pumps. From the outset the town has had the right to charge for repairs due to negligence, but it has not always been enforced. The new plan will establish a two-tier schedule of costs - one for gross negligence which will be charged 100 percent to the homeowner and a second tier for ordinary wear and tear which will be pro rated according to the years of usage. It will also include a list of items that are prohibited from going into the sewer through the pumps. The schedule will be given to residents so they will understand what they can be charged for and what the city will be responsible for. The sewer board will come to the next council meeting with a schedule that will include more specific language.

The current ordinance assigning the responsibility of repairs to the city was written that way to prevent homeowners from attempting to fix problems themselves, officials said. City Manager Brad Haven said this usually causes more extensive issues that the city ends up fixing in addition to the original problem. He also informed the council that every time a pump is stopped up, its life expectancy is shortened. He said if it happens twice the pump will eventually burn out and need to be replaced. It was recognized that this becomes a problem when a home is sold and the new owners are not aware they will be responsible for a replacement.

The board is also determining a way to identify houses that are not currently hooked up for water service. These are still responsible for paying a $26.10 monthly tap fee which the city uses for sewer maintenance. Councilman David Fussell said he has had contact with the career placement department at Covenant College for finding a student to help organize the city’s computer system, which should help access needed information such as this.

Jimmy Campbell, head of the sewer board, told the council members that a new goal is to “to limp along with the old pump station” until a new one can be built instead of repairing one that is inadequate. A new pump station should both reduce pressure on the system and increase flow, he said.  

Henry Glascock, representing Wireless Properties, came to the meeting hoping to get guidance from the council about the placement of a new cell phone tower. Currently there are only two on the mountain - at the water tower and at Covenant College. With the increase in data transmission those two sites do not provide the service that is needed, it was stated. To be in compliance with federal laws to allow communication companies to service customers, additional locations are needed on Lookout Mountain, the council was told.

Mr. Glascock said he was hoping to identify obstacles such as guidelines and preferences for location, how tall, how many tenants the tower could service and what would be paid for use of the land and tenant leases. To avoid giving his company an advantage over others seeking the business, the council suggested that he make a proposal to the planning commission based on the guidelines in the city’s current ordinance. If the proposal does not work, it would then need to come back before city council, which has the ability to change the ordinance.

Mr. Glascock told the council that building a tower any further south would not be as effective as somewhere around city hall because it would be too close to the existing tower at Covenant. Mr. Glascock also said that as a resident himself he does not like cell towers but they are needed. He said the company would be flexible as to the aesthetics, which is the major concern. He said no matter how it is done, “It’s going to look like a pig” and that as an appraiser he knows it will have an adverse effect on somebody’s property. The tower can be built to resemble a flag pole or tree, but will be, at the minimum, 100 feet tall to make it functional for multiple tenants.

It was announced that the sales of car decals will begin in April for $5. In June the price will increase to $10. Because of the robberies last summer, the importance of these decals has increased, officials said.

Mayor Sandy Gothard told the council that in the next 30 days he hopes each department in the city can compile a list of needs to determine where this year's SPLOST money will go. When discussions took place with the county, general plans were made. He said it is now time to plug specific projects into those plans.

Police Chief Todd Gann said that two thefts occurred during the past month, both were “smash and grab” with windows broken out of cars at Rock City.

Council members are looking for available grant money as a possibility for building the town center and have yet to find a state grant that the town would qualify for. Councilwoman Taylor Watson said if Lookout Mountain, Ga., decides to borrow the money, that loans from USDA are available for 20, 30 or 40 years at a rate of 4.1 percent.  

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