Citizens Give Lookout Special Gifts; Talk Continues On New Mountain Cell Tower

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - by Gail Perry

Lookout Mountain, Tn., Commissioners Tuesday night were told of generous donations that are being made to the town by two former residents. Pastor Frank Hitchings representing Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church said that the estate of Frances Gardenhire bequeathed funds to the church. In turn the church session felt it appropriate to use the money to serve the Lookout Mountain community she loved. Known for her walks around the mountain, a gift of $15,000 was made to both Lookout Mountain, Tennessee and Georgia for the completion of the sidewalk project to connect the towns. Another $5,000 was given to each of the elementary schools.

Mayor Carol Mutter told the commissioners that the town is also being given sculptures owned by Margaret Sexton from her son Calloway.

Discussion continued Tuesday night about construction of a cell phone tower on the Tennessee side of the mountain. From the public informational meeting that took place on May 1 issues that need to be addressed are the request for visual images done to scale for each proposal. These images should include the 50x50-foot area at the base of the tower that will house equipment for each provider that uses it.  A balloon will be floated to use for perspective of height. Both AT&T and Wireless Properties have determined that a strobe light will not be required at the top since the tower will not be in flight plans. 

Mary Stewart Lewis, representing AT&T, said their equipment would not work on the flagpole design which is favored by Wireless Properties. “We would like to accommodate what AT&T needs,” said the spokesman from Wireless Properties and suggested a mono-pole, which does not taper as it gets to the top, unlike a flagpole design, and has a smaller volume than a mock tree design.

Concerned citizen Mark Caldwell approached the commissioners about considering the option of small cell technology which he said is new and less obtrusive. He has hired an engineer to make a presentation about this new technology at the next commission meeting on June 10. Representatives from both AT&T and Wireless Properties said this option would not provide an efficient rate of return for their companies.

A zoning hearing will still need to be held followed by a conditional permit. If it is located on town property, the company chosen will then need to enter into a lease with the town where the town will function as a landlord and the owner of the tower will be the lessee.  

A variance was approved for building a side addition to Joe Lance for his home on North Bragg. This will put his home four feet from the property line instead of 10 feet that the city requires, however enough space will remain between the addition and the house on the neighboring lot to satisfy safety issues concerning a fire truck. A second reading will take place June 10 before approval is final.  

Mayor Mutter told the two applicants what town officials are looking for is a structure that is the least objectionable and one that meets minimizes visibility. The proposal must also meet all the requirements in the town’s ordinance pertaining to cell phone towers. Co-location is also favored. She said, "We want just one tower."

Commissioner of Fire and Police Ernie Minges read a letter of thanks from the superintendent and chief ranger of the National Park Service in Fort Oglethorpe. Four Lookout Mountain police officers were instructors at a highly successful, 24-hour active-shooter training course for the national park rangers.

He also read police and fire department statistics compiled by Chief Randy Bowden. In April police answered 67 calls, patrolled 3,071 miles and had 15 burglar alarms that were all false. Response was made to eight assist citizen calls and seven calls to “911.” There were two auto accidents with no injuries, 13 traffic stops, theft of one lawnmower from the back of a truck and no burglaries. There were 12 medical calls answered in Tennessee and one in Georgia and six fire alarms that were all false.

Commissioner of Parks and Playgrounds Joe Hailey reported on the progress being made on construction of the tennis courts. Poles for the lights and goal posts for basketball will be done this week and the retainer walls should be delivered. Components for the French drains are on-site. The plan is to complete the top court first, followed by the middle and then the lower court. To date, $24,500 has been paid for the work.

Walker Jones, commissioner of public works, said that paving of the three roads being resurfaced this year is complete and reflectors will be placed by the end of the month for the cost of $169,000. The next project being done will be to repair potholes left after the severe winter. The dumpster will again be at the public works barn on June 7. A canine holding pen for loose or stray dogs is finished and there are now three dog runs with roofs. A system has been established to notify the police department and Dr. Chris Keller when a dog is there so it will not be neglected. 

The commission honored Judy Tim for her work at Lookout Elementary School for the past 24 years. With the exception of one year, she worked as an instructional assistant in the kindergarten. Commissioner of Schools Don Stinnett said she had played a role in “preparing children for the big leap into first grade.”

The school schedule places Field Day on May 19, Awards Day May 20 at 1:30 p.m. and the last day of the school year is May 22 - the same day as fifth grade graduation. Mr. Stinnett also said the commission is funding a full library program this summer which will be run by Lee Cook.

Dwight Montague, town consultant, gave the financial report for April. A flurry of building is going on now so building permits are up again this month, he said. Legal fees are higher than normal because of the applications made for cell phone tower construction. The Lookout Mountain promotional fund paid out $1,500 during the month for development of the joint website for the towns of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee and Georgia. Merrill McGinness has been hired to manage the website that is expected to be up and running by May 31. The other joint venture nearing completion with Lookout Mountain, Ga., is the security project. All equipment is in now in place and kinks are being worked out. In addition to the cost of the initial installation of the cameras, there is a power and fiber optic bill for each location.

The USA cycling event will take place on Memorial Day and will affect traffic on the mountain but Commissioner Minges wants residents to know that they will be able to get off and back up the mountain that day. Electric signage will be put up five days prior to the race to notify of the rolling closures. Chief Bowden said that last year each closure lasted from 20-25 minutes. There will be a two-hour break between the women’s and men’s races from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Traffic control will be assisted by the Chattanooga Police Department and a fire truck and medical personnel will be stationed on the mountain for emergencies.

This year a festival atmosphere is expected the day of the race. Brian Johnson is partnering with Ruth Oehmig to organize events to take place around the race. A special event beer permit was approved from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. May 26 for selling beer to go along with food that will be served from a tent at the intersection of South Forrest and Scenic Highway. A stage will be set up across the highway at North Forrest for a live remote coverage by KZ106. There will also be four TVs for following the race throughout the course.

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