The Lookout Mountain, Tn., budget for fiscal year 2015, including a one-cent property tax increase, was passed on first reading at the June commission meeting. The Hall state income tax, the amount of which is still unknown, accounts for 20 percent of the revenue in the proposed budget. That should be established by the next commission meeting on July 22. At that time adjustments can be made to the budget before the second and final reading, if needed.
The budget is based on revenues totaling $3,231,328 and includes an increase in property taxes which accounts for over half of the expected income. The tax rate for 2014 was planned to be $1.65 per $100 of assessed value but due to a clerical error the bills were mailed out using the rate of $1.
62. The tax rate of $1.66 has been established for 2015 which adds one cent to what it should have been in 2014.
Town Consultant Dwight Montague said that every one cent tax increase equals a yearly increase of $10 for the homeowner. Based on the average home price of $400,000 the property tax will increase $40.
Discussion continued about improving cell phone coverage in the town. Resident Mark Caldwell arranged for Paul Reynolds, the president of CMA, Inc., to explain small cell technology as an alternative to building traditional cell phone towers. Mr. Reynolds said his business is not tied to any one carrier. It functions as a liaison between the municipality, the technology and the carriers. He said CMA would not dictate the equipment that a carrier used and that the service would be provided to the carriers at a price that would work for them.
The state of the art small cell technology uses structures such as street lamp posts to conceal an antenna that receives and transmits for all carriers. The antenna communicates through a fiber optic system with small cube-shaped radios that can be buried near the base of the pole. The height of these poles can vary between 25 and 60 feet depending on what the carrier wants to cover. It is believed that 14 poles placed around the town would provide the coverage needed. This service would include Wi-Fi for the residents’ use, would generate revenue, and maintain aesthetics he told the commissioners.
AT&T and Wireless Properties has proposed building a traditional 120- to 140-foot tower behind city hall that would have a 50 by 50 foot base to hold large equipment for each carrier that puts an antenna on the tower. With demand continually being increased, it was conceded that in the future, there is the potential that three to four additional towers may be needed.
David Walker, an engineer with AT&T, said that the company is currently developing small cell technology in Atlanta. He questioned if it would work with the trees and terrain on the mountain. He acknowledged that AT&T uses 700 Mg which is powerful and will go through walls and foliage. He suggested for CMA to do a study specific to this area to determine how the technology would work on the mountain. A coverage map that AT&T and other carriers have already developed showing gaps in coverage could be utilized for the study. The existing antennae on the water tower and at Covenant College could continue being used, with the small cell technology filling the holes.
Mr. Caldwell told the commissioners that he was only asking them to consider the new study to see if it is a feasible option. The commissioners were willing, and voted to allow CMA until Aug. 5 to present a plan. The study will be done at no charge to the town.
Monthly statistics for May from the fire and police departments read by Commissioner Ernie Minges showed 100 police calls, 4,530 miles patrolled, 16 burglar alarms answered that were all false, four assist citizen calls and 13 calls to “911.” No auto accidents occurred during the month but there were 32 traffic stops. Two arrests were made, one for an outstanding warrant and the other for no driver’s license, registration or insurance. There was a theft of one bicycle that was recovered and property damage of a brick wall containing 15 mailboxes that was knocked down. Paramedics answered 17 medical calls and the fire department responded to one fire that destroyed Café on the Corner.
Commissioner Minges thanked the public works department for the wonderful job in building the “doggie condos” to house stray animals. He reminded residents to walk responsibly, keep doors locked, to not leave valuables visible in parked cars and to remove town stickers before selling a car.
Joe Hailey, commissioner of parks and playgrounds, said that replacement of the tennis courts got off to a slow start because of the weather, but if it cooperates, the work will be complete in about two months. Lights are in the process of being put up now.
Lookout Elementary will receive $20,000 more next year from the town and the PTA will be increasing its contribution as well. This money will be to support additional teachers in 2015. Commissioner of Schools Don Stinnet said, “I see value when I look at the school.” Activities during the summer break include “Camp Invention,” a week of STEM camp that has just been completed. The library will be open during the summer for 100 hours, with Lee Cook in charge. Books that are on the summer reading list will be provided.
Walker Jones, commissioner of public works, reported that the repair of potholes caused by the harsh winter will be done this summer. Also scheduled for next month, are repairs for the collapsed wall at Lookout Mountain. Presbyterian Church. He asked that residents keep brush piles sized around four by four feet and to keep them off the roads.
In the mayor’s report, Carol Mutter reported that the U.S. Pro cycling event held Memorial Day was a great success on the mountain with about 500 people at the corner of South Forrest and Scenic Highway. The bad news, she said, was that same night a fire destroyed Café on the Corner. She asked everyone to support Ruthie Oehmig with the rebuilding.
The new website shared by the towns of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee and Georgia is finally live. It will be used as both a marketing and communication tool for the community. Merrill McGinness has been hired to maintain and update it.