Long-Planned Cell Tower Still Not Underway On Lookout Mountain

Wednesday, November 15, 2017 - by Gail Perry
Student Kathryn Leavengood and principal Ruth White
Student Kathryn Leavengood and principal Ruth White
- photo by Brooke Pippenger

A new cell phone tower was again under discussion at the November meeting of the Lookout Mountain, Tn. Commission. One year ago, Gulf South Towers was given a conditional permit and lease to build and operate a new tower on the mountain. The company was also given a one-year option for time to secure at least one provider to locate equipment on the tower, which was needed before construction begins. At the Tuesday night meeting, a representative from GST asked the commissioners for an extension of that option for an additional six or 12 months before paying monthly rent to the town. As of now, no cell phone provider has committed to use the tower and GST is not willing to pay rent on a tower for which they have no tenants.


The planned 120-foot, close-mount tower would have space for three carriers and GST expects to get leases with Verizon, ATT and T Mobile, but said there is no way to control when they would commit. Commissioner of Fire and Police Jim Bentley told the other commissioners that things have changed in the past year. He recently received information that ATT may have alternative ways to transmit calls versus using a tower which has been desired from the start. Additionally, "it is time we start getting paid for it," he said.


“I feel like we shouldn’t back out of a cell phone tower at this point,” said Mayor Carol Mutter. Town Consultant Dwight Montague said that if the extension is not given to GST, the company would have the choice of exercising the option and to start paying rent to the town on Dec 1, or it could abandon the project. The company is unwilling to pay rent now and the representative from the company said they would be unable to get a contract with a provider without having a ground lease with Lookout Mountain. A motion was approved to extend the option from Dec. 1 until Dec. 31, 2017. During that time GST will attempt to sign a contract with a tenant and the commissioners will also be considering and researching alternatives. Town Attorney Brian Smith said there has been a demonstrated need for service, and the town cannot stand in the way.


“We’re honored to have Principal Ruth White here to share some very good news,” said Commissioner of Schools Don Stinnett. Ms. White said that the new TN ready testing that was used for the first time last year, resulted in Lookout Mountain Elementary placing in the top five percent of the state in English, language arts, math and science and being named a Tennessee Reward School.


The school has been using project-based learning this fall. The method of teaching uses elements of all the varying subjects the students are studying. Kathryn Leavengood, a fifth grader, was invited to tell the council about the project she participated in while studying the Civil War by acting out scenarios.  The second nine weeks the study of natural disasters will be taught using this method.


In other news from the school, Ms. White said that the carnival raised more money this year than it did last year; the exact figures are not yet in. The school will have a holiday program on Dec. 7 and Dec. 8 and Christmas break will start Dec. 19.


Commissioner of Parks and Playgrounds Brooke Pippenger reported that repairs are nearly complete on Navarre Pavilion. It has been painted, rotten wood replaced and new planters and benches have been built. Recreation Director Scott Shell and Assistant Director Brandon Adams now have an office on the second level of the pavilion, which was converted at very little expense, said Ms. Pippenger.  Work is beginning on the Rick Dockery Tee Ball Field. Letters will be sent to residents of the town asking for donations for Rick’s retirement. Checks should be made to the Lookout Mountain Rec Board. He will be honored in the spring during the baseball parade.


For any questions about sports and recreation on the mountain, answers and information can be found at www. leaguesbluesombrero.com. There will be new age groups for basketball this year and wrestling has already started with 21 participants.


The Beacon People Pop Up for a Purpose will take place at the LMS skating rink on Dec. 9 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. There will be around 20 vendors and artists selling hand-made items. The vendor fees will be donated to the development of the new Chattanooga Prep School.


The Bee City Festival has been scheduled for Sunday, May 13, from 1-4 p.m. More information will be available at a later date.


Statistics from the police and fire departments were prepared by Chief Randy Bowden and presented by Commissioner of Fire and Police Bentley. Police had 180 calls during the month of October, patrolled 3,060 miles, answered 20 burglar alarms, all false, 20 assist citizen calls and 20 calls to 911. There were 60 traffic stops made and 23 parking citations were written. Two auto accidents occurred with no injuries. There were two theft reports and four arrests made during the month. Response was made to 13 medical calls in Tennessee and seven assists in Georgia. There were five fire alarms but no active fires. Parking around Sunset Rock continues to be a problem, said the commissioner, because emergency vehicles are unable to navigate through the illegally parked vehicles.


The seasonal leaf clean-up has started, said Public Works Commissioner Walker Jones. With two leaf machines working, removal of the piles of leaves is expected to be finished by Christmas. He asks that residents separate brush and leaves. There is already salt in the barn left from last winter and more has been ordered.


The financial report from October was given by Mr. Montague. At one third of the way through the fiscal year, building permits are already close to the total from last year and last year was ahead of the year before, he said. The State Street Aid money is up a little because of the increase in the gas tax. The amount received in sales tax is also slightly above last year. Property tax bills are due in February.


Repairs and maintenance is over budget due to problems created at town hall by water, which required replacing wood around the building and the replacement of several windows. Parks and recreation is also over budget by $11,000 because of repairs to the pavilion.


CPA Paul Johnson with Johnson, Murphy and Wright presented the annual audit to the commissioners, saying the town received a clean audit opinion.  He said that the ratio of assets to liability is very good; the balance sheet is very strong. Expenses were up for the year but revenue was up even more ending with $300,000. “It is a great report,” he said and Lookout Mountain is a well-run city, thanks to Mr. Montague and Samantha VanAlstyne.


An air pollution ordinance passed on final reading. Attorney Smith said it was required to bring all municipalities and the county into compliance with state law so that there will be consistent regulation.


A variance request was given to Susan Feuhrer which will permit the building of a two-car garage with an apartment above at 108 South Wautauga Lane.


The annual employee breakfast will be Dec. 13, said Mayor Mutter.  A letter about Chief Bowden’s retirement has been mailed. She urges citizens who live on the mountain to use the local businesses during the holiday season. The next meeting of the Lookout Mountain, Tn. Commission will be Dec. 12 at 5 p.m.




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