Discussion about follow-up public meetings regarding the Signal Mountain School System Viability Committee (SMSSVC) report dominated the council’s work session on Friday afternoon.
Mayor Chris Howley said that the town owes it to those in the middle to allow them to be engaged in the process. Vice Mayor Dick Gee said that the logical progression will be to allow citizens to ask questions and not shut down the process until that can be done.
Council member Robert Spalding said everyone needs to have a chance to give their opinion. He said it would not be fair to try to shut it down now.
Dr. John Friedl, chairman of the SMSSVC, told the council that he would absolutely be willing to have open meetings to answer questions from the public and that he believes it would be very appropriate. All along, the committee expected to do this, he said. The mayor suggested having the meetings at various times to be able to include as many people as possible. Citizens will be able to educate themselves with facts stated in the report, and can then come to the town council to give their opinions. Vice Mayor Gee suggested documenting the meetings so the council can make decisions based upon what goes on at these public sessions.
The first meeting about the report will take place at a community forum on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m.
Citizens will have the ability to inform the viability committee of questions and topics they would like to hear more about prior to the meeting. That way, the committee will be prepared and can tailor the meeting. The questions can be asked online on the city’s website.
Unknowns about the school facility acquisitions or about the construction of new buildings was also under discussion and the possible costs of litigation around the buildings is a large issue that remains unknown. Mayor Howley said the council may need to meet in a closed session to discuss the matter with City Attorney Phil Noblett because it is a legal issue. However at this point, it may be a waste of time since the creation of the system may not move forward, he said.
In regular business, City Manager Boyd Veal suggested when Timberlinks Drive is being striped, to mark the road as either a bike path or pedestrian walkway by just repositioning one of the stripes. He said that when it is already being striped, there would be very little additional cost to move the painted lines. The council approved the idea.
Approval was also given for spending $13,907 to repair one of the town’s leaf machines. It will be operational in two weeks after being authorized.
An update was given on the rezoning request for nine acres made by the Keith Corporation to build a new grocery store. As of now, the rezoning request has been withdrawn, likely because of public sentiment, said Vice Mayor Gee.
A ground breaking ceremony for the new fire station is planned for Nov. 3. Contracts have now been signed for construction, and easements signed with the adjoining property owner, Chuck Pruitt, whose generosity is saving the town a large amount of money, said the city manager.
The council approved an amendment of the library board ordinance. The state law changed which altered the library board from an advisory position to a functioning board. Two additional members will be added to the board with one representative coming from the town council.
The changes made to the library will apply to every library in the state that is owned by a municipality. Another new requirement is that all funds for the library be segregated. To do this, the town has created a separate public library fund. Money that Signal Mountain budgeted for the library will be transferred into this fund along with any donations made to the library. The board will now be responsible for creating its own budget and adhering to it. The town council will have to give approval of the budget.
On final reading, a new air pollution control policy was adopted. Every municipality in Hamilton County was required to adopt the revised policy. The main effect on Signal Mountain will be to slightly increase permit fees and it will increase air quality standards.
Because the November town council work session was scheduled to fall on Thanksgiving weekend, the date of the meeting has been changed to Dec/ 1. The next regular town council meeting is on Nov. 13.