Decisions about diverting money from one project to another are being made by the Signal Mountain Town Council after costs have increased in the four years since a grant application was made and received. The low bid for replacing James Boulevard between River Point Road and Signal Point Road came in at $1,099,369 - significantly more than the $530,800 that was budgeted for the work, leaving a large difference for the town to provide.
Bids for paving repairs that are done each year to various streets in the town came in at $461,418, also considerably more than the $375,000 that had been budgeted.
The council voted to move forward with replacing James Boulevard so it will be ready for the centennial celebration that will take place in April 2019. To help pay for the unanticipated price difference, deferring routine paving is being considered. City Manager Boyd Veal said if this is done, areas most in need can be repaired by doing a budget amendment, but roadwork will be postponed where it can be. This decision will be made at a special meeting Sept. 17 at 6:30 p.m. when more information is available from contractors for the smaller paving projects.
Two other construction projects are also dependent upon funds diverted from one to the other. Signal Mountain has received a Local Parks and Recreation Fund Grant (LPRF) from the state of Tennessee. It is a 50/50 matching grant with the town required to match the $400,000. Marion and Driver softball fields will be renovated with improvements to drainage and fencing among other items. When the council voted to apply for the grant, $200,000 of its share was diverted for repairs to the Mountain Arts Community Center (MACC) to secure the grant. The council voted Monday night to accept the grant and commit to the funds, which will now be taken from the fund balance.
Work on the MACC has run into unexpected problems that will also require additional funding. Where four broken joists under the office area were anticipated, 14 have been found. Other problems were found requiring $12,000 to fix in addition to the cost of replacing the broken joists, which is still unknown. More discussion about this will take place at the agenda meeting on Sept. 28. Council member Dan Landrum said many people are committed to this facility, proved by 860 volunteer hours that have been contributed so far. A fundraiser for the building, “Signal’s Got Talent,” is planned for Saturday, Sept. 15, beginning at 6 p.m.at the Signal Mountain Playhouse. So far, 16 performers have signed up.
Another infrastructure project is also in process. At the council meeting the Signal Mountain bike and pedestrian plan was adopted. This is a road map to follow for improving connectivity for pedestrians and bikers. Segments of the paths will be done in stages and it is expected that eventually the trails will connect from Old Town to Walden. Approval was also given to apply for the TDOT Multimodal Access Grant that, if received, would provide up to a maximum of $1 million and require a match of only five percent, or around $45,000 from the town.
A revision to the procedure of rezoning property was passed on first reading at the Aug. 13 council meeting, but the revised ordinance failed to pass on second reading. Several citizens spoke in opposition, mostly to time limits that were included for public comment at both planning commission and council meetings. Concerns that were expressed at the meeting will be sent to the planning commission and be incorporated into the ordinance before being sent back to the council for approval.
Citizens also spoke in favor of reducing the speed limit on James Boulevard. Unless posted otherwise, the speed limit on the town’s streets are 25 mph. James Boulevard was changed to 30 mph in 2007. The council voted to reduce the speed limit to 25 on a portion of the road where it narrows, past the five-way intersection and where the sidewalk is closer to the street. More reductions are possible in the future, said Mayor Chris Howley.
Discussion took place about the procedure to replace Town Attorney Phil Noblett when he steps down. Town Manager Veal said a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) will be created and reviewed by Mr. Noblett. This job is based on qualifications first, he said. Mr. Noblett has agreed to serve in his present capacity through the election and, if the process of finding a replacement takes longer, he will continue to work with the council.
Discussion took place about changing the city code regarding the number of days that court is held in Signal Mountain. Because certain cases are now handled in Hamilton County courts, the schedule in Signal Mountain can be reduced to two days a month, it was stated. New Judge Gary Humble will set times.
Oct. 5 has been designated Arbor Day in Signal Mountain. The tree board will plan activities for the three elementary schools.
Authorization was given to the city manager to apply for the TML Risk Management Pool Driver Safety matching grant program. If received, the money will be used for GPS units in police vehicles.
Mayor Howley was appointed to the mayor’s position on the Signal Mountain planning commission and Dan Landrum was appointed to the council member’s position. Mr. Veal was named the representative for the town to the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority (WWTA) board of Commissioners.
The next council agenda workshop meeting will be Sept. 28 at 12:30.