After discussing it for two years, the Signal Mountain Town Council on Monday night voted to retain ownership of the water system. That means the town will be responsible for maintaining and making improvements to it. Council member Robert Spalding and Vice Mayor Amy Speek voted against keeping the system considering the future upgrades and repairs that are both known and unknown.
Spalding told the council that down the road the town will incur a lot more expenses with some needed upgrades still unidentified. He said that a large company with expertise and a large volume is better equipped to run it more cheaply than the town can. The money that will be required to keep the water system running could be better used for some of the many other needs that the town is facing, he said. Vice Mayor Speek concurred and said in the long run it will cost more to keep it. A bigger company could run it better and more efficiently.
Mayor Dan Landrum, who was opposed to the sale, said by keeping it, the town would have control over water rates in the future. Rate increases will have to come from whoever is making the repairs, said Mr. Spalding.
As part of the motion, the town will notify the prospective buyers of the decision. Among those interested were Tennessee American and Walden.
With a final vote, the council also voted to increase water rates starting July 1. The new rates will increase by 15 percent. The basic monthly service fee will be $6, with no minimum water use, which may encourage water conservation. Water will be charged at $5.80 per 1,000 gallons.
Two issues concerning the keeping of livestock in town limits was dealt with at the meeting. On a second and final vote, the livestock ordinance was amended due to requests from residents to keep goats. With certain conditions, property in the Residential Estate District with a three-acre minimum lot size will be allowed to have two large livestock animals. There are also conditions specified for keeping more than two animals.
Small livestock animals, limited to miniature, dwarf or pygmy breed goats, can be kept on single-family residential properties that are a minimum of two acres. There is a requirement that there are two small livestock animals along with conditions for keeping additional ones.
There will be a $35 permitting charge and an annual renewal fee of $15 for those who want to keep goats. Inspections to ensure permittees are in compliance with the ordinances will be required, as are condition and placement of the stable to house the animals. The existing nuisance ordinance will come into play to control straying animals, property damage, noise and odor. The ordinance will sunset, or be voted on again after one year.
Council member Spalding has asked to remove the requirement of yearly inspections and a $15 permitting fee for people who keep chickens. He said he believes it is intrusive for people to come on your property unless there is a complaint. There is a 10-year track record with no problems from people keeping chickens, he said. The problems come predominantly from people who are unaware there are requirements, said the city manager. A vote will be taken on this ordinance revision at the next meeting.
An update was given on traffic problems that take place around the high school. After discussions between city, school and county officials, the same problems were identified as had been in the past. Mr. Veal said that at this point, only preliminary work is being done that will lead to traffic improvements in the future.
Discussion also took place about the possibility of doing traffic studies on roads and intersections that the city has received complaints about. Mr. Veal said the studies and professional engineering services should take place before any work is done, in order to reduce liability in the event there ever is a problem with a change in a road. The five-way intersection at Timberlake and James Boulevard is one location being discussed and Stratford Way is another. Estimates for the studies alone, would be $21,000 and $22,500 respectively. Preliminary design costs for putting a round-about at the five points intersection was $715,000 in 20017, said Mr. Veal.
It is hard to justify the high costs of doing studies of those intersections which do not have record of consistent wrecks, said Vice Mayor Speek, which led her to suggest creating a master plan for the town. She said, "We just cannot do all of these things that people ask for," citing the expenses from repairs to the MACC, building and maintaining ball fields, changing intersections, building tennis courts and many other projects. She would like for the council to develop a vision, compile a wish list and prioritize them. She said that would give direction to this and future town councils, as well as taking away some of the politics, because projects would need to fit into the master plan.
The process for replacing Council member Spalding will begin with potential candidates filling out an application, the same that was done when Vice Mayor Dick Gee left the council.
The second council meeting of the month on May 27 has been cancelled because it falls on Memorial Day.