Construction of Lookout Mountain, Ga.’s new city hall and fire station that will anchor the new Town Center is moving forward. A public hearing was held before the January council meeting regarding financing the development. The total cost estimate to fund the project is $3,152,000 and the budgeted debt service for 2019 would be $139,964, which would come from the general fund, the hotel/motel fund and SPLOST money.
Two options are being considered to pay the 40-year loan.
The annual payment of Option 1 would be $130,008 and the interest paid would be $2,048,464. The total cost of the mortgage would be $5,200,464. The second option would include accelerated payments of $96,000 yearly in addition to the $130,008 annual payment. If accelerated payments are made, the interest payment would be reduced to $905,134 and the total cost of the mortgage would be $4,057,134.
Despite letters and emails being sent to residents, only one person attended the public meeting who questioned if the town hall and fire hall would be a justifiable expense. His belief is the retail portion could be built without new municipal buildings and that residents are only interested in the retail aspect. This was countered by Council members who said they had heard positive feedback about the project. The council perceives the town-owned properties and privately-owned retail space as one development.
The next step of issuing a request for proposal from developers interested in creating the retail businesses was discussed. Town Attorney Bill Pickering said the RFP should be very clear to make sure what is built fulfills the city’s vision. The document will be sent to the town planning commission to approve the design standards in the RFP and will then come back to the council to be adopted before it is published. Once published, a maximum of 60 days is allowed for proposals to be submitted. The town can make the development goals known before the official publication in order to give potential developers more time to decide what they would do.
There is also more residential building taking place currently than the town has seen in the previous five to six years, said Jimmy Campbell representing the planning commission. He said by spring it is expected that up to six new homes will be under construction.
One of the main reasons people choose to live on Lookout Mountain is because it is such a safe place. The Lookout Mountain, Ga., and Tn., Police are working to ensure that quality continues, officials said. In response to recent car break-ins support has increased from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the State Highway Patrol and Walker County deputies. More part-time police are on patrol duty and any suspicious activity is immediately investigated. The cameras at the entrance to both the Georgia and Tennessee towns have narrowed down vehicles involved with the break-ins, and tag readers which alert to stolen cars, will be used on a trial basis. Taylor Watson, council liaison with the police and fire department, noted that three stolen cars were all recovered within 36 hours. Additionally, seven new Tasers are being bought for the police department and new devices have been put in their vehicles which scan a drivers license during a stop to increase traffic enforcement. Chief Todd Gann reminds residents of the importance of removing valuables and locking cars.
Statistics from the police department for the month of January show three suspicious persons and 10 suspicious vehicles were investigated. There were no burglaries and no arrests. Officers patrolled 3,720 miles, made 32 traffic stops, issued five citations, 26 warnings and responded to five auto accidents. During December there were five fire calls, 11 medical calls and assistance was given to nine citizens, four motorists and to the Tennessee side police on four occasions.
Lookout Mountain, Ga. and Tn. have renewed their long-time mutual aid agreement. Now, the fire departments of both towns will automatically be notified of any fire call. This will eliminate any lost time. Mayor David Bennett expressed his appreciation for this relationship where the two towns back up each other.
The mayor would like to thank the congregation of the Methodist Church for allowing the city to operate from the building during construction of the Town Center. It is important for residents to know that the police department has also relocated there, he said. Mayor Bennett told the council that the town has received an LMI grant of $26,000 from Georgia Department of Transportation. A 30 percent match is required. The grant money will be used for the recent paving on Lula Lake Road.
In council member Tony Towns’ update on the Rec Board, he said the numbers for soccer are “through the roof,” and a determination is being made as to which other sports will be offered based on participation. Discussion has taken place about buying equipment for top dressing fields and adding lights to Carter Field. The board is also considering if there are the proper number of coaches and referees and is looking at the fees. Baseball may start early this year to accommodate traveling teams.
Also announced was a new event that will come to the mountain on May 30 - Bike Race Across Georgia. There are expected to be 1,200 participants that will travel through Georgia and Tennessee with police escorts.
Wes Hasden of the sewer board told the council that a grant is being applied for that, if received, could be used to replace or repair the town’s 21-year-old pump station. And volunteer Campbell said that several public hearings will be held before the February council meeting to discuss the comprehensive plan that is being created to guide future growth.