At Signal Mountain’s first electronic council meeting there was discussion of how to continue providing essential services for residents while keeping them and employees of the town protected from health threats of the COVID-19 virus.
Town Manager Boyd Veal said there will be some things that do not seem fair and that people will not like, however, “We’re all trying to deal with something we’ve never dealt with before.” Measures have been taken, but he said city officials will still be trying to find better, more effective and efficient ways to deliver services.
On Monday afternoon, the council voted unanimously to adopt the Regional Mayors Council COVID-19 Response Pledge on behalf of Signal Mountain.
The pledge acknowledges the emergency to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and joins other governing bodies in the greater Hamilton County area in an aggressive, consistent and continuous response to the threat. The actions taken follow the guidance of the CDC, the Tennessee Department of Health and the governor of Tennessee’s Executive Order to treat and contain the virus.
Regarding town employees, social distancing is being accomplished by allowing them to work from home. When this is not possible, staff has staggered times while working in municipal facilities, and when feasible, they work alone. He said public works employees are doing a lot of maintenance where one person can do what is needed.
A plan has been put in place for one service that both benefits residents and protects employees. This is for opening the transfer station while preventing overcrowding. Residents will be on the same schedule for visiting the transfer station as the day their trash is picked up. Everybody in the town will have one day per week that they can use the facility. Non-residents with cards will have access to it on Fridays. The transfer station will be open from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. and only household trash, brush and scrap metal will be accepted. Mr. Veal noted that no construction materials can be disposed of. Sign-ins will be eliminated - the resident will just need to give the attendant their address without getting out of the car. Only four vehicles will be allowed at a time. This plan will begin on Wednesday. Regular curbside garbage collection will continue unchanged.
The recycling center must be handled differently because it is often crowded and equipment there is handled. The center is considered to be a “community hub,” where people stop and talk. “The recycle center isn’t essential,” said Vice Mayor Amy Speek, “I’m OK with people being upset about closing the recycle center.” Other ways to provide access to recycling are being looked at without reopening the center, said Mr. Veal.
Because of overcrowding of the Rainbow Lake Trail and parking areas nearby, it has been closed and two police officers have been assigned to enforce the closure. One will be stationed at Signal Point and the other at Rainbow Lake. Last weekend a check of car tags showed that many of the people using the trail were not residents of Signal Mountain. The open spaces in that park are large, but the trail is narrow, said the city manager. The expense of adding the two officers is not budgeted, but the positions will possibly qualify for COVID-19 funding. Keeping people off this trail is expected to push them into Walden’s natural areas, but those too, may be closed.
Where recommended precautions can be preserved, open areas and natural spaces within the town of Signal Mountain will remain open to the public. This includes Green Gorge Park and the ball fields. The exception is playgrounds and the batting cages where surfaces are touched and people are close. These locations are blocked off with caution tape.
The Mountain Arts Community Center and the library are also closed, but some staff members who have offices in the library have been allowed in the building, and some volunteers have been continuing to make improvements at the MACC during this time when the public has not been allowed inside those buildings, said the town manager. It has provided the opportunity to work on projects not normally done.
Temporary signs are up at the recycling center to notify it is closed and two signs have been ordered for Signal Point and Rainbow Lake. Mayor Dan Landrum suggested putting a sign at the base of Signal Mountain to let people know those areas are closed.
Because it is expected that council meetings in the near future will be held electronically, the council is in the process of determining how the public will be able to speak. One idea is for them to ask questions through a phone call during the hour prior to the actual meeting. The next scheduled meeting of the Signal Mountain Council is April 13.