The beginning of the next phase of Signal Mountain’s water company started at the July 13 council meeting, with the council’s approval of spending a quarter million dollars to buy new water meters. A contract was approved to purchase up to 3,500 Automatic Meter Read (AMR) water meters for $775,100 from Consolidated Pipe and Supply. The company is local, has the meters on the shelf and is ready to ship them and had the lowest bid, said Adam Chrnalogar, director of the city-owned water utility.
Another contract was awarded to Aqua Meter Consultants for installing the meters at the cost of $119,500 plus a 10 percent contingency fee of $11,950. City Manager Boyd Veal said a contingency is built in so installation could continue if overages come up, rather than stopping work until the next council meeting to get approval for additional money. This company expects to install 500 meters a week and to be finished in about two months.
A study was done by MTAS to establish the cost of owning and running the water utility when the town decided to retain ownership. This study recommended three water rate increases of 15 percent each. The council approved implementing the second of the three rate increases that will start Aug. 1 to cover associated planned expenses and unplanned costs that have arisen. To put the increase in perspective, said the city manager, the current rate of $5.80 per 1,000 gallons will change to $6.67 per 1,000 gallons. For a customer that consumes 4,000 gallons a month that bill will have an increase of $3.48. There will be no change to the sewer fees. The ordinance establishing the water rates will require a second reading and vote.
The Signal Mountain municipal pool has been open by reservation for lane swimming for mountain residents 16 and up. There have been requests to allow serious swimmers who are younger to use the pool. Because there is capacity available, the council voted to lower the age to 13 for two weeks as a trial, after which there will be another vote for the age change based on issues about following the rules.
Former Vice Mayor Amy Speek no longer lives in Signal Mountain and has resigned from the town council, leaving a vacancy on the board of five. The council discussed the merits of filling the position or leaving it empty until the election in November. The council has the option of appointing a replacement within the next 30 days or to fill the seat with a special election. However, there is not enough time for that prior to the November election. Because the four remaining members of the council vote in unison 95 percent of the time, said council member Bill Lusk, he said that he foresees no problem with tied votes. Anther consideration, said Council Member Cheryl Graham, is that the short time left before the election is not long enough for a replacement to get up to speed. No action was taken, leaving the position vacant until November when there will be three council members chosen. Councilman Lusk will serve as Vice Mayor until that time.
The Public Entity Partners, the city’s insurer, has a mutual benefit program yearly that encourages municipalities to use safety equipment such as safety vests, hard hats and boots among other things to provide a safe work place. The program offers a grant that will reimburse the applicant for buying the equipment. The council authorized the application for the Safety Matching Grant. Mr. Veal said the city already purchased these items and the grant will reimburse the costs.
The public works department will be getting two new vehicles. Both a pickup truck and backhoe were budgeted items from the vehicle replacement fund. The cost of the truck is $32,265 and the backhoe with an attachment will be $98,350.
The city manager said that Police Chief Mike Williams sent letters to businesses in the town asking for compliance to the Hamilton County mask mandate. He is asking the businesses to be front line and to encourage compliance. If there are issues, the police department will provide assistance. Mr. Veal also said all the needed documentation has been completed to receive Covid-19 assistance from the state. The town will receive $219,000. And he said there will be a change at the recycling center. When a car enters the gate there will be three parking places, rather than the current two-car, single file configuration. This will allow three vehicles to unload at a time versus two.
Mayor Dan Landrum said that problems are still occurring from cars parking along James Boulevard because the parking lot at Signal Point is closed. He said residents have now resigned themselves to waiting until the National Park’s lot is opened in order to eliminate the nuisances.
Changes to the landscape ordinance have been suggested by the tree board. The council agreed to read the lengthy, revised ordinance in preparation for a special meeting to discuss it. Vice Mayor Lusk, who is the liaison to the board, will assist in establishing a time for a special meeting with the council about the proposed changes.