Signal Residents Facing Doubling Of Annual Stormwater Fee, 12% Fee Increase From WWTA

Tuesday, September 15, 2020 - by Gail Perry

The Municipal Technical Advisory Services (MTAS), which provides services to municipalities in Tennessee, has completed a stormwater study for the town of Signal Mountain. Over the last few years larger rain events have occurred causing the need for repairs, some visible and some still unknown. Town Manager Boyd Veal has accumulated a significant list of projects that were caused by water and which need to be addressed, he told the council. Work will be prioritized for what can be accomplished in the next few years, but he said priorities might change after major rain events.

It is also recognized that the needs will continue beyond what is already scheduled.


When the town’s revenue was evaluated along with what work is needed, Mr. Veal said it was realized that the stormwater rate would have to be increased significantly. The conclusion from the MTAS study was the same, he said. The stormwater fees will need to be doubled to address all the issues. The first project that is planned, will be to buy a street sweeper that will help to keep drains cleared, which should prevent other damage.


The town’s current stormwater fee is $39.60 per year and that will increase to $84.90. A yearly charge for impervious surfaces that are on property is now $.0165 per square feet. That charge will increase to $.0354 per square foot. The costs will be specific to each project, such as property with a gravel driveway versus one that is asphalt.


WWTA rates will also be increasing. Beginning Oct. 1, the sewer rate will be increased by 12 percent.


During the council meeting, whether to reopen the town hall to the public was discussed. Mr. Veal said his concern about reopening would be keeping his staff safe, most of which are in a high-risk category.  He said that staff is getting the job done and he has heard no complaints about the way the city has been operating with remote workers. If needed, employees can be scheduled to come in person. It has been working well, he said.


Basketball and the use of the town’s gym was another topic under discussion. Mr. Veal said this is a very different matter than how football was handled and he said that the leagues understand the challenges. For now, they will be using the schools, and only coaches, a couple of referees and the teams will be allowed. There is no space in the town’s gym for the distancing that is needed. For the time being it will remain closed. The situation will be re-evaluated every two weeks, said the town manager. Signal Point also remains closed but may soon be open again, he said.


The septic system at a home at 602 Windy Way has failed and the homeowners have requested to extend new field lines into city-owned property that is adjacent to theirs. Mr. Veal told the council that property had been donated to the town with the condition that it remains an unimproved, natural area for a bird sanctuary. The field lines would need to extend around 50 feet into the natural area. Vice Mayor Bill Lusk suggested for the homeowner to investigate other options such aa a mound or low-pressure system or putting the lines in the front yard before the city considers allowing use of the donated property.


A Tennessee Highway Safety Office grant for $15,000 was accepted for the police department. Mr. Veal said the town has received this grant for many years, that is intended to reduce speeding, increase driver safety, and use of seat belts. This year the money will be used to purchase four moving radar units and to pay overtime for traffic enforcement.


Multiple bids were awarded for needed projects in the town of Signal Mountain. Lawson Electric won the bid to replace three light poles that were victims of general decay and woodpeckers in the town complex. And the lights on these poles will need to be replaced  for a price not to exceed $12,440. The rear driveway into Fire Station #1 will be repaired with a concrete base and resurfaced with asphalt for an amount not to exceed $53,250. The Fern Trail Stream bank will be stabilized due to on-going erosion issues and to prevent damage to surrounding properties and roads. The work will include the use of a material similar to riprap that should slow and spread the water until it flows into the creek. The cost approved is not to exceed $46,158. A culvert that runs under Stonehaven Drive will be relined with slip-lining, which is less costly than digging it up and replacing it. This repair will be for an amount not to exceed $31,735.


Police Chief Mike Williams told the council that the town’s codes and fees have been amended and updated  after going over them each line by line during the last year. The fee schedule for all building and construction codes has been simplified and fees have been put into a single ordinance to make them easy to find. Each permit will have a base fee as well as tap fee, which is an administrative charge. Updates were made to the fire, building, plumbing, mechanical, gas, energy conservation, electrical, swimming pool, unsafe building, site preparation, electricity and gas and property maintenance codes. Amendments were also made to the ordinance governing the construction board of adjustments and appeals and to the office of the Administrative Hearing Officer. Changes to these codes were approved unanimously on the second and final reading.


Jim Webster was appointed to serve on the Hemlock Conservation Task Force for the term of a year and several months. Five citizens of the town applied to fill three vacancies on the Personnel Committee. This board functions as a policy committee and is tasked with studying and evaluating personnel issues and recommending changes. After discussion, the council members decided to expand the number of members on the committee. There was agreement that more than five people might provide greater diversity and points of view. When added to the two existing members, the personnel committee be made up of seven people. An amendment to the ordinance to allow the expansion will be needed. Appointment of the new members will be made when the ordinance has been formally amended.


The next meeting of the Signal Mountain Town Council will be held in a hybrid zoom and in-person format on Sept. 28 at 6 p.m.


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