Cost Of Signal Mountain Old Town Sidewalks Continues To Balloon
Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - by Gail Perry
It has been 13-14 years since Signal Mountain started the process of building sidewalks in the Old Town neighborhood. The town is still in the process of revising plans after getting comments from TDOT. Since the beginning, the scope of the work has increased and in the most recent comments, there are ADA issues. The engineers at ASA are now doing revisions and plans will again be submitted to TDOT for their review.
The $1.8 million estimate for the project is a couple of years old now and new estimates have increased to $2 million to $2.5 million.
If TDOT moves quicker than it has in the past to approve the latest plan, the town can move forward with the next step which is to acquire right-of-way, which involves around 100 properties. It is expected to be early 2022 when construction will begin.
A survey of residents has been taken to try and find a solution to the parking problems that started with the crowds using the Rainbow Lake trail during the COVID pandemic. Suggestions gathered from responses on the survey include charging a fee for non-residents, the requirement to pre-register and pay a fee online, and paying to park in a lot or at parking meters along the street.
There were a lot of ideas gathered from the 330 people who filled out the surveys but most suggestions also presented problems. Enforcing the plan to pay for using the trail would require a part-time employee to monitor the trailhead. And there are multiple access points so hikers could access the trail at other locations. Paying to park in a lot would likely cause people to park on the street unless no parking signs along the roads were also posted. If parking meters were put along the roads where there have been problems, it is expected that cars would just shift to another street. Mayor Charles Poss said the Tennessee River Gorge Trust has two acres adjacent to the start of the trail that could possibly be used for parking, but Town Manager Boyd Veal said if you add more parking, you add more bodies.
Because the parking problems have been decreasing and fewer people are expected to use the trail in winter, there is time before making decisions about what to do. The survey results will be further analyzed by breaking it down to responses from participants according to proximity to the park and if the respondents were residents of Signal Mountain or not.
Mr. Veal told the council that the Lions Club will no longer handle the fireworks on the Fourth of July. In the past, the town has donated the actual cost of the fireworks displays to the Lions Club and the club hired out the show for that amount. The council discussed being directly in charge of the displays and will get insurance quotes and look for a vendor to do the show.
At the tree board’s recent meeting, there was discussion about 20 trees that have been slated for removal in right-of-ways needed for stormwater repairs. The removal was approved by the tree board, along with a single black walnut tree in Adams Park that is dropping nuts onto an adjacent house. The board is in the process of preparing for a tree canopy survey and the Arbor Day celebration with school children was successful.
With the decline of COVID cases in the past two weeks, the rule of wearing masks in all public facilities in Signal Mountain was relaxed after the city manager told the board that the department heads and staff are comfortable without the mandate. The exception is in the library, where the decision will be made by the library board.
Municipal Technical Advisory Services will guide the town through doing assessments of each department to improve efficiencies and will provide suggestions for improvements to the town. At the Monday night meeting, the council decided that the first two departments to be evaluated will be Signal Mountain’s Fire and Public Works departments.
MTAS is also assisting the council in the search for a new city manager to take the place of Boyd Veal who is retiring from the position. He has two more meetings before he leaves and suggested that an interim city manager be appointed to fill the job after he leaves until a new city manager is hired. The council will consider both internal and external candidates as well as people who could perform the city manager’s job on a contract basis. The list of names and their resumes should be available by the next council meeting on Nov. 8. The interim will be chosen at that meeting.
For the permanent town manager search, Honna Rogers from MTAS will be putting together a job description based on comments and requirements provided from the council. The job will be advertised until the end of November. She said that interviews will be scheduled for the first week of January.