A new park that is being planned in Collegedale will be donated to the city by McKee Bakery and named Little Debbie Park at the Commons. The closest residential neighborhood and the one most affected by the 10-acre development at the corner of Leyland and Swinyar Drive is Greenbriar Cove, a retirement community with 183 homes. Residents from the neighborhood came to the commission meeting Monday night telling the commissioners that they have not been included in planning or been given any information about the park except what they have read or seen on the videos of city meetings.
One representative from Greenbriar Cove came with a petition signed by 200 residents asking to have some input. She told the commission that the neighbors are excited and pleased about the development but that they have safety concerns. The petition asks for the playground, which is planned near a busy road, to be moved away from the traffic and closer to the greenway. Parking, as it is now planned, is back-in parking on both sides of Swinyar Drive, which they say that nobody likes. The suggestion is to have a developed parking lot. The increase of traffic on the neighborhood roads and cars blocking access to emergency vehicles are other concerns. Originally, the park was planned as an arboretum, said another speaker from the neighborhood, but now he said it appears that there will be marketing activity with the use of large branded items that the children can climb or sit on.
Tracy Bennett Hobek, former director of parks and recreation in Collegedale, who was terminated by past city manager Ted Rogers for behavior unbecoming, came to the meeting to speak in opposition to the park. She said that a study in 2020 showed that Tennessee is ranked number four for obesity, and asked “What if a child is faced with a fake five-foot-high snack cake in the park that has ingredients that they cannot eat?” She said that she hopes there is still room for compromise, and said no representative from Little Debbie has been present to answer questions.
Mayor Katie Lamb said that residents of that neighborhood deserve to be involved. Arrangements will be made for representatives from McKee to come to the next commission workshop, which is open to the public and for a meeting to be organized with Little Debbie and the Greenbriar homeowner’s association to talk to people from that neighborhood.
After the retirement of Ted Rogers, city manager of Collegedale for the last 15 years, the commissioners are in the process of finding a replacement, with assistance from the Municipal Technical Advisory Services at the University of Tennessee. City Engineer Wayon Hines has been appointed to fill the position on an interim basis, which Mayor Lamb said averages around 110 days from the onset of the search. It was decided that Mr. Hines’ salary will be supplemented by an additional $2,500 per month plus paying his medical insurance, for the additional responsibilities he will have during the time he is interim city manager.
Public Works Director Eric Sines told the commissioners that there are two large expenditures which are needed that are not in the budget. The main packer assembly on the garbage truck needs to be repaired and the cost is $10,622. Authorization was given to proceed with the repair, knowing a budget amendment will be needed to pay for it.
Approval was also given to replace the fuel delivery system used by Collegedale. The lowest quote received by Mr. Sines was $11,668, which was approved by the commission. This was declared to be an emergency purchase, thereby allowing the bid process to be bypassed. This repair will also require that a budget amendment be made.
The city received a request from the Tennessee Department of Transportation to approve the sale of property at 8811 Apison Pike. TDOT had purchased the lot and tore down the house and has declared it excess right of way. The commissioners approved the sale with the understanding that it cannot be built on because there is no sewer connection. TDOT notified the municipality as a courtesy, but it would have sold the ROW whether the city gave approval or not.
The meeting ended with Mayor Lamb reading a letter sent to her by a Collegedale resident. It commended Ted Rogers for financially taking the city from near bankruptcy to the good financial shape that it is in today. It said he recovered local sales taxes that had been going to other municipalities, he had improved the working conditions of city employees with better equipment and benefits, and provided a safe work environment, among other things. The letter said that the city is better than it has ever been and from the many people at his retirement party, it is evident how respected Mr. Rogers is.