The town of Signal Mountain is planning to hire an administrative hearing officer to handle several zoning and property maintenance cases that have been identified. If a violation is heard in a court, the maximum fine allowed is $50. Fines given by an administrative hearing officer can be $500 for the same violation so is more effective, said Town Manager Boyd Veal. He told the council that Jim Exum, a local resident is interested in the position.
Councilman Dan Landrum suggested hiring him immediately because the town already is familiar with him since he applied for the Town Attorney position that is now filled by Harry Cash. Mr. Exum is already trained and serves in that capacity for Collegedale and Red Bank.
Other council members preferred to solicit applications for those with conflict resolution experience and conduct interviews individually before the next council meeting, in addition to Mr. Exum. Anyone interested can contact the city manager for more information.
The Old Towne sidewalk rehabilitation was discussed at length at the Monday council meeting. The project was started when Signal Mountain received a grant in 2016 for the work. Conditions from TDOT were changed and now require the same engineering as a full blown road project, said Chris Davis from ASA engineering. That has caused delays as well as the price to increase significantly. Federal and TDOT legal procedures also slowed down the process. Cost increases of the engineering work were negotiated by keeping the rate charged the same as it was in 2016 but increasing the manpower hours. Since it started, material costs have also increased with concrete prices changing in just the last year from $6 per square feet to $8 or $9, said Mr. Davis. Additionally, right-of-ways will have to be acquired and, if a company is contracted to do that, they will need to be paid.
The grant will cover 80 percent of $1.2 million up to $1.8 million total. The town is responsible for 20 percent of that amount plus anything above it. The project that was originally budgeted for $1.2 million now is estimated to cost $1.8 million or perhaps less if the sidewalks can be located where walls are not needed. To stay in the budget the town will be asked to pare down the amount of sidewalks. Another option would be for Signal Mountain to pay ASA for the layouts, surveys and on-site inspection services, and do the work themselves. Completion of the building should take around 6-8 months once construction begins.
At the meeting, a two-year contract with Southeast Tennessee Development District was approved for $15,350. This agency provides services, guidance, recommendations and training for the town’s government.
Authorization was given to Police Chief Mike Williams to apply for a grant from the Tennessee Highway Safety Officer program for an amount not to exceed $15,000. The purpose of this grant is intended for reducing speeding, aggressive driving, DUI and non-seat belt use. In the past, said Mr. Veal, it has bought speed signs and moving radar. This year, if received, it would be used for equipment in police vehicles.
An application will also be made for a grant that would be used for water system mapping. The application for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development grant can be for up to $50,000, with Signal Mountain only being responsible for paying five percent, or $2,500 of the amount. Qualification is based on water loss from the town-owned system. Electronic mapping includes identifying lines and valves.
Council member Andrew Gardner would like to change the make-up of the town’s rec board to include representatives from each sport that participates. The council is in discussions about how to determine criteria for who can participate. He will seek advice from MTAS (Municipal Technical Advisory Service) before the next meeting.
Town Manager Veal said that negotiations had bogged down the work that TDOT is planning for Highway 127 coming up Signal Mountain. He told the council that he now has received plans from TDOT and is hopeful that the project may be moving forward.
He also has been meeting with SETD to get information about setting up a charrette and polling the community about how Rainbow Lake is used and the parking situation. Ideas from residents will be combined with advice from SETD and will be on the agenda for discussion at the next council meeting.
Resident of the town Bill Sonnenburg spoke to the council a second time about his and his neighbors’ concerns over a house in Old Towne that he said has had recent renovations and additions without getting a building permit. A bathroom was also added to an outbuilding on the lot adding a connection to the sewer system, despite the sewer moratorium on the mountain. That large lot has been subdivided and, if a new home is built on the newly created lot, it would need to use a septic system. The neighborhood is opposed to a septic system in the middle of all the other houses with sewer connections because of the worry about stormwater runoff in their gardens and yards downstream.
Councilman Landrum said that this should be discussed in private and that the town’s staff should deal with it not the council. He said that owners can do what they want within the law. Mayor Charles Poss responded that if someone has intentionally violated the laws, it is an issue. He said it is a public matter because it has been discussed openly at council meetings. Councilman Gardner said it was done publicly by the neighbors because they were not getting a response from the town and that the building staff may be overburdened. He added that town laws are to protect residents. More discussion will take place at a later date.
Mayor Poss announced that the town hall is now open. People can come inside to do business. However, minimizing traffic is encouraged.
The next council meeting is scheduled for April 26 at 6 p.m.