After a public meeting, the Lookout Mountain, Ga., Council passed the fiscal year 2021-2022 budget on first reading. There will be no property tax increase this year. Property reassessments are currently being done and the values are increasing, but Mayor David Bennett said the millage rate will be lowered so people will not see an increase in their taxes.
The city will be receiving around $500,000 divided between the next two years that will come from the Federal Cares Act which is providing the money to state and local governments to help them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
This money will have restricted uses, primarily having to do with infrastructure, so that sewer work, including work needed in the Krupski Loop neighborhood will qualify along with the stormwater runoff mitigation project around the Town Center.
The city took over the Krupski Loop sewer system several years ago and now is responsible for replacing sewage tanks in that neighborhood that have failed. They need to be installed as soon as possible, said the mayor. The council approved $29,000 in emergency spending to replace three - maybe four - tanks with new concrete ones. City Manager Kenny Lee will advertise for soliciting bids.
Council member Caroline Williams, liaison with the school, gave the Fairyland School update. If a child was homeschooled this year, they are not considered to be a registered student in Walker County. If that child is planning to return to in-person classes at the school, they will have to register with the county. This includes kindergarten students. The sooner children are registered, the better, she said, to make sure that there are enough teachers in the classrooms.
She also said the county has received windfalls three times this year - $5 million, $3 million and the latest is $19 million. Fairyland School will benefit from use of that money for reading intervention for children who may have fallen behind due to COVID. She said the students will have a lot of catching up to do in the coming year.
The stormwater committee headed by Councilman Tony Towns is making progress in identifying the source of problems with runoff. With access to the GIS system maps, the committee has discovered the primary water sheds which are on Red Riding Hood Trail, Chickamauga Trail, Wood Nymph Trail and Hardy Road. They are working with Walker County to see if the city has a stormwater agreement with the county and, if not, one will be created. Some issues detected are the responsibility of the county and some of the state of Georgia. A maintenance schedule will be created to alleviate some of the problems being faced.
In the Public Works report from Councilman Kevin Leckenby, he said that there is no end date to the gas line replacement project throughout the city due to underlying rock. Additionally, the recent road closure of Lula Lake Road in front of the town center has diverted traffic with detours around the section of that road from the intersection with Scenic Highway to McFarland Road. In the late 1960’s when the gas, sewer, and water lines were installed, the utilities laid the lines above rock instead of drilling through them. The first problem discovered was with a gas line that had been run through a small concrete culvert intended for stormwater runoff. That was discovered during the gas company’s line replacement work. Then problems were found with the other utilities and there is no record of where lines are located. In an attempt to find where the problems are a road cut has been made. The utilities are working together to fix all the problems before the road can reopen. When a timeline is known, it will be put on the town’s website, said City Manager Kenny Lee.
Councilman Leckenby also said that repairs are needed to the deck on the pavilion at the baseball field at Fairyland School and suggested demolition if it cannot be done soon. It definitely needs to be taken care of before the 2022 school year begins. The structure has been boarded up for now with no trespassing signs.
Work continues at Our Mountain Garden. Community volunteer Jimmy Campbell, who has been in charge of the project from the beginning, said the plantings are doing well. He said the garden should be finished by the end of May and it ended up with the budget in the black.
The city’s new garbage truck should be ready sometime soon to be out on the streets.
June 5 will be a big day on the mountain, said the city manager. Three big events will be taking place on the same day. Those include the Swing Ding golf tournament and The Bike Ride Across Georgia with 800-1,000 cyclists participating. That afternoon a concert will be hosted by Rock City with a Janis Joplin cover band and residents are invited. The cyclists leave early the next morning.
Council member Taylor Watson, liaison with the fire and police department, gave the statistics for activities of the departments from the month of April. Police patrolled 3,951 miles, made 39 stops, gave 23 citations and 17 warnings. There were three auto accidents during the month and officers assisted four motorists. Response was made to four burglar alarms, four fire calls and four medical calls. During the month four suspicious persons and five suspicious vehicles were investigated. Assistance was provided for citizens eight times and the Lookout Mountain, Tn. police on four occasions. There were no arrests, burglaries or thefts in April. The commissioner said that police have been stepping up giving citations on Hardy Road in the push to stop speeding.
Mayor Bennett would like to thank the Lookout Mountain Methodist Church for continuing to share the facility with the town’s staff. He said it is hoped that the Christmas tree lighting will take place at the new Town Center this year.