The procedure and timeline for replacing former Signal Mountain Council member Dan Landrum, who has resigned, was decided at the council meeting Monday night. A vote on the position had been scheduled for the council meeting on Sept. 27.
The city’s charter specifies that the council can choose a replacement in the 30 days following the effective date of a vacancy, after which a costly special election would be needed.
That is unnecessary, said Mayor Charles Poss. The four remaining council members are concerned about potential problems if they wait until the last day of the 30-day deadline to choose a new member. It was decided to hold a special meeting to make the decision on Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 6 p.m. so there will be some leeway.
An application for the position is available on the Signal Mountain website and will be accepted until Sept. 15. Residents can submit questions, also on the website, to the candidates until then. Answers from the applicants will be due by Sept. 20 at noon and will be available to the public.
As of Monday, just one application has been received. If more are submitted, that number will be narrowed down at the special meeting. That night, each applicant will be asked to make a short opening statement and, if there is no consensus after the first vote, the council will be able to question each candidate before a second vote. The winner will be by a simple majority. Mayor Poss made the request to keep the process civil and positive.
The town’s personnel committee met on Sept. 7 to discuss the consultant’s recommendation to give town employees a four percent pay increase. With just three of five members present, making a decision on a recommendation about a pay plan and the amount of raises was postponed to allow members more time to review the information and until more members are present to participate. Their next scheduled meeting is Oct. 5, but there is a possibility that a special meeting will be called earlier.
The two citizens who spoke at the meeting, Dan Landrum and Anne Haygood, both were in favor of giving employees a four percent pay increase. "Everybody is on the same side," said Ms. Haygood. "We all want good services and we have wonderful town employees who want to do a good job." Mr. Landrum said the raises would keep services strong. Mayor Poss said that Town Manager Boyd Veal and the personnel committee “will work things through.”
In regular business, an ordinance passed which amends the stormwater fee for property owners. Mr. Veal said MTAS, the consultants that advise municipalities in the state, did a study and recommended a 100 percent increase in these fees. Instead, he said the council decided to raise the fees more gradually, this year starting with a 30 percent increase in both the minimum fee and the per square foot fee. The total recommended increases will be made incrementally in subsequent years.
A new, annual stormwater report has been completed, said Mr. Veal. The 130-page report details the town’s stormwater projects that were done in the last year. It now will be submitted to the state. An agreement for engineering the design for stormwater improvements on Mississippi Avenue and James Boulevard was approved on Monday night with AD Engineering for $12,500 with a contingency fund of $1,250 if there are added costs.
The council also approved the purchase of an incinerator for the amount of $136,777. The town manager said this will replace a chipping contract that is $45,000 yearly. It is also needed because there is no more space to store the debris, he told the council.
The application for a property conservation grant with Public Entity Partners, the town’s insurer, was authorized.
The council was informed about an agreement with TDOT that will be needed to proceed with roadwork coming up the front of the mountain. TDOT takes care of the road and Signal Mountain must take care of the right-of-way. Some assistance will be provided from the state because of the unique nature of the road, said Mr. Veal. The town also will provide the small areas of right-of-way needed for new drainage at no cost to TDOT. A vote on this agreement will be at a later date.
Mayor Poss, who is the council’s representative to the planning commission, reported that at the latest meeting, zoning issues about minor subdivisions was discussed. He said the goal is for the lot sizes to be consistent throughout town.
The mayor also said he is already thinking about next year’s budget and the need to put a plan in place. He would like public participation so citizens will know what is being done. He said there is a need to either find ways to save money or increase revenue. MTAS will be asked to help the town streamline operations and be more efficient. The consultants will do a review of each department to identify ways to make improvements. Town Manager Veal suggested to also go through the budget, department by department, looking for efficiencies. Mayor Poss proposed the possibility of using public relations to let the payers know what they are getting from their six-cent tax increase and to see which services are most valued by the residents.
Until the COVID situation improves, people will continue to be required to wear masks in Signal Mountain’s public buildings. Mask are effective, said the mayor, and the council needs to do whatever it can to help control the pandemic. The mandate will be discussed again when and if improvements are seen.