From left, Walker Jones, Duane Schermerhorn, Chuck Wells and Jim Bentley
photo by Gail Perry
From left, Police and Fire Chiefs Duane Schermerhorn and Chuck Wells with Commissioner Jim Bentley
photo by Gail Perry
From left, Duane Schermerhorn and Chuck Wells
photo by Gail Perry
New Town Judge Stevie Persinger
photo by Gail Perry
At the September meeting of the Lookout Mountain, Tn. Commission, town officials were sworn in by Judge Stevie Persinger for new terms after the election results were certified by the Hamilton County Election Commission. New or returning commissioners include Walker Jones, who was elected by the other commissioners to serve as mayor. The mayor appointed Jim Bentley to continue his role as commissioner of fire and police, Karen Leavengood as commissioner of schools and William Valadez as commissioner of the public works department.
Past Commissioner of Parks and Recreation David Paschall is unable to return due to responsibilities with his day job. His replacement will be named soon, said the mayor. Capt. Duane Schermerhorn was promoted to chief of police. Brian Smith will return as attorney for the town. James Williams and Julie Fisher will join Karen Welborn as members of the Lookout Mountain School Board.
Assistant Treasurer Jennifer Waycaster reported that after the yearly audit, the town’s year-end profit was $304,620. The profit is the result of state and local sales tax going up and because of $663,338 that was received from American Rescue Plan funds. That ARP money will be transferred to the Hamilton County WWTA to be used to fund wastewater infrastructure projects in the town.
But Lookout Mountain, Tn. has experienced a financial loss estimated at six figures since the beginning of the COVID pandemic when everything shut down, said Mayor Jones. Since reopening, the Incline Railway is selling tickets online and boarding originates at the bottom station in St. Elmo where cars are now parking. Previously, the town of Lookout Mountain, Tn. received income from both ticket sales and parking. Now the town is investigating ways to recover part of that loss. Attorney Smith will bring ideas of how that can be done to the council.
Commissioner Bentley said that delivery of the fire engine that had previously been delayed until February 2022 has been delayed again. He said he is now being told that it will be delivered in November, which has taken over two years since it was ordered. He said that General Motors patrol cars have also been delayed. Two police vehicles, a car and a van that can no longer be used, were declared as surplus so they can be sold.
The police department is adding two services for residents. A first aid preparedness class has been held for anyone interested in learning first aid with the goal of saving a life. As of now, two training sessions have been held at city hall. The four-hour certification process is divided into two-hour sessions. There were 13 people in the first class and 11 in the second. Chief Schermerhorn said that ages of those taking the class ranged from 10 to 70.
There will also be a prescription medicine drop off box installed in the first alcove of city hall. The chief said it will be controlled by the TBI, which is responsible for disposal of the drugs.
Under the leadership of Lookout Mountain Elementary School Principal Ruth White, LMS was recently named a National Blue Ribbon School, said Commissioner Leavengood. LMS was one of just six schools in the state of Tennessee to receive this status - "It’s phenomenal,” she said. Ms. White will accept this award at a ceremony in Washington D.C. in November. The principal said it was a partnership of the school, parents, students and the community that made it happen. There are four new faculty members at LMS this year. Students are now selling the Hamilton County Coupon books, and the commissioner said that LMS receives $7 from each of the $10 books. That money is used to support technology at the school, she said. The annual Lookout Mountain Carnival fundraiser will be Oct. 18. Another fundraiser for all the schools on the mountain will be the first annual Hive Hustle, a five-mile road race and one mile fun run on Saturday, Oct. 22. The money raised will benefit LMS, Fairyland Elementary, Good Shepherd and Mother’s Day Out at Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church.
Thanks to the Rec Board, Love Lookout and Hugh Morrow/Ruby Falls, three new scoreboards are being installed at the sports fields on the mountain. One will be installed where soccer and flag football are played, another at Senter Field for baseball, and the third will be put in the LMS gym later in the fall. This year there is a great turnout for kids playing soccer, with more than 400 participating and two new goals have been added. Flag football will be next with games beginning after the fall break.
The public works employees are busy picking up brush and are gearing up for the leaf season. Reflectors will be put on streets to mark roads and make turns easier to see. Plans are to pave North Bragg Avenue with about $300,000 the town has been putting aside for several years, said Commissioner of Public Works Valadez. A resident volunteer Melissa Lusk, who has been leading the effort to rid the mountain of kudzu, told the commissioners that there have been five recent gas leaks on North Bragg that were repaired in a month’s time, and if additional breaks are discovered there will be the need for additional road cuts. Mayor Jones said the town will investigate how that would be handled before the town invests in repaving the road, to prevent cuts from being made on a new surface.
Mayor Jones announced that there is a new website of interest to Lookout Mountain residents, www.livingonlookout.com, created by Lucia Hopper. He also said that county and city tax bills will be going out soon.
The next Lookout Mountain, Tn. Commission meeting is scheduled for Oct. 11 at 5 p.m.