By Marlana Ward
Freezing temperatures couldn’t dissuade the Mountain City Board of Mayor and Aldermen as they met on January 2, 2018 to discuss town business and concerns.
The mayor and councilmen all welcomed Vice Mayor Jerry Jordan back to Mountain City Town Hall as he made his return after being injured. He had only been able to attend the meetings via phone for the previous two months. Jordan thanked everyone for the welcome and expressed gratitude for the prayers and concern that had been shown throughout his recovery. Jordan also updated everyone about the progress he and Mountain City Town Recorder Sheila Shaw had made concerning the Goose Creek Trail project.
The project has continued to have outstanding problems that needed to be addressed, including driveways at businesses that did not meet Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) standards, as well as disputes with the contractors who completed the work. According to Jordan, upon reviewing initial specifications and plans by the state inspectors and comparing those with the final reports given by the state, it was noted that specs had changed over the course of the project leading to the failed inspections. Jordan had asked Shaw to send an email to Representative Timothy Hill and Senator Jon Lundberg asking them to assist the town in reaching an agreement with the state inspectors. The result of Shaw’s correspondence was quick cooperation with Lundberg’s office to reach an agreement where the state offered to cover 80 percent of the costs to reach state standards and the town only needed to pay 20 percent of the cost. Jordan informed the board that he had instructed Shaw to move forward with the needed paperwork to get the work finished and contractors paid under this agreement. The mayor and councilmen all voiced their appreciation. Councilman Kenny Icenhour asked for an update concerning the red light situation at Shouns Crossroads. Public Works Director Gary Phillips stated that Ben Chambers had once again visited the site but had still been unable to find an issue with the loop systems. However, one problem had later been found and repaired, though the traffic signals on one side were still not operating as expected. Chambers had also reviewed the crosswalk signals at the intersection of Highway 421 and Main Street but could not find the reason why one of the pedestrian signals was malfunctioning.
While at the podium, Phillips went on to inform the board about continuing issues as the public works department continues to attempt to have their garbage truck repaired. The department has been in a continuous cycle of drop-offs, pick-ups, and tows back the garage that is currently used for repairs with the town’s truck. What started as a $7,000 repair to fix an oil leak has lead to another $4,000 to fix bad injectors, in addition to two more visits due to brake issues untreated by the mechanics at the repair location. Phillips said that he had been in contact with the regional manager of the garage and had told him of the continued issues with the company. The manager had assured Phillips that the truck would be repaired correctly this time at no cost to the town. Phillips and the board all expressed the desire to seek out other repair companies when the next need for repairs on heavy equipment arises due to dissatisfaction with the present one.
Next to speak was Councilman Bob Morrison who informed the board of plans underway with the Goose Creek Trail Committee regarding the update of signs along the park’s disc golf course. Morrison spoke of an action plan within the schools and community to encourage more active lifestyles. This plan may include a grant in which the signs would be updated with those funds. Mayor Parsons stated that he hoped that grant funds would be made available so that a sign could be installed listing all the facilities available to the public within Ralph Stout Park.
Parsons was the next to update and bring forth concerns to be discussed by the board. The first item he brought for discussion was the Tennessee Improve Act, which is the lowering of taxes by the state, equating to a loss of $69,960 to the town’s budget. Parsons informed the group that Representative Doss had a proposal in which the losses in tax revenue would be spread across the state, lessening the town’s hit to approximately $26,000. Parsons also informed the board there is a proposed increase in the E911 fees charged to phone bills in Tennessee to help municipalities’ emergency services. He mentioned that a committee was being formed from across the state to discuss the proposed increase. Parsons suggested Vice Mayor Jordan as a representative from Mountain City due to this familiarity with the local emergency service systems.
Parsons then asked local resident Donald Snyder to come to the podium and share ideas that they had discussed regarding the proposed city youth activity center. Snyder explained to the board that he had been to the property the town was looking at to house an activity center and shared what he saw as necessary steps to making the plan viable and successful. He stated that what he saw as the best option for the property would be to not try and rehabilitate the current structure but begin anew, bringing in enough dirt to raise the property to highway level. They would then construct a larger, steel building which could house not only a skating rink but also a small bowling alley and possibly an arcade and laser tag.
Snyder expressed his family’s wish to enter into a partnership with the town and to help see the project realized. He informed the board that he currently had enough bowling alley equipment to furnish eight lanes and extra materials to ensure repairs and upkeep for several years past construction. Snyder also said that he had the equipment for a 12-person laser tag game including the vests, guns, and main controls. He estimated that the bowling equipment he possessed was valued at $25,000 per lane, the laser tag valued at $15,000, and that he had the fill dirt for the location, which would be valued at $60,000. Snyder stated that he and his family were ready to bring the $280,0000 worth of equipment and materials into the project if they and the town could reach a partnership agreement. The town approved the project and gave the go-ahead to proceed.
The board asked questions concerning the size and cost of the proposed steel building. Snyder provided a drawing as a possibility for the project. Snyder said that he was still waiting for a final estimate due to the steel company’s engineers being out for the holiday season. He stated he had been told that the company liked to assist small communities with special pricing and that he hoped to get a good price for the board to consider.
All in all, Snyder said he saw the total investment being around $500,000 for the project. He again expressed his willingness to bring his $280,000 of the expense in through his family’s resources. Parsons shared that he hoped the town would be better able to obtain grants toward the project if they could show that they had a partnership with the Snyder family and an availability of resources to contribute to the proposed activity center. Snyder also expressed his understanding that it would take time before the activity center brought a profit, but that he was prepared to be invested in the project as a partner with no return until the center begins to bring a profit. Mayor Parsons thanked Snyder for his dedication to the project and more updates would be available as estimates come in.
The next item for discussion was the continuing pump house project at Pedro Shoun Road. Shaw informed the board that an additional $25,000 was needed for the project due to missing items in the original bid. Collection-Distribution Superintendent, Chris Hook, explained at the time of the original bid a final location had not been chosen for the pump house improvements and a building location had not been taken into account. The location for the pump house that was donated to the town by the county had trees that needed to be cleared. It also needed to be filled with dirt to bring to specifications. While this cost was unforeseen, the additional cost for pump house electronics was simply overlooked by the original state engineers during the bid process. The motion was made and unanimously approved for the additional funds to be paid.
City Attorney George Wright had an update also concerning the Pedro Shoun water situation. Wright stated that some progress had been made obtaining easements but that one resident had raised questions about the easements requested and current easements already owned by TDOT in the same location. Wright said that the resident had personal attorneys looking at the easement maps and that the town would need surveyors to come out and determine if the easements overlap, which would result in the town needing to move their easements further from the road.
When department supervisors were invited to address the board, Public Works Director Phillips came forward to ask the group for permission to place a bid for a tractor on Govdeals.com. Phillips explained how the town needed a tractor better capable of mowing right of ways, as the town’s current tractor was too small to operate the proper equipment. He said that the Town of Jonesborough had a tractor up for auction on the site and that he had sent town mechanics to inspect the tractor. The men had found the machine to be in good condition with proper maintenance records available since Jonesborough had bought the machine new. Phillips requested permission to bid up to $7,500 for the machine and it was unanimously approved with the condition that if it were won, the city’s current tractor would be sold to recoup part of the cost.
Phillips also informed the board that the animal control officer had submitted her end of the year report and that she had handled 412 animals for the town. Phillips also stated that of the 412, only seven had to be euthanized resulting in an impressive euthanasia rate of only 1.9 percent.
According to Parsons, the new police officer candidates’ training had been pushed back to April. Police Chief Denver Church explained that there was an unexpected waitlist for the academy and that the trainees were currently riding along with officers on patrols for training until they could begin the academy.
In the new business portion of the evening, Shaw informed the board that an increase in wastewater flowing to the treatment plan had led Brian Fredrick, the town’s engineer, to request permission to do a preliminary report that would be required due to the increase and the threat of fines if a moratorium concerning the reaching of maximum levels is not begun. Shaw stated that the report would cost $40,000, but that it would have to be done so that a plan could be in place. The report was approved to begin unanimously.
In other new business, the low bid from Lord and Company for the PLC Press Controller, a programmable controller for the sludge press in the water treatment system, was unanimously accepted at the recommendation of Fredrick. The joint proclamation between the city council and county commission recognizing the successful season by the Johnson County Longhorn Football Team was approved and scheduled for presentation at the January 9th Johnson County High School basketball game. Finally, the budget amendment needed for the previously discussed sanitation department truck repairs was approved in the amount of $12,585.
The next meeting of the Mountain City Board of Mayor and Aldermen will meet on February 6th at 6:30 pm.