By Bonnie Davis Guy

The February Mountain City Council meeting came to order promptly with Mayor Kevin Parsons, Vice Mayor Jerry Jordan, and Aldermen Kenny Icenhour and Bob Morrison in attendance. Alderman Bud Crosswhite was absent due to illness. With the council having a quorum, they moved forward with the night’s agenda beginning with public presentations.
First to address the council members was Ellen Watkins from the Johnson County branch of the American Red Cross. Watkins wanted to update the council members on the county’s response to the recent catastrophic wildfires in Sevier County/Gatlinburg as well as other events affecting our area. Watkins was called to Gatlinburg the first night of the fire and helped find shelter and assistance for some 14,000 people. On Christmas Eve 2016, the shelters were finally closed with everyone placed in housing. Watkins, a long-term veteran of the Red Cross, visibly teared up when she reported, “It is unreal how the people of Tennessee stepped up to the plate with donations of needed items, clothing and financial aid. I am so proud,” said Watkins. The audience responded with congratulations and comments acknowledging Tennessee is the volunteer state.  Watkins went on to explain to the board that she would like to see residences and businesses of Johnson County have disaster preparedness plans in place. The Red Cross, and specifically Watkins, is available to help create these plans if needed. Johnson County recently suffered a microburst weather event, which is a type of tornado/straight line wind scenario. Our area is susceptible to severe weather and natural events that can end in disaster situations. Being prepared can make all the difference.  Mayor Parsons thanked Watkins and said, “I am proud to have you as a citizen of our town.”
The next item involved a landowner acquiring an unused right of way to 365 Hillside Drive across from Apple Street. The landowner is interested in developing this property but the entrance would encroach on the city’s right of way. Attorney Steve McEwen will investigate the issue, as the council had no objections at this point. A motion was made and passed to give Mayor Parsons and Attorney McEwen the authority to move forward with this request.
Chris Dunbar, Johnson Counties Middle School teacher and coach for the JV baseball team, asked permission to use the city’s ball field as a practice field starting on February 13 through March 31. With an all yes vote, permission was given.
The consent calendar with January minutes and the second and final reading of budget amendments were unanimously approved.
Items of concern for the council members and department heads began with Vice Mayor Jordan who thanked the city workers for the hard work at trying to cover up the graffiti at Ralph Stout Park. He also asked Andy Garland for a time frame on rehabbing the reservoir at water tank hill. Garland responded that the project will begin as soon as the weather permits and equipment can get to the site. Jordan also had concerns about buildings and property in the city that are not up to city ordinance due to disrepair or junk around the property. According to Jordan, he thinks it is time to enforce the ordinances set forth by the city council.
Alderman Bob Morrison wanted to express his heartfelt appreciation to all the city’s employees for their dedication and hard work.  Morrison has pictures of the bridge along the Goose Creek Trail at the Johnson County Welcome Center. He reports hearing lots of fears that although the bridge is an over the top design (built so water can rush over top in a high water situation) it will washout or cause water to flood the area below the welcome center or possibly the basement.  He also reminded the council that the Hall Tax decreases were beginning this year. “I am not satisfied with the answers we are receiving concerning the Welcome Center bridge, Parsons said. “We will continue to work on the issue.”
Mayor Parsons was next to speak and was happy to say we would all be seeing advertisements coming out for the Doe Mountain Recreation. V. Tate Davis has been put in place as the executive director, along with Tina Delante as the assistant Director for Doe Mountain Recreation. “I will be glad to see revenue come into the county from Doe Mountain,” Parsons said. He also stated he supported what Vice Mayor Jordan said about upholding the city ordinances on keeping property and buildings up to standard. After a motion was made to uphold the ordinance and start sending out notices a vote was taken and passed unanimously.
Sheila Shaw informed the council that Dry Run Utility District must have a closeout audit per the state. It will be from October 2016 – January 18, 2017.   A budget amendment was asked for and granted with an all yes roll call vote. Shaw also stated that all the Dry Run Utility District customers were being added to the Mountain City system. Ron Murphy from the Dry Run office has stated he is willing to stay on and assist with the switch over until he is no longer needed. The board responded they would like to wrap up the project by the end of February, obtain the records and maps that are necessary and get Dry Run running smoothly.
New business was next on the agenda with the first item being a discussion concerning the Goose Creek Trail time extension and request for additional funds. The funds would be to pay an engineer to be on site until the project was complete. The council stated they were not inclined to grant either the extension or the additional funds. The original contract stated the contractor would have the project completed within 180 days. When that could not be done, they filed for an extension with the state. It was brought to the board’s attention that the crew was not on site working some 30 days out of that 180. Jerry Jordan was firm in saying his vote was for no extension and no more money.  Parsons also stated he was “against additional money” going toward the project.
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