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Wide variety of business at city council meeting

By Marlana Ward

The Town of Mountain City Board of Mayor and Aldermen held its monthly meeting on September 5, 2017. All council representatives were present as well as various department supervisors to discuss business for the town.
The first item of business for the council was to recognize Donna Nelson for 20 years of service to the Town of Mountain City. Nelson was given a plaque and certificate to commemorate her dedication to helping the town throughout her years of employment. Mayor Kevin Parsons expressed the town’s appreciation to Nelson and voiced his hope that she would continue to work with the city for many years to come.
Ryan Fletcher with the ACTION Coalition appeared before the council to request permission for the organization to hold a road block fund raiser on city streets. Permission was granted unanimously and Fletcher was instructed to gain proper permits from the police department.
Town resident Ted Gentry approached the podium to discuss the town’s plans for a skating rink and his willingness to assist in the endeavor. Gentry explained that he had multiple years of experience through previous employment at a local skate rink and was eager to use his knowledge to help the town as they try to establish a new rink. Gentry said that his work to refurbish the 800 pairs of skates given to the town would be at no cost to the town and that he would help in any way possible to see the idea come to fruition. A motion was made to allow Gentry access to the stored skates and to accept his help with the project.  The motion passed unanimously.
Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter presented the council with research he had done concerning bringing Internet provider SkyLine/SkyBest into the Mountain City area.  Potter shared that the company presently provides service to Shady Valley and that the residents using the service are extremely happy with the company and the speeds they are able to achieve in the community are higher than those presently available in many parts of the county.  Mayor Potter expressed that the county courthouse was in need of updating its Internet service and that SkyLine had made known its interest in locating a service building within town limits beginning its service in town.
Mayor Potter explained that the increase in Internet speed would be invaluable to the county as increased connectivity could lead to the county being designated a “Gig Certified Community.” This designation could help bring more technology based businesses into the county as well as make Johnson County a desirable locale for individuals who work from home. The number of people who are able to make a living by telecommuting is increasing every year and if the county could advertise itself as boasting internet speeds comparable to big cities such as Atlanta and New York City, it could make the area more appealing to home seekers and business owners.
The next agenda item was for council members to bring any concerns up for discussion.  Vice Mayor Jerry Jordan mentioned the need for street light repairs at the intersection of North Church Street and Circle Drive.  He shared that Mountain Electric was aware of the need for repairs but that the town should put high visibility cones to better mark the entrance to Circle Drive until the lights are operational again.
Also brought up for discussion were the complaints that had been received concerning school traffic on South Shady Street during pick up hours at Mountain City Elementary.  While the traffic situation had gotten some better since the beginning week of school, the lines waiting in the turning lanes and north bound lanes on the major roadway does continue to raise concern.  With many parents lining up early to pick children up at the school, the roads quickly become congested and could lead to hazardous conditions on the busy thoroughfare.  It was determined that the police department and county school system should look into the legality of traffic patterns near the school and what could be done to alleviate the congestion.
The discussion of traffic issues lead into the next matter of business which was the delayed start of construction on the bridge on Pedro Shoun Road.  Sheila Shaw reminded the council that the town had prepaid $500,000 toward the planned construction and council members expressed that records should be kept of delays and interest figured on the deposit paid to deduct from any additional charges attempted to be billed to the city.
Also concerning Pedro Shoun Road was discussion about the future pump house which would serve that community.  While the pump house location and logistics are still being determined, Water Supervisor Chris Hook suggested that new water lines preemptively be laid to help the current water situation on the road.  While the new lines would not completely alleviate the pressure issue, Hook explained that it would help some as well as be a step toward progress on the project.  The council voted unanimously to begin the work.
Another site of water concerns was Pardue Lane where a resident had requested a hydrant and additional streetlights be located nearer to their home.  Alderman Bud Crosswhite stated that the issue had been brought to his attention and requested discussion of the matter.  A city works representative stated that a new hydrant had been added in that area and the lack of a main water line on the road leads to the lack of a hydrant on the road itself.  It was believed that there was a hydrant within legal proximity to the residences on that road.  Collection/Distribution Superintendent Hook was asked to visit the location to measure exact distances to ensure compliance.  The lights were considered a manageable and agreeable task with the council authorizing the plan to move ahead with installing lights on poles already installed along the lane.
Mayor Parsons expressed his appreciation for the town’s staff for their work with the recent Long Journey Home event as well as the sidewalk improvements done by the City Works Department. Gary Phillips, Public Works Director, explained that his department had a small portion of sidewalks to finish pressure washing and then a few repairs that needed to be made along the sidewalks.
Mayor Parsons additionally brought attention to the new animal control truck that was parked outside City Hall.  Parsons shared that the truck had been purchased from the city of Knoxville for $2,000. This was determined to be an excellent price due to the extreme savings versus purchasing not only a truck but also the special animal containment box on the truck which would was estimated to be worth over $12,000.
Finally, Mayor Parsons informed the council that he continues to research websites after which to model the town’s website. He stated his desire for the town’s website to be functional, informative, and made mention that he would like to see the ability to live stream city council meetings through the site for citizens who would like to observe a meeting but are unable to attend. Mayor Parsons expects to have more information to present to the council by next month.
When department heads were invited to the podium to discuss new business, Collection/Distribution Superintendent Chris Hook presented the board with news that two of the water department’s employees had successfully taken state exams and were now officially licensed. Hook requested that the town promote the men to operator and foreman so two additional crews could be dispatched from the department in compliance with state regulations. The council expressed their pleasure that the men had taken the initiative to obtain their licenses and approved the motion for promotion and pay increase for the men.
Hook’s last item brought before the council was the results of his research towards making the water department’s pump houses and sewage lift stations able to receive auxiliary power during extended power outages. Hook explained that the project would be costly with the switches needed to accommodate the power shift costing $2,000 alone. Additional wiring and supplies needed would make the project cost over $10,000 per location. Hook shared that while some portions of the water supply could continue service without power for up to 48 hours, there were locations that lose water service immediately during a power failure. Hook also said that sewage lift systems could only operate for 12 hours without power. Hook suggested that the town take on the project one location at a time to decrease the financial strain that changing all stations at once could cause. The town asked Hook to determine which locations were in most need of auxiliary power capabilities and begin there.
Parks and Recreation Director Flo Bellamy came forward to thank the town for its continued support of the community center.  Bellamy also shared how the center had received grants to install a pool table, air hockey table, and basketball goals much to the delight of the kids who frequent the property.
City Recorder Sheila Shaw brought before the council continued business concerning construction within the town and budget concerns.  Shaw shared that work continued on the Goose Creek Trail and that repairs to the sidewalk and crosswalks still needed to be completed by the construction company hired by the town before the work would be considered finished.
Shaw also mentioned that while a $50,000 grant was given to the town to bestow upon businesses located on Main Street which wished to improve their storefronts, only one owner had applied for the funds.  She encouraged everyone to visit the jewelry store on Main Street to see the improvements made.  Shaw also said that a representative of the Economic and Community Development had visited and encouraged the town to again reach out to businesses along Main Street to take advantage of the funds given. The council asked Shaw to contact the business owners in hopes of having them take the opportunity to improve the appearance of downtown.
An item of discussion which garnered various reactions was the number of roadblocks being held on city streets for organizations raising funds.  Current regulations state that roadblocks may only be held every other week in city limits for 501c3 and 4 approved and non-profit organizations.  Mayor Parsons acknowledged that while it did seem like there were many roadblocks held, they serve an important function for local organizations.  Alderman Bob Morrison asked for city statutes to be researched to make certain that a maximum number of roadblocks that could be held each year had not been previously established and being exceeded.
Shaw additionally brought before the council the need for an additional $100,000 to be added to the town’s contribution for the 2016 EDA Grant and Wastewater Treatment Plant Rehabilitation Project.  Shaw stated that cost estimates for the project had gone up and that the funds were needed in case of overages.  The council voted unanimously to amend the budget to allow for the overage keeping in mind the large sum that was promised by the government for the project and the savings that this meant for the town.
Other items discussed and approved by the town council included:  Circle Drive/Fairground Lane Water and Sewer Line Relocation Project as capital expenditure; authorization for the Dry Run water storage tank; proposed bid for Wastewater Treatment Plant rotor support repair; resolution authorizing approval of the program policies and procedure for the Town of Mountain City 2017 HOME Program; and budget amendment ordinances for Community Center/Leaps, PR/OPC Grants, Community Center Heat Pumps, and Animal Control Truck.
The next meeting of the Mountain City Town Council will be held on October 3, 2017 at 6:30 pm.  Meetings are held at City Hall and are open to the public.