By Jonathan Pleasant
Although last weeks Mountain City Town Council Meeting was surprisingly short, lasting no more than half an hour, there were still several important items to discuss. Surprisingly, one of the biggest updates of the night actually happened before the meeting ever started, at a specially called workshop meeting between members of the city council and Ken Rea from the First Tennessee Development District. Discussion at the work session centered around the ongoing Goose Creek Trail Project, which will hopefully see the creation of a multi-use recreational trail extending from Ralph Stout Park to near the Johnson County/Mountain City Welcome Center.
In its original concept, Goose Creek would become part of a growing trail network, eventually connecting with the Laurel Creek Trail which is being developed from the Virginia State Line toward Mountain City. Besides the benefits of increased tourism and improvements to public health, similar trails have also shown to be very beneficial to adjacent property owners, and even property owners simply within proximity because of ease of access. Further, pedestrian trails have actually been shown to decrease crime and increase safety because of their open nature and the extra eyes they provide in areas that at one time may have been more remote. All of this adds up to increased property values with very little, if any, negative impact.
With these types of factors in mind, the city council applied for a grant through the Tennessee Department of Transportation several years ago to help build the trail. Having to match only a fraction of the total amount, the council was eventually awarded the grant and have completed the process of identifying a specific route through an engineer, but are now concerned about the next phases of the plan. TDOT is very specific on their standards for trail building and there are also issues with easements to consider, leading the council to call a meeting with. Rea to look at where the city currently stands.
At the council meeting proper, several members of the board voiced their continued support for the Goose Creek Trail project despite the amount of time and frustration that has been involved just to get it to this point. One of those voicing his opinion was Alderman Bob Morrison who felt that some of the better things we do are worth the effort. Mayor Lawrence Keeble seemed to agree, acknowledging that there are many doubts and concerns still to work through and many questions still up in the air, but also expressing his commitment to continue working on the project and get the job done if it can be done.
The trail update aside, there were also several comments on the recent extreme cold, most of which included sentiments of appreciation for the citys employees in the fire department and water department who have been dealing with the consequential problems of freezing pipes and water leaks. Alderman Jerry Jordan in particular expressed his concern for everyone to try to stay warm and safe during such dangerous temperatures.
The Council also looked at a resolution concerning the date of city elections. Currently the next election would be in March of 2015. Because this would be a solely city election at an odd time of the year, there are problems not only with voter turnout but also cost to the city. Currently the town reserves $4,500 per year to cover the $9000 cost of the election. However, if the city were to vote to change the date to that of the November General Election it would save approximately $6,000 and could dramatically increase the turnout.
With that in mind, the council asked City Attorney Steve McEwen to create a resolution changing the date, per new statutes passed by the state in 2010. McEwen noted that several municipalities have already made similar changes with success and that if the resolution passed by a two-thirds vote and was sent on to the state it would still require a public reading and hearing. Because of the many benefits of the change most members of the board seemed in agreement, making it no surprise that the resolution passed unanimously.
That issue resolved, McEwen was called upon again when City Recorder Sheila Shaw asked the council how she should proceed concerning city owned radio repeater equipment still being held by Ray Electronics. Having moved their radio service to a different location, the city is requesting their equipment be returned, but thus far have been unable to contact the company. Having made repeat attempts both by mail and phone, Shaw requested that it be turned over to McEwen as the citys attorney. Feeling that there was no other option, Mayor Keeble officially made the motion to authorize Shaws request, which passed with full support.
The only other item of new business for the evening was the approval of several budget amendments both new and on the consent calendar, most of which were pass-through funds set aside for a specific purpose through a grant or donation. The only amendments that actually warranted discussion involved several insurance payments resulting from city vehicle accidents both this year and last year, as well as one liability premium payment for the city pool.
With nothing further from either the council or the city department heads, Alderman Bob Morrison closed the rather short meeting with a motion to adjourn.
By Jonathan Pleasant