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City starts new year with business as usual

By Jonathan Pleasant
It was a short but varied agenda for the Town of Mountain City at this month’s council meeting. With alderman Kenny Icenhour absent due to an illness in his family, one of the biggest issues was actually postponed until next month. Mayor Lawrence Keeble brought up the subject of closing portions of down town for festivals and other activities. The issue has been ongoing as more and more groups and organizations have made requests. Keeble’s biggest concern was for activities conducted during the day time hours, such as the annual Sunflower festival.
While the Mayor indicated that he had no problem with that particular event, increasing numbers of other activities downtown have created fears of interrupting or harming businesses along Main Street. Keeble went on to say that he felt evening events, like the Johnson County Knights annual Car Show and Joe Barlow Benefit, would be fine, as long as they fell after regular business hours. The council took no direct action, following a request by Vice-Mayor Jerry Jordan to postpone establishing a policy until the full council could consider it.
Mayor Keeble also announced that members of the city government had met with an engineer to discuss the future of a Roadscapes grant that the city has received. Used to install landscaping planters in the downtown area, the TDOT grant has been in the works for several years but now the city must move forward to receive the money. One of the big issues that was discussed was the number of planters and their locations. After deciding to eliminate several in potentially troubling spots, Keeble indicated that a letter would be sent to TDOT for their approval.
City Recorder Sheila Shaw informed the board that the city had also been approved for their annual Governor’s Highway Safety Grant, issued to the city police department. Police Chief Denver Church was on hand to discuss the money, which he intends to use toward the purchase of onboard digital cameras for six of the city’s police cars.
Having looked at several options, including leasing the cameras, Church explained to the council that the best alternative was simply to buy the cameras outright. At just over $21,000, the state grant would not cover the full cost of the purchase but with $8,000 set aside in the department’s budget, Church only requested the extra money necessary for installation of the devices. Because of the camera’s importance in providing a record of what happens on the road, the council voted unanimously to approve the budget amendment and accept the grant.
Church was also asked about the continuing problem with heavy thru truck traffic on old Highway 91. Handed over to the city after the completion of the new 91 bypass, city officials have been monitoring the road to identify if there is still a problem and to what degree. Mayor Keeble stated that he has seen at least one logging truck use the street, but that he had not noticed much more than that. While Church admitted that there had not been a full 24-hour observation conducted on the road, he had been directing officers to watch for trucks, but did not find any serious violations. Church went on to say that he had also requested the Tennessee Highway Patrol to monitor as well.
Water Plants Manager Andy Garland made a couple of requests to the council. The first concerned funding for an ongoing education requirement set by the state. Garland explained that he had four operators needing to attend the continuing education school in April and one employee that would need the training from Murfreesboro now. Although the city budgets $1000 each year, Garland indicated that he did not have enough funding to cover the costs of the hotel and to pay for the two-day school for all four employees. Because the education is required, alderman Bob Morrison made the motion to approve Garland’s request for $1,600. Alderman Bud Crosswhite seconded he motion, which received full support.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.