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First reading of city budget passes

The Mountain City council passed the first reading of the annual budget last Tuesday night. Mayor Lawrence Keeble made the point to thank the city’s department heads and employees for their efforts to be frugal with the town’s expenditures. Keeble was very pleased to announce that over the past year Mountain City has been able to stay ahead of the budget, going from an initial deficit to end up in the black. Despite some recent large but necessary renovations to the city water system, city officials are hopeful that this year’s budget will do the same.
One of the ongoing city projects is the replacement of the town’s water meters with a new automated system. Although the change only affects the smaller residential meters, collection distribution superintendent Jerry Horne was present to address a possible further expansion to include the town’s larger meters as well. Serving the water system’s commercial and industrial businesses, several of the 80 remaining meters are over 30 years old.
Horne cited a recent replacement of a faulty meter at Park Dale Mills as an indicator of some of the problems that could arise. Although only a small percentage of the total number served by the Mountain City water department, the larger meters actually make up a very significant portion of the town’s total water consumption. Horne also stated that he would be able to install the new meters himself. Following discussion by the council, a successful motion was made to go ahead with the replacement.
Mayor Keeble announced that the planning commission had selected and approved Tom Eller as the new city building inspector. A paramedic, Eller approached Keeble about the position stating that he was more than willing to get the education necessary to hold the job. Having been put in touch with Jonesborough’s inspector, Eller has already begun familiarizing himself with the field. Having met the approval of several of the city aldermen, Bob Morrison made the motion to accept the planning commission’s recommendation, which passed unanimously. Eager to get started, the council also approved Eller’s enrollment in the training school beginning May 14th.
The city’s new planner, Ronda Sawyer with the First Tennessee Development District, was also present to introduce herself to the council and address a tabled item from last month. A request had been made for a zoning change from residential to business on a parcel of land along Highway 67. The building once housed a pool hall and garage which caused concern that the property may have already been grandfathered in as a business. Because the building is currently being used as a garage and junkyard, one of the adjoining property owners has charged that the building’s appearance has created difficulties selling their house. Denying the zoning change request, the planning commission sent their decision on to the council for approval. The issue was tabled until this month and after reviewing the situation, Sawyer felt that there would be no problem for the council to approve the planning commission’s recommendation. Mayor Keeble made the successful motion to leave the property zoned as residential.
Another tabled item concerning the construction of the Goose Creek Trail running from Ralph Stout Park to the Johnson County Welcome Center was also addressed during the meeting. Although the project received significant grant funding, stipulations by the Tennessee Department of Transportation have created additional costs to the city for engineering fees. Although Mayor Keeble spoke with the Johnson County Trail Association’s Howard Moon, Keeble determined that the project was too far underway to make any major changes. As a result Keeble felt that the city had two options, to either do away with the trail project which would make it very difficult to get future grants, or go ahead with the extra costs. After discussing the subject at length, several aldermen including Bud Crosswhite and Jerry Jordan voiced their opinions that the city had gone too far to simply back out. Agreeing unanimously, the council voted to go ahead with TDOT’s requirements and put up the city’s part of the financing.
Mayor Keeble addressed his support of the city’s recent efforts with the water cut off list. Having switched back to the town’s older policy, the department now cuts water service after two consecutive delinquent bills. This policy is stated on the back of the billing card, and the city will not mail a further notice. Keeble went on to note that most of the cutoffs have been repeat offenders.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.