By Marlana Ward
The room was crowded and the agenda full as the Mountain City Board of Mayor and Aldermen met on November 14, 2017.
The meeting began with a special proclamation presented to the family of former mayor of Mountain City, Ralph G. Stout. The proclamation recognized Stout’s dedication to the town and his many years of service to Mountain City as the mayor named November 14, 2017 as Ralph G. Stout Day. Stout’s wife Margie came to the front of the room to receive a framed, commemorative certificate given from Alderman Bob Morrison on behalf of the town.
As business began, the first person invited to the podium was Ron McCollum, a representative from a phone system company that proposed to update city hall’s phones at a savings to the town. McCollum explained that the city’s current phone system was very dated and how the new system could improve communications as well as save the town money the first month it is installed. Some of the department supervisors asked about the possibility of the system interfering with the way their department communications were set up but McCollum explained that the new phones would only be installed in city hall and would not affect operations in other parts of the town’s infrastructure. Mayor Kevin Parsons asked McCollum to prepare a presentation for review by the board members and to return next month when the group would be better able to make a decision.
Community member Mary Gale approached the podium next to share an inspiration and plan for work to be done at the Cunningham Park, which Gale holds special fondness for. Gale first shared photos of the new basketball goals that were installed at the park as a result of a grant she had applied for and gained for the town. She shared how the kids who played at that park were enjoying the new goals and surface greatly and how this has driven her to seek out more improvements for the small park.
Gale explained how the problem that worried her now at the park was the city pool situation. She shared how when the pool’s pump was running, an exorbitant amount of water was lost every hour and no one knew where the leaked water ended up. Gale shared a vision she had for the pool’s much needed improvements and went a step further by putting forth a fund raising plan in which she would be the first donator. Gale explained how she would like the town to start an account especially for pool renovations. She stated that she would give the first thousand dollars to the account, and if the town would match it, she would give another $1,000 up to $10,000 matched which would equal the first $20,000 for the project. Gale said that she would apply for grants but how she hoped that the community would become involved with the project. “If each family would give only $1 for each child or grandchild they have had that has enjoyed the pool, it could make a big difference,” she said. Gale added that she would apply for grants for the project as available but that she would need some help with documentation from the city concerning the pool’s official numbers.
Finally Gale also expressed a desire to see a wheel-chair accessible swing such as the one recently installed at Ralph Stout Park added to Cunningham Park. She also informed the board of another type of swing in which the caregiver and child could swing facing one another. “If you have ever been to the park and seen the joy of a mother and child swinging, you can imagine how what that would look like,” she added. The mayor thanked her for her dedication to the town and all board members expressed their appreciation and acceptance of her proposals.
Louis Spearman next addressed the board with an update on a community driven account to benefit town employees hurt on the job. Spearman wanted to clarify that the funds given to the proposed account would not be given to those hurt before the account’s creation but meant for future incidents. Spearman stated that as of now, they had been unable to find a suitable trustee for the account but how Mr. Brookshire and his bank had been very helpful with information and advice concerning the account. Mayor Parsons again expressed his appreciation for the idea and for the community’s willingness to help.
Spearman also asked the board to once again review a situation with a doublewide trailer located near his home, which he states is not in compliance with the town’s regulations and being inhabited without authorization. The mayor asked City Attorney George Wright to again review the situation and determine if anything could be done.
When it came time for alderman reports, Alderman Bob Morrison thanked the town employees for ensuring a safe and successful Halloween night in the town. Alderman Jerry Jordan, who attended the meeting via phone as he was physically unable to be present, updated everyone on his condition and his hope that he would be back for next month’s meeting.
Police Chief Denver Church came to ask the board’s permission to issue a termination of employment for the two officers who had been recently arrested, one of which had already agreed to a plea bargain with the state. The board agreed that the employment of the two should be terminated and gave authorization for the positions to be advertised and new policemen hired for the department. Chief Church also requested permission to alter the town’s policies for violations and repercussions as directed and advised by other state agencies. This was approved unanimously.
Another item addressed by Chief Church was the increased traffic through east Mountain City as a result of the bridge construction at Johnson County High School. He acknowledged a large increase of bus traffic in the area and how it may affect traffic.
In other department business, Public Works Director Gary Phillips updated the board about the delayed repairs to the traffic signal at the Shouns Crossroads. He stated that parts had to be ordered for the repair and that he would once again contact the appropriate people to get that done.
Mayor Parsons brought up the need for Benny Simcox and the utility district that he oversees to use a large amount of water to flush their lines. The need was recognized and Simcox assured the board that he would monitor the water used and report the total to the town.
Next Mayor Parsons informed the board that he had been approached by a private individual who wished to rent the downstairs of the building that would house the town’s skating rink. Parsons explained how he discovered it was not possible for the county to waive the property tax costs of the property and his difficulty in acquiring insurance for the building. He explained how he would propose the rent for the basement be at least the amount needed to cover the taxes and how the individual would obtain insurance for his investments of classic cars which he planned to house in the downstairs area if approved. Alderman Bob Morrison issued a motion which would allow the mayor to negotiate the rental agreement but with the understanding that if the town moves forward with the skating rink, the individual would have to remove their property from the location. The vote was a unanimous yes.
City Attorney George Wright updated the board with the progress on informing property owners of the easements which would be affected with the proposed water station to be located at Pedro Shoun Road. He stated that he would need to once again send letters to the property owners, making them aware of maps and documentation to be reviewed at city hall concerning the project. Water Plants Manager Andy Garland stated that he had taken County Mayor Larry Potter to Pedro Shoun Road to review the situation and that how Mayor Potter had expressed a willingness to request a 50×50 portion of the county’s property be sold to the city when he would meet with the county commission in November. Collection-Distribution Superintendent Chris Hook informed the board that the construction company that would be involved with the pump station project is ready to roll as soon as the needed property and permissions were granted.
The meeting returned to agenda items with the town’s contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee being extended. City Recorder Sheila Shaw informed the board that the increase in insurance cost would only be 6.5 percent, which was much less than the 20 percent she had allotted for in her budget. This increase means the insurance that currently costs $585.93 would now be $624.24 for employees. The board voted unanimously to continue with BlueCross BlueShield.
Shaw then told the board that the bids for the Economic Development project had come in way over the allotted budget amount. While the town had previously approved around $250,000 for the town’s portion of the costs, due to the high bid amounts, the cost would be over $600,000. Mayor Parsons explained how this jump in cost could be attributed to the construction industries trend towards picking and choosing which projects to take on making it harder to find willing companies to compete for the business. Frizell Construction provided the lowest bid. The boards expressed how there was no other option and agreed to the budget increase.
In other business, a bid was awarded to Iron Mountain Construction Company for the Pedro Shoun Lane waterline replacement project with an additional $10,000 for incidental costs in case of unforeseen increased costs. The 2012 International Building Code, Residential Code, Plumbing Code, Fuel Gas Code, Mechanical Code, and Energy Conservation Code were adopted by the town. Shaw explained how the code in place by the town had to have been created within seven years and that up until now the town had been using the code from 2009.
Emergency Management Director Jason Blevins came to the podium to ask the board to approve the Johnson County Hazard Mitigation Plan for the year. Blevins stated that the plan addressed the department’s response plans and jurisdiction during natural disasters such as flooding within the town. The plan was approved.
Next the need for an updated software system for the police department’s incident reports was discussed. Chief Church explained how the opportunity arose for the town to switch to the same system which the sheriff’s department uses at a fraction of the cost. The reduced price was due to the town’s ability to “piggy-back” off the sheriff department’s system while still having their own hard drives to keep records on. Recorder Shaw echoed the need for and great price of the proposed system. The change was approved unanimously.
Last for the evening was the request of the county mayor for the city to waive the tap connection fee for the LED bulb company locating in the industrial park. Mayor Parsons explained that he had looked into it but that it was not legally possible for the town to waive such a fee. Alderman Morrison suggested that the town look into the possibility of working out a trade with the company for bulbs to replace the outdated bulbs currently used in town offices in exchange for the fee cost. Mayor Parsons asked Shaw and Wright to look into the legality of such a proposal.
The next meeting of the Mountain City Board of Mayor and Aldermen will be on December 5th at 6:30 pm at the Mountain City Town Hall.