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Sheila Shaw is new city recorder; City Council says doublewide must be removed from property

The first regularly held city council meeting for newly elected Mountain City Mayor Lawrence Keeble brought with it several changes to the face of city politics. The big topic of the night was the nomination of Sheila Shaw to Terry Reece’s long running position as city recorder. Reece, who will be retiring in June after more than 20 years with the city, currently holds both the job of recorder and city judge. New regulations now prevent any employee from holding double positions, and Mayor Keeble opened up the topic with a four part motion including his desire to promote a new recorder from within the city’s current employees.
Keeble personally suggested Shaw for the job, citing her experience and capability. Alderman Kenny Icenhour verbally stated his support for Shaw, and a motion was made to accept her for the job. The council supported the motion three to two, with newly elected Alderman Jerry Jordan along with Alderman Bob Morrison voting against. Keeble continued with a discussion of the city judge position, opening the topic to discussion.
Because of new judicial regulations that have reduced the amount of hearings that the city conducts there were several questions about the type of person that would best fill the position. There is no regulation currently requiring that the city judge be an attorney but several council members voiced their desire to try to hire someone with a background in law. This led to a discussion of setting a salary along with how to advertise the position with Alderman Morrison voicing his support for taking outside applications.
The council eventually decided to hold a workshop to work out the details of the city judge position. Reece will stay with the city until the end of June and will assist the new employees over the next year. Because of the nature of the work, both employees with have to work closely together.
Also changing hands during this month’s meeting was the position of vice mayor, which had been held for the past two years by Kenny Icenhour. As has been traditionally done, Mayor Keeble suggested appointing Jerry Jordan, who secured the highest number of votes in the alderman race. This decision was agreed upon by the entire council, who moved to make the change.
There were also several other employment changes within other departments along with the selection of a new city building inspector. Under the recommendation of the city planning commission, Eric M. Clifton has been hired as building inspector and has one year to complete his certification. The decision to hire Clifton was agreed upon unanimously, with Alderman Bud Crosswhite voicing personal support.
During the department head reports, collection distribution superintendent Jerry Horne informed the council that he has an employee with a long-term, ongoing medical issue and would like to hire an individual to a temporary position. Following some questions about salary rates, the council approved the hire. Public works director Bob Eller also requested that the council begin the process of advertising for a new mechanic. The position would require someone ASC certified. The Council approved unanimously.
Also during department reports wastewater plant manager Danny Sims requested a clarification concerning last month’s decision to do a shared lab sampling with N&N Ball and Roller concerning possible illegal dumping. Sims felt that one sample would not be sufficient to determine the problem and requested the ability to do shared random sampling at any time. After discussing the issue the council decided that this would be the best course of action.
Answering to the concerns of several city residents, Alderman Icenhour was disappointed to announce that Mountain City does not qualify for the establishment of a YMCA, which requires a population of at least 25,000. Realizing this, Icenhour suggested that the best thing the city could do would be to continue supporting the community center in becoming an even better facility. Icenhour continued by saying that he, along with other city officials, were working very diligently to attract new business to the town wherever it could be found. The alderman stated, “We are really trying but it takes people to be willing to come here.”
Possibly the most controversial topic of the night was the ongoing battle over the placement of a doublewide home on Ivy Street. A group of concerned citizens approached the council with information regarding the decision of the board of zoning appeals concerning the home. Initially seeking several presentations from various residents of the neighborhood, Mayor Keeble respectfully asked the group to choose a single spokesperson to present. Because of the ongoing nature of the subject, two presentations were allowed, one by Silvia Spearman and the other by Margaret Thacker.
Spearman began her presentation by citing her successful background in real estate. Spearman went on to express her concerns about the damage that the presence of the trailer has had on property values in the neighborhood. Listing the findings of property appraiser Kim Vest of Jonesborough, Spearman stated that any home on Ivy and Spruce streets which directly faces the doublewide is now suffering from an immediate 15% decrease in value. Spearman went on to say that even houses farther away could suffer 5-10% decreases, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in value loss. Calling the doublewide “a blight on the community,” Spearman questioned, “Who is going to buy a house in a neighborhood where something less desirable is just a couple of doors down?”
In her presentation, Thacker reminded the council of several of the facts involved in the case and also informed everyone of the decision of the board of zoning appeals, which held a meeting in March. Looking at all the evidence presented, the board made the decision that the doublewide is an illegal installation and prescribed penalties toward Randy Glenn, the owner of the home, namely the removal of the structure from his property. Thacker went on to remind the council that the city is obligated to uphold the board’s decision in condemning an illegal installation in its commitment to promote the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of the community.
Following the end of the presentations, Mayor Keeble questioned City Attorney George Wright concerning his opinion of the situation. Wright felt that there was sufficient evidence to enforce the actions of the planning commission and Alderman Morrison then made a motion to enforce the decision, which was approved unanimously.
Other statements of oral communications by city residents included a request by Mickey Widener to hold the Little League parade on the Saturday of opening day and also a twofold request by Dan Lipford to hold a cruise-in classic car and bike show downtown on the 19th of August at 6 p.m. The event would serve as a fundraiser for the Jeff Shaw and Joe Barlow Scholarships. The council agreed to each of these requests. In relation to the huge success of the event over the past few years, Lipford went on to request that the classic cars and bikes could park on Main Street on Friday nights during the warm months, starting each week at 6 pm. The council agreed as long as the group would be flexible about using Ralph Stout Park as a backup in the case that an occasion comes up which requires downtown. Alderman Jordan made the motion to accept and the decision was agreed upon unanimously.
Ending a lengthy but important meeting, a motion was made to adjourn by alderman Bob Morrison.