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Short agenda at city council meeting

By Jonathan Pleasant
The agenda was short at this month’s Mountain City Town Council meeting. Aside from a few presentations and questions from the public, most of the meeting consisted of updates on many of the city’s current projects. Public Works director Bob Eller indicated that recent efforts to improve crosswalks at Mountain City Elementary are almost complete. Signs have been posted, the cross walks repainted, and the county school system has already ordered prefabricated curbing to help direct the traffic flow.
Eller also informed the council that he had been looking ahead to the town’s annual Christmas decorations and feels that a reduction in the number of lights in some areas would make the process of installation much more efficient. Eller proposed cutting approximately 30 of the decorations, while leaving all those hung in the downtown area and most along South Church Street.
Discussion of the decorations began last month when local business owner Brenda Church requested permission to make and display ornate wreathes on the streetlights downtown. At the time Church was hoping to receive donations of materials to create the wreathes, but although the council granted permission, City Recorder Sheila Shaw revealed that many of the original donors have now backed out. Church is still working hard to put together funding, and the council agreed to help with up to $200 to see that the project is able to move forward.
Other updates included an announcement that the installation of a new radio repeater which will dramatically improve service for the city’s police force has been met with delays by the F.C.C. and the recent governmental shutdown. Regardless, city officials are hopeful that the final approval will come through in the next couple of weeks, allowing the new equipment to be put in place and increasing safety and reliability for city personnel.
City Mayor Lawrence Keeble gave a reminder that the Farmer Morgan planning firm will be in town the week of November 4th-8th to take public comments and concerns surrounding the ongoing Doe Mountain Project. Called a “charette,” the firm will occupy a location downtown and will have an open door policy with extensive hours all in an effort to incorporate public input to create a master plan governing Doe Mountain. Keeble also indicated that the Doe Mountain Recreation Authority is very hopeful for an early November soft opening, with plans to hold a ceremony at the Harbin Hill Visitors Center.
During the public comments section of the council meeting, representatives from the local State Farm insurance office made a presentation to the board, identifying a couple of upcoming programs the company is sponsoring in the local school system. Lisa Crowe spoke on the “Celebrate My Drive” contest, which will be open the week of October 16th through the 26th. Students, parents, alumni, and supporters of Johnson County High School can go online to during that period of time and commit to safe driving practices such as waiting to talk or text. Visitors to the site can vote on their favorite school, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash prizes going to the top nominated locations.
In an effort to make the contest fairer, the program is divided between larger schools and smaller schools, and the top prize includes a live concert from Kelly Clarkson. Registration is already ongoing, and students must be at least 14 years old to vote. To show their support each member of the city council signed a banner that will be on display at the school, and Crowe intends to bring further information to the County Commission as well.
Mayor Keeble suggested working with County Mayor Larry Potter to create a joint resolution supporting “Celebrate My Drive,” also in an effort to generate more involvement. Alderman Bob Morrison made a motion to endorse Keeble’s suggestion, which passed unanimously.
The second program that State Farm is sponsoring, known as Street Safe, was presented by Kim Pope, who announced that Johnson County would be the first school in Tennessee to take part. Using specialized simulation equipment, Street Safe allows new drivers to safely experience a variety of driving scenarios ranging from hazardous weather to the impact of impaired driving. With no driver education program now offered at the high school, Pope felt that this would be a critical program for Johnson County. An intense, hands on experience, the cost per student is $30 and will be on site October 26th.
Other public comments included a request from local citizen Blair Lambert who brought up flooding issues on Anderson Road Drive. Partially in the county and partially in the city, Mayor Keeble indicated that the board was aware of problems on the street, including a potential need for replacement of several large culverts. However, with several parties involved, including one private organization, the work will take time to get underway.
The council also heard a request from Nancy Wills to hold a roadblock to generate funding to provide heating assistance for seniors. Wills was not able to be present, but did submit a written request to City Recorder Sheila Shaw. Showing their full support, Alderman Morrison made a successful motion to allow the roadblock.
Police Chief Denver Church came before the council after revealing that one of the city’s officers had irresponsibly discharged his firearm. Following a brief discussion of the issue, Alderman Morrison made a motion to allow Church to handle the situation as he felt necessary. Morrison’s motion passed unanimously.
Other business included an effort to begin the bidding process on the second phase of the city’s ongoing telemetry project for the water system, and a discussion of repairs needed at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Both of these projects involved engineer Brian Fredrick who has been a steadfast part of the city’s efforts to improve its water and sewer systems.
City Attorney Steve McEwen was one of the last officials to address the board, pointing out an upcoming Supreme Court case that may affect the city’s ability to traditionally open their meetings in prayer. McEwen stated that the case is scheduled to be heard in the fall term of the court and that depending on the outcome could force the city to alter their practices. The members of the board asserted their hope to continue the practice of opening the meeting in prayer and noted that there would be efforts made to incorporate some form regardless of the results. With nothing further to discuss, Alderman Morrison made the motion to adjourn.