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Spearman proposes citizen-funded account for Mountain City police, firefighters, etc. that are hurt on the job

By Marlana Ward

The Mountain City Board of Mayor and Aldermen met for their regular, monthly meeting on Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017.  All members were in attendance as well as department supervisors and interested citizens.
Mountain City resident Lewis Spearman approached the board to present an idea that could benefit town employees who find themselves in a tough financial situation after being hurt on the job.  Spearman explained how the current plight of city policeman, Ken Lane, brought his attention to this need for community support.  Spearman shared the story of how Officer Lane was injured while making an arrest.  Lane suffered a torn rotator cuff and had to wait for several weeks until Worker’s Compensation took effect to have surgery.  Lane’s doctor stated that the officer’s shoulder is worse after the surgery and Lane is still unable to work due to the injury.
While Worker’s Compensation does provide some support, employees find themselves at a 30 percent decrease in income while on the program.  A loss of income this size can place employees and their families in a financially difficult situation.  Spearman shared how even though Lane had purchased the AFLAC coverage for disability for such emergencies, the insurance policy would not cover disability due to injuries sustained while on the job.
Spearman’s idea is to begin a publicly funded account at a local bank to benefit these town employees who find themselves facing financial stress after being hurt while serving the town.  Spearman stated that while he knew the town itself could not authorize an account to be made, he wanted to be up front about the citizens’ intent with the account and ask for the town’s approval in moving forward with the plan.  Mayor Kevin Parsons reiterated that no town funds would be placed in the account and that the account would not be an official town account.  Spearman expressed his understanding of the town’s restrictions and again expressed that this was to be something that some residents of the city wanted to do to help the town’s officers, firefighters, and other public works employees.  The board voiced their gratitude to Spearman and spoke of their confidence in his ability to establish and oversee the project.
While he had the floor, Spearman took the opportunity to ask about a situation on Ivy Street he had discussed with the board previously.  The property in question had been ordered to comply with city ordinances regarding appearance and habitability by court order.  Spearman informed the council that despite reporting compliance, the owner of the property had failed to perform the necessary improvements.  Mayor Parsons stated that he believed the town to have done all they could legally do regarding the situation given the current court orders in effect.  City Attorney George Wright said that there could be past orders still in effect on the property and Spearman was encouraged to meet with Wright for further discussion of the matter.
Ted Gentry, a city resident who has been assisting the town with the proposed skating rink project, came to the podium to discuss his progress.  Gentry shared that he had been busy sorting through the many skates that had been donated to the town.  He stated that because pairing the skates was not as simple as finding two of the same size and that it would take some time to give an accurate count of usable pairs of skates possessed by the town.  Gentry has begun the tedious work and has successfully refurbished 35 pairs of skates so far.  When asked, Gentry stated that the town would need at least 350 pairs of various sized skates to feasibly begin a successful rink.  He intends to continue his work on the skate project and give further updates to the board as needed.
During the time when aldermen bring forth concerns for discussion, Vice Mayor Jerry Jordan shared the concerns of citizens regarding trees located along Crestwood and adjoining streets.  Jordan said that he had been approached about the town’s ability to assist with tree trimming on the properties although they were not in the power lines. Some residents saw the trees’ shedding and limb loss as liabilities during winter snow removal efforts.  Mayor Parsons suggested that any concerned residents see street superintendent, Gary Phillips, about the town’s responsibility in each situation.
Alderman Bob Morrison expressed his gratitude in advance to the town employees’ dedication and cooperation in seeing that the public partaking in Halloween activities within Mountain City are kept safe.
City Recorder Sheila Shaw reported that the state had awarded contracts to Adam’s Contracting for the bridges to be built on Fairground Lane and Circle Drive.  Shaw reminded the board that the town’s 1.34 million dollar portion of the financial agreement had already been paid.  She stated that contractually, the work must be completed by April 30, 2018.
Shaw also shared with the board that the Gooseneck Trail issues regarding the sidewalks and driveway entrances at Elizabethton Federal and Atwood Street were still being debated amongst the state, the construction company, and engineers.  The state has found the work unsatisfactory and insists the construction company tear out and reinstall the sidewalks in these areas.  There have been no attempts by the company to correct the issues at this time.
Also along the Gooseneck Trail, barriers that have been placed to keep motorized vehicles off the trail continue to be tampered with and destroyed.  The board decided to look into the feasibility of installing a fence along the portion of the trail where vehicles have been observed illegally traveling on the trail to further discourage entry.  It was also asked about the cameras that are to be installed and monitored at the park.  Shaw stated that internet must be installed at the park for the cameras to function and that Charter Internet had not been returning contact regarding the installation.  Mayor Parsons instructed Shaw to contact Skyline/Skybest about taking on the project as the company is eager to work in Mountain City and may provide better service at a better rate for the town.  Mayor Parsons also requested that Police Chief Denver Church increase police patrols of the park to discourage destructive behaviors.
Street Superintendent Gary Phillips came to the podium to ask the board’s opinion about street repairs to be made on Stout Road.  Phillips shared that the county is currently repairing their portion of the road and that it may be in the town’s best interest to contract with the county to repair the 3/10th of a mile the town is responsible for while they are in the area.  The board asked Recorder Shaw about the availability of funds for such a project.  Shaw reported that there was a $50,000 surplus from the Village Square bridge project but that those funds needed to be used in the repair of the parking lots and driveways of the businesses that allowed the town to redirect traffic through that area during the bridge construction.  Phillips agreed that the town should first keep their word to the businesses that allowed the increased traffic on their property.  Alderman Bob Morrison put for the motion that because of the time constrictions on the proposed road improvements due to availability and weather, Mayor Parsons and Recorder Shaw be given the authority to review estimates and funds to make a decision on behalf of the town regarding the repairs.  The motion was seconded by Alderman Bud Crosswhite and passed unanimously.
Phillips went on to update the board about continued work to repair the traffic signals at the Shouns Crossroads intersection.   He stated that this was the main area of storm damage received by the city and that all repairs should be completed soon.  Phillips also stated that two new utility poles would soon be placed along Purdue Lane as previously discussed in earlier meetings.
Water Plant Manager Andy Garland asked about progress made in discussions about the relocation of the Dry Run water tank.  It was stated that estimates were still being made as to which solution, a new road to be made at the existing property or acquiring of a new location for the tank, would be more cost effective for the town.
Mayor Parsons asked all members of the board to review a proposed resolution to express Mountain City’s appreciation and support for the National Park System.  Several board members expressed their gladness that the town and the park system cooperate and compliment each other well.  The motion for approving the resolution carried unanimously.
The minutes and budget ordinances brought before the board in September’s meeting were approved.  The only new budget ordinance introduced was an additional $3,983 needed to supplement the town’s property insurance due to the acquisition of assets from the Dry Run Utility District.  The increase was deemed necessary and approved by all members.
The next meeting of the Mountain City Board of Mayor and Alderman will take place on November 14th at 6:30 pm.