The first item of business at the Lookout Mountain, Tenn., Commission's meeting in June pertained to the budget; the 2018-2019 budget for the town passed on first reading. Because the town has historically relied on the Hall tax, which is being phased out, a property tax increase of 3.3 percent is planned. That will increase the tax rate from 1.83 to 1.89 per $100 of assessed value.
Town Consultant Dwight Montague shared highlights of the new $3.65 million operating budget. It includes a 2 percent pay increase for employees other than the fire and police departments; Fire and Police Chief Chuck Wells created a standardized chart to address this for his department.
A 10 percent increase is anticipated for property liability insurance, as well as a 15 percent increase for medical insurance. Both the public works department and the fire and police department will each replace one vehicle, and new turn out gear for the firefighters will cost $30,000. The vehicles that the town is replacing will be declared surplus and will be listed on govdeals.com for bid.
Some paving will be done after WWTA completes making road cuts, and the budget includes $200,000 for this work. The budget includes $80,000 for repairs to correct water problems at the Commons.
The public works department plans to make improvements this year. Walker Jones, commissioner of public works, said that new, more attractive trash receptacles will be installed at Point Park, and many traffic and street signs are in the process of being replaced. Also, old signs that are no longer needed or are unsightly are being removed. It was noted that "Resident Parking Only" signs must now be approved by the commissioners before individuals can put them up. Chief Wells said that stenciling on the road will replace some of the signs around Sunset Rock.
Money in the paving budget is used not only for paving, but also for maintenance such as striping, reflectors, and improvements to ditches alongside the roads and repairs. The work to correct a dip in Bartram Road will begin soon, along with repairs to potholes and sink holes. A new and better method will be used for these road repairs, said the commissioner
The statistics from the Fire and Police Department in May were compiled by Chief Wells. They show that police answered 244 calls during the month, 10 assist citizen calls and 28 calls to 911. Police patrolled 5,695 miles and answered 11 burglar alarms, all false. There was one auto accident with no injuries, 94 traffic stops made and 13 parking citations issued. There were 12 medical calls in Tennessee and five assists in Georgia. Three fire alarms were all false.
A decline in speeding has been credited to an increase in traffic stops. Other issues have also been discovered when vehicles have been pulled over for offenses. During the month, police found "non-mountain residents doing bad things," said Commissioner of Fire and Police Jim Bentley. Thefts of over $2,500 and another over $1,000 were discovered, along with possession of burglary tools, drug paraphernalia and marijuana during stops for traffic violations.
Commissioner Bentley reminded citizens that mountain stickers are required for residents of the town, and they are now past due. The police have received noise complaints about construction and lawn crews starting too early. The town’s noise ordinance specifies that construction can begin at 6 a.m. and lawnmowers and blowers cannot be used before 8 a.m.
There are two new employees in the Police and Fire Department: Adam Hurst, a police officer and firefighter; and Travis Hullender, a licensed paramedic and a firefighter who is also attending the police academy. Duane Schermerhorn was promoted to lieutenant of fire and police, and Don Masengale was promoted from lieutenant to captain. Lang Montague completed all required training and is now a Tennessee state certified fire fighter.
Commons Camp is going smoothly, said Commissioner of Parks and Playgrounds Brooke Pippenger. The rec board is now in the process of planning for the soccer season, and sign-ups have already started for the fall. The fields at the Commons have muddy areas caused by excessive rain. Those areas will be roped off while they are being rehabilitated, and people are asked to stay off of them. Sod will also be put on Johnson Field this summer.
During the summer break, LMS principal Ruth White filled a few staff vacancies, including hiring Carol Martin for the Literacy Lab. Lee Cook managed the library this summer. Upgrades to the primary playground have been delayed by the large amount of rain this summer. Teachers return to school on August 2, and the first day for students will be August 8.
Cara Lisa Montgomery, a town resident, asked the commission for permission to operate a short term rental unit behind her house. She was told that the town has an ordinance in place that prohibits these rentals except in the commercial district. Town Attorney Brian Smith will examine the issue further as to how it relates to a state law concerning short term rentals.
Mayor Carol Mutter announced that the July commission meeting will be postponed until July 24 at 5 p.m. The amount of Hall tax that the town will receive should be known by then. When that information is finalized, the budget may be amended, she said.