Wednesday, December 21, 2011
The Fort Oglethorpe City Council, during its last regularly scheduled meeting for 2011, dealt primarily with issues concerning fluids.
Agenda items included approval of passing along an increase in water and sewer rates, retiring several sewer pump stations, approving the master plan for a housing development amid concerns of flooding and amending the city’s alcoholic beverage ordinance.
The water and sewer rate increase was in response to the city being charged more for potable water by Tennessee American Water and for use of the Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant, owned by the city of Chattanooga. Rates are subject to such periodic adjustment, according to City Manager Ron Goulart, and are figured on a base rate for both water and sewer that includes the first 2,000 gallons billed for each service.
Changes which go into effect Jan. 1, 2012, will increase residential base rates for those living inside the city limits by $1.75 to a total of $26.20. Commercial rates will increase by $2.13 for the initial 2,000 gallons of service to a new minimum bill of $34.01.
Goulart said those outside the city but using its sewer system will see their minimum bill increase by $1.02 for residential users and $1.27 for commercial accounts.
The resolution to approve the rate increase was passed 4-1, with Councilman Charles Sharrock casting the sole dissenting vote.
In separate sewer-related action, the council was unanimous in authorizing engineering firm Arcadis to proceed with projects at Mineral Avenue, Lynnwood and Steel Estates.
Jeff Long, the city’s director of public works and the District 1 representative on the Catoosa County Commission, said complaints about sewers raised at the most recent commission meeting were directly related to one of Fort Oglehtorpe’s pump stations.
Each station is visually checked on a daily basis to see if alarm signals (flashing lights) have been triggered by a pump failure, he said. But when the Steel Road pump failed, no alarm was triggered and for several days raw sewage overflowed the station and into a nearby creek before the situation was addressed.
Goulart said the engineering work Arcadis is undertaking, when complete, will be another step in shifting the utility to a gravity flow sewer system and will eliminate the need for pump stations.
Flooding buildings and roads, not overflowing pump stations, was the concern raised about a major expansion of Lakeshore Cove Apartments, located near Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School.
The council earlier this year granted a request to rezone the property from R-3 (single family, residential) to PM (planned development-mixed use) to allow construction of apartments as Phase 3 of that project.
PM zoning requires builders not only meet all codes but also submit comprehensive plans showing how buildings will look, will be integrated into their surroundings and will function as both a free-standing neighborhood and as part of the overall community.
Plans for the development include 14 three-story buildings accommodating 320 units and 658 parking spaces on about 18 acres.
Larry Reed, owner of apartments built as Phase 2 of Lakeshore Cove, and Mike Ellis, manager of that complex, objected to the proposed master plan, saying it would create traffic and flooding problems.
Ellis said recent rains caused a detention pond to overflow, something that could be worsened when the pond is filled and paved for RV parking.
“If the pond is filled in, that water will go into the apartments,” he said.
Wayne McCoy, an engineer and partner in the proposed high-density development, replied that the detention pond was never intended as a permanent fixture. It was designed to act as a sediment basin for water that is discharged into the nearby retention pond — the small lake where ducks and herons are regular visitors.
After listening to both sides of the issue, the council unanimously approved the master plan that will allow the $20 million project to proceed.
The council also heard, on first reading, proposed amendments to the city’s ordinance regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages.
Many of the changes would clarify or reduce some requirements for obtaining a license while at the same time setting stricter guidelines for business partnerships seeking a license to sell alcoholic beverages.
While most changes would be minor, there could be one major addition to the ordinance if the sale of beer or wine “samples” is adopted. The sample license fee would cost $200 annually and would allow giving or selling customers small amounts for on-premise consumption.
The law would allow stores that have growler stations where customers can fill containers from kegs of craft and microbrewery beers and ales to offer such samples. It would also allow customers to sample wines before committing to the purchase of a full bottle.
The proposed ordinance specifies that these samples could not exceed 1 ounce and that an individual could be served no more than three such samples within a 24-hour period.
The agenda for the council’s first meeting of 2012, scheduled for Jan. 9, is expected to include a second reading of the draft amendment. Discussion of the proposed amendment will occur when it is presented for a third and final reading.
In other business:
n Fort Oglethorpe’s public employees will receive larger Christmas bonuses this year.
City Manager Ron Goulart proposed offering $40 gift cards to employees rather than spending $3,500 that remained in the city’s contingency fund to host a Christmas party, saying the cards had been popular last year.
But rather than a $40 bonus, Councilman Eddie Stinnett said he felt the city’s workers deserved more and asked that the bonus be upped to $100 per employee.
Councilman Charles Sharrock objected to the use of gift cards, saying cash might be more appreciated.
Goulart said a cash bonus would be subject to withholdings the same as salary or overtime pay, while a gift card would be given tax-free. The effective difference would be that a $100 cash bonus would be roughly equal to $80 given in the form of a gift card.
The council approved the higher bonus amount, in the form of a $100 gift card, with the additional $60 per worker being taken from departmental budgets.
Goulart said he will be able to shift money from the contingency fund earlier in the coming year to assure a ready reserve is on hand for the annual bonus.
n Before agreeing to cancel their scheduled Dec. 26 meeting, the city council approved spending $75,800 of special purpose local option sales tax funds to purchase a backhoe. This new piece of John Deere equipment will replace a backhoe that has been in service for 18 years.
The council approved spending nearly $5,000 to repair a brush truck and slightly more than $8,000 to replace the pump on a sewer jet truck.
The purchase of a small street sweeper from the city of Rossville was also OK’d by the council. For $9,000 the city is buying a used miniature sweeper, worth about $65,000 if new, that has been used for fewer than 140 hours.
This piece of equipment is small enough to be used on the city’s walking trails and sidewalks, as well as parking lots and the space between curbs and traffic lanes.