Thursday, November 1, 2012
Candidates for the Signal Mountain Town Council recently sounded off about fiscal responsibility, business and the future of the mountaintop community at a political forum held at Alexian Town Hall.
Five candidates are running for the three open seats on the Council: incumbent Councilwoman Annette Allen, Joseph Dumas, incumbent Mayor Bill Lusk, Frank Preston and incumbent Councilman Bill Wallace. Early voting ends Nov. 1, with official Election Day Nov. 6.
Each had two minutes to voice their opinions on the following topics:
Addressing the two most important challenges facing Signal Mountain
Allen said the two most important challenges are meeting infrastructure needs and lifting the sewer moratorium to stop polluting the Tennessee River. By lifting the moratorium, the town could broaden the residential and commercial tax base, she said.
Dumas said town finances and communication to citizens are the two most important issues. Taxes have nearly doubled in the past 12 years, according to him, growing by 96 percent since 2012. The agenda meetings held in the mornings need to be changed to a time suitable for any citizen to come if they wish to, he added.
Lusk focused on getting “meaningful” repair to Highway 127, insisting that it is a lifeline to the community that is needed by residents and businesses alike. The second most important issue is “smart growth and the infrastructure to support it,” he said.
Preston called for good planning so that the town can meet oncoming challenges — overcrowded schools, heavier traffic and the sewer moratorium — connected with the community’s growth. Secondly, he reached out to the annexed properties that will come into the town Dec. 31, saying the town needs to work with them in a “positive” way to accommodate the new residents.
Wallace said it is important to broaden the tax base through “meaningful, thoughtful and respectful growth and development.” Two issues important to that goal are instituting the new subdivision regulations and lifting the sewer moratorium, he said.
Proposed strategies to attract new business to Signal Mountain
Allen proposed creating a “one-stop shop” for information for people who want to start a business on the mountain. She also said she would be interested in working on a project to find what types of businesses are needed to fill specific markets on the mountain.
Dumas said he wants to protect existing businesses so they can grow and thrive, while finding ways to attract news businesses as well. Maintaining low property taxes automatically makes the town business-friendly, he said. Dumas also proposed open communication between town officials and the small-business families of the mountain.
Lusk noted that the number of commercial properties on Signal is limited, but creating opportunities and encouraging development of those properties that are not in use is important.
Preston said the town should think about bringing in businesses that will attract non-residents up the mountain to eat and shop. He also suggested redesigning and redeveloping Signal’s commercial area to make it more attractive to potential customers.
Wallace emphasized the importance of recruiting businesses that complement the businesses already on the mountain as well as the lifestyle of the community’s residents. That way, he said, the town might be able to avoid harmful competition for existing business.
Five-year vision for Signal Mountain
Allen said in five years she wants a specific plan with the Tennessee Department of Transportation for repairing the “road up the mountain” (Highway 127). She said she wants to conserve Signal’s parklands and improve the water quality of the town’s streams.
Dumas refrained from expressing a personal vision, saying he wants to enable the vision of Signal’s citizens. He added that he would like to see the town in good financial shape, which includes fewer vacant storefronts.
Lusk said he would like to see the town “much the way it is,” but he wants to improve recreational facilities, including finding more field space for kids’ sports, adding bike and pedestrian facilities, bring sidewalks in Old Town up to Americans with Disability Act-mandated standards and see attractive streetscaping “from the traffic light all the way through the commercial district.”
Preston said he wants to see vast improvements to James Boulevard and for the area surrounding to “look like Old Town.” He added that he would like to see the town have more green space for families and a redeveloped commercial area.
Wallace said he wants to see the town look better than “a highway running through strip malls.” He referred to a plan that was made to enhance the town three or four years ago that calls for medians, green space and landscaping in the business area and the town, but noted that nothing has been done with it yet.
Help for those that can’t drive to election polls
Home Helpers of Signal Mountain, a non-medical home care company, is offering free transportation to and from election polling sites Tuesday, Nov. 6 for Signal Mountain senior adults age 65 and older.
Anyone who wants a free ride to the polls should call 304-1409 to make a reservation. Participants need to provide an address to be picked up from and a phone number in case the driver can’t find the residence. Some assistance with door opening and getting into and out of the car will be provided as well.