City hears from citizens, approves fiscal year budget

By Becky Jane Newbold,

Managing Editor

Mayor Danny McKnight making a quorum, Councilman Kevin King and Vice Mayor Don Barber were absent for the June 4, 2019 meeting of the Hohenwald City Council.

First to address the Council during Citizen Input was Debbie Landers, speaking for two organizations.

On behalf of the Hohenwald Arts Council, Ms. Landers provided an update on improvements on the Main Street facility, the historic Strand Theatre.

Members of the Arts Council completed a purchase of the building last year from the Lewis County Historical Society.

Landers referenced comments made in the April meeting concerning buildings in the downtown area believed by the building inspector to be in bad repair, that would be left to burn if they caught fire.

“It has been said its condemned, but its not,” she explained.  A leaky roof over restrooms has been repaired, she reported, and new doors at the Main Street entrance are being custom built.  Sound equipment from a Sheryl Crowe tour was recently donated, and other improvements, including replacing windows, are planned, she commented.

We are creating a stage for the Americana Music Triangle, for the Tennessee Department of Tourism, and the community, Landers commented.

“We have been raising funds quietly,” she added and indicated the Arts Council would accept responsibility for any misinformation regarding the theatre because they had not shared news.

Switching ‘hats,’ Landers then encouraged the City of Hohenwald to renew membership in the Hohenwald/Lewis County Chamber of Commerce. “We have had a working relationship for 40 years with the city.  Representation on that board is needed from the city,” she said.  “I am here to say there are places on the board for the city.”

Landers also explained the Chamber had received a request from the Tennessee Department of Tourism to re-establish a Downtown Merchant Association.  She invited the City to take part in the re-establishment.

Also in Citizen Input, Edwin Pratt requested City officials make Hohenwald a 5G-technology-free city, citing personal illness attributed to exposure to electromagnetic radiation.” The technology is not necessary,” Pratt told the Council.  “I implore you to make Hohenwald a 5G-free city,” he concluded.

Consent Agenda

Minutes were approved with a motion by Councilman Scottie Bass, seconded by Councilman Cody Mitchell for unanimous approval, the mayor voting as the third member.

Reports from Chief of Police Sam Livingston, Fire Department Chief Steve Vineyard, Building Inspector Brad Rasbury, Economic & Community Development Coordinator Helen Ozier were accepted with a motion by Councilman Mitchell, seconded by Councilman Bass to receive unanimous approval.

Old Business

In Old Business, the 2019-20 Budget and Tax Rate were approved on the second of three readings with a motion by Councilman Bass, seconded by Councilman Mitchell to precede a unanimous vote.

Proposed for fiscal year 2019-20 is a $5.1 million budget for the general fund.  At the end of the 2018-19 fiscal year, the City estimated the following balances:

General Fund:  $1,647,282

State Street Aid Fund: $156,409

Drug Fund:  $2,060

Sanitation:  $197,339

A Tax Rate of $1.35 per $100 of assessed value was approved, with no increase from 2018.

Budget amendments totaling $427,000 were approved on second and final reading with a motion by Councilman Mitchell, seconded by Councilman Bass, receiving unanimous approval.

Amendments to the budget included:

$275,000 for police department vehicles;

$95,000 for street expenses ($15,000 for paving and $80,000 for additional street lights);

$2,000 for Swiss Cemetery;

$45,000 for Memorial Park;

$10,000 to the Economic & Community Development budget for Christmas in Hohenwald expenditures.

New Business

Unanimously appointed to the Swiss Cemetery Board of Trustees were DeAnna Carroll and Blake Farr, both in attendance.  They were appointed to a four year term to expire June 30, 2023.  A motion was made by Councilman Mitchell, seconded by Councilman Bass. 

Carroll and Farr replace Alma Jean Skelton and Richard Tate, whose terms expired November 2015.  Members of the City Council comprise the remainder of the board.

Members of the Swiss Cemetery Board of Trustees, governed by City Ordinance 570 passed in October 2003, have the responsibility of management of the Swiss Cemetery, which includes the authority to set prices for lots.  Prices set in 2003 were $400 for a lot, with $300 to be placed in a trust account for the maintenance of the cemetery.  Only interest may be used for maintenance and $100 is to be placed in the City’s General Fund.

A resolution to issue water and sewer revenue and tax refunding bonds in the amount of $2,840,000 was approved by Councilman Mitchell, seconded by Councilman Bass to precede a unanimous vote of approval.

The Series 2008 and Series 2009 Water and Sewer Revenue and Tax Bonds are to be refunded at a lower rate in hopes to save the City tax payers an estimated $172,391 of the refunded principal amount of $2,645,000. Guardian Advisors, LLC is assisting the City with refunding the bonds.

Appointed by unanimous vote as members of the Historic Preservation Commission were Blake Farr and DeAnna Carroll to three year terms to expire June 2022.

Reappointed to the Historic Preservation Commission were Annette Peery, Barbara Hinson, Scarlette Woodall and Melissa Wickline.  Ms. Peery’s term expired January 2017, Miss Hinson’s in January 2018, Ms. Woodall’s in January 2016 and Mrs. Wickline’s in Janary 2018.

Reappointed as members to the Historic Preservation Board from the City Council were Mayor McKnight and Vice Mayor Barber whose terms are to expire May 31, 2023, with their terms of office.

Appointments were unanimously approved.

In the final action of the evening, the Council approved on first reading an ordinance to rezone two parcels of property at 308 and 312 North Park Avenue to a C-2/Central Business District.

“What’s the point in rezonining,” Councilman Bass asked.  Mr. Rasbury explained the Fair Board owns both lots and wishes to combine them, a move that cannot be accomplished unless the zoning is the same for both.

“We would like to fence in the area,” Mrs. Ozier added.

Councilman Mitchell made the motion to accept, seconded by Councilman Bass to receive unanimous approval.

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