By Heather Mullinix
The Crossville City Council chose to defer any action on granting a utility easement to Volunteer Energy Cooperative, citing pending litigation between the property owner and the utility provider.
Councilman Pete Souza said, "The power lines are already there and they are already transmitting electricity. I don't feel we have to make a decision. We can table this, step back and let them settle this."
Sharion Mercer said, "VEC made no attempt to negotiate with us. They just took the property without compensating us. They erected six electric transmissions towers and cut down and mutilated a large number of trees, some of which were over a hundred years old."
She said there was currently a suit regarding the matter.
The city negotiated a utility easement for water lines some time ago. VEC has requested the city allow it to use the easement after six steel utility poles were installed a few feet behind the state right of way on the property of Jim Oakes.
Councilman Danny Wyatt moved to hire an attorney to advise the city on the legal ramifications of granting the utility easement. City Attorney Kenneth Chadwell previously recused himself from the matter due to a conflict of interest.
Mayor J.H. Graham III supported the motion for discussion.
Graham said, "I don't know how we could be held harmless in a lawsuit if we give them the easement."
Danny Wyatt said the city had an opinion from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service but felt the city needed an opinion from a real lawyer. Souza said he did not want to spend the money on an attorney if the easement was going to be approved down the road.
"If we defer, we won't have the expense," Souza said.
Danny Wyatt's motion failed 1 to 4. Souza then moved to defer the matter indefinitely, supported by Graham. The motion passed with Danny Wyatt voting no.
The council approved matching funds donated to Kinder Garden program of the Cumberland County Master Gardeners by Cumberland County up to $2,000.
Beth Morgan, chairman of the educational project being constructed at the University of Tennessee Research and Education Center on Hwy. 70 N., said the program was designed for ages 1 to 7 to serve as an introduction to nature and the environment and to get children interested in the outdoors. Estimated cost of the project is $10,000. Morgan said the Master Gardeners had secured donations of $3,000 and were submitting grant applications.
Graham moved to approve a $2,000 donation, supported by Danny Wyatt.
Souza expressed concern at the distance from town to the UT Research and Education Center, and limited transportation options for many children. He suggested it be built in town so it was more accessible and suggested Centennial Park.
Morgan said the Master Gardeners' affiliation with UT and programs already in place at the research and education center were why the program was being housed there.
"We will work with schools and educational programs to offer accessibility," she said.
County funding was questioned, and Morgan said she'd submitted a request but not received an answer.
Councilman Jesse Kerley said, "The county needs to get on board with projects that benefit the whole county."
Graham amended his motion to make the donation subject to a match by the county commission. The motion was approved.
The council also approved using about $13,000 in remaining grant funds for the Meadow Park Lake dam project to install valves and fencing. Discussion of a bridge to access the far side of the dam, estimated to cost $150,000, was deferred.
A revised rate schedule for use of the Spirit Broadband Amphitheater was approved, with special rates available for nonprofit entities. For-profit rental fees will be $100 for four hours and $200 above four hours. Nonprofit groups can rent the facility for $50 for four hours and $100 for more than four hours. All events must conclude by 10 p.m.
The council also approved a change in the date of a fundraising event to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, orginially scheduled for May 25. The event that will feature a variety of local musical entertainment will be held May 18.
Kerley moved to approve the new rates and date change. He also moved that the city donate the use of the amphitheater for the St. Jude benefit. The motion was supported by Souza for discussion.
Souza said, "Our rates need to be consistent. I'm willing to pay the rate for this event. It will be a nightmare if we make an exception."
Graham said he would join Souza in paying the fee for the event, as did Danny Wyatt. Kerley amended his motion to call for each councilman to chip in toward the fee for the St. Jude benefit, supported by Souza. The motion, as amended, was unanimously approved.
In other business, the council approved the third and final reading of changes to the discharge of firearms ordinance, Occupational Safety and Health Program ordinance and trees and woody vegetation ordinance and third and final reading of budget amendments for city hall contractual services and a Tennessee Healthy Watershed Initiative grant.
Also approved was a loan agreement with the U.S. Air Force regarding display of Miss Nettie at Cumberland County High School and a contract with Otis Elevator for an upgrade to the city hall elevator.
The city also approved a de-annexation request on Golf Club Lane. The unimproved property is more than 1,000 feet from an existing sewer line and the owners do not anticipate building on the property for some time. They requested the de-annexation as they are not receiving any city services and the lot is the only lot on the street within the city limits.
The city also approved advertising two lots on Waterview Dr. for sale by sealed bid. All bids would be subject to acceptance by the city council.
Action on a street closing for a 5K race to benefit the CCHS baseball team was deferred so that city police, street department personnel and race planners could discuss the logistics of the proposed route.
Off-premesis beer licenses were approved for 5 Point Market and Price Less Foods. Fundraising activities were approved for the Cumberland Shrine Club.