City Council scales back property board

Dewain E. Peek/OCN screen shot

Arno Proctor addresses the City Council about his concerns with the fire department’s response.

By Dewain E. Peek,

OCN Editor

Livingston Board of Aldermen voted to scale back the function of the Property Maintenance Advisory Board with action taken during the regular monthly meeting held Monday, July 6.

Vice Mayor Ken Dodson addressed the lack of authority given to the Property Maintenance Advisory Board, after noting the progress the city has made in the area of property upkeep.

“I’m tickled to death with where we’ve come with property maintenance in the city of Livingston,” Vice Mayor Dodson said. “We’ve made a ton of progress.”

He then went on to say, “During the time that I’ve been on that board, the board, in my opinion, meets too frequently and doesn’t accomplish a whole lot. We are reviewing the codes enforcement officer’s findings, and agreeing with him – 99% or probably higher than 99% of the time we’re agreeing with his findings.

“He doesn’t need us.”

Kristian Mansell is the codes inspector for the city of Livingston.

“We’re not necessarily providing him any advice as an advisory board,” Vice Mayor Dodson said. “And we’re not functioning to his benefit, and I don’t know that we’re functioning to the benefit of the city.

“And what I’d like for this Board to do is consider either rewording the codes to where that that advisory board only meets on an ‘as needed’ basis instead of having to meet every month or that it be dissolved.”

At that moment, Alderman David Langford made a motion to dissolve the Property Maintenance Advisory Board.

The motion died for lack of a second.

Then Vice Mayor Dodson made a motion to change the Property Maintenance Advisory Board to convene “as needed” instead of reviewing all property maintenance activities of the codes inspector. This will necessitate rewriting some of the property maintenance ordinances to take out the requirement that those actions by the codes inspector be brought before the Property Maintenance Advisory Board.

Alderman Chris Speck seconded the motion.

Vice Mayor Dodson said, “I just feel like that Mr. Mansell knows the codes better than the advisory board does.”

Amendments to the ordinances would be drawn up by City Attorney John Meadows.

When put to a vote, Aldermen Rex Dale, Kelly Coleman, Speck, and Vice Mayor Dodson voted yes, and Alderman Langford voted no. Alderman Ronald Dishman was absent.

Another controversial item addressed was off-premises signs around the square.

Mayor Curtis Hayes said, “The city has a sign ordinance and our codes enforcer, Mr. Mansell, is doing his job, and he’s doing a good job, and I support him 100%.”

According to Mayor Hayes, Mansell has been enforcing the off-premises sign ordinance by giving a verbal warning to those in violation and then sending them a letter.

“It was time to enforce the sign ordinance and so the sign ordinance is being enforced,” Mayor Hayes said.

Alderman Speck said, “It’s not just around the square where the signs are, the whole city of Livingston. He got one of mine too, and I’m not happy about it, but I’d like us to revisit some new ordinances, propose something new.

“Now, some of these signs on the square, they’re a little out of hand. Maybe we can do something to put them in hand. But they’re being put in places that they shouldn’t be on people’s other property, and that’s parks, and it’s eyesores in my book, but I think we can get together and look at new ordinances to this.”

Alderman Langford disagreed with doing away with the signs, saying, “I don’t see what the signs in the front of the stores are hurting, unless it’s a safety factor or something like that.”

He mentioned the signs on the sidewalks in Nashville and in Pigeon Forge.

“These little rinky dink rules and regulations, when it comes down to it, it hurts the businessman,” Alderman Langford said.

Alderman Coleman pointed to the only item in the code as referring to signs with wiring.

Possibly revising the sign ordinance was suggested.

“We’ll take a look at it,” Mayor Hayes assured.

Ray Evans gave a Downtown Revitalization update, after which, the memorial water fountain was discussed.

“The Downtown Revitalization Committee hadn’t said that the monument had to be removed,” Evans said in reference to a rumor that spurred a petition recently.

Evans said that during construction, it will be removed to preserve it, and then it will be placed back in the courtyard.

“The wishes of the mothers will prevail,” Evans assured.

Mayor Hayes informed the Board, “We’re going to put it back in an area that is not exactly where it’s at, really close to that area.”

He said it would be about 10 or 15 feet from its current location.

Evans said removal from the courthouse grounds was never discussed by the Downtown Revitalization Committee.

Shannon Cantrell, Tourism Director for Livingston-Overton County Chamber of Commerce, brought attention to an Arts Build Communities Grant the Chamber has applied for on behalf of the city. The grant is funded by Tennessee Arts Commission.

The grant is dollar for dollar up to $3,500.

“If we are awarded, the project would consist of three or four murals that would occupy our downtown area,” Cantrell said.

The match would be provided by the property owner receiving the mural. Tennessee Tech will facilitate the murals by using art students, who would get college credit.

“If we do get awarded this grant, then the Downtown Revitalization Committee will at that point decide on some design guidelines and kind of what we feel is best for the community, what goes with Livingston’s brand and what we are looking for Livingston’s square to look like.”

The grant will be at no cost to the city.

All aldermen agreed to approve use of the funds for the murals if awarded.

The Comcast franchise agreement was approved. the agreement allows them access to the city’s streets and right-of-ways in order to make repairs or upgrades, according to City Attorney Meadows.

Second reading of Ordinance 2020-5-1 was approved to update the Occupational Safety and Health program plan. The update concerned reporting certain injuries to TOSHA.

Mayor Hayes said, “It’s just an update.”

Ordinance 2020-7-1 was adopted to re-adopt Ordinance 2009-6-1 having to do with sewer and waste water regulations.

Greg Davenport, president of J.R. Wauford & Company presented a bid for a project that includes 2,000 feet of sewer system improvement on Miller Street and Lee Drive.

“The sewer is between 20 and 25 feet deep at that location,” Davenport said.

John T. Hall Construction returned the only bid at $455,980. The bid was approved with all aldermen voting yes.

The project will be paid for through funds saved from two other projects, which came in around $800,000 under budget.

A Black Lives Matter resolution was removed from the agenda until further notice at the beginning of the meeting.

Mayor Hayes said it was not complete yet.

Todd Rhoad of Peachtree Recovery presented a proposal to try to recover costs associated with damage to city property in incidents such as traffic accidents.

The company would review all traffic accident reports in the city, then it would file claims and keep 18.5% of funds recovered with the rest going to the city.

Alderman Coleman asked what other municipalities in Tennessee the company is working for, and the answer was none.

Vice Mayor Dodson made a motion to enter into an agreement with Peachtree Recovery, and Alderman Speck seconded.

Alderman Dale asked to table the item so it can be reviewed more.

And Alderman Coleman echoed his concern, stating that Livingston seemed to be a guinea pig for the company.

“I’m not for this,” Coleman said.

The motion was withdrawn and the item was tabled until the August meeting.

Mayor Hayes gave an update on plans for Dillon Pond flood mitigation by lowering the existing standpipe to help with the drainage.

Alderman Coleman said he supported lowering the standpipe 6 to 8 feet, but he cautioned that it was not an absolute cure, noting that a sustained period of rain would still cause the pond to fill up and possibly flood again.

Arno Proctor was given the floor and informed the Board of Aldermen that he was not pleased with Livingston Fire Department’s response to the fire that destroyed his home on Chestnut Street last Friday.

“I’m not here to criticize anybody,” he began. “I just don’t want what happened to Pamie and I to happen to anybody else in this town. It was not good. One of your main jobs is to protect your citizens. We were not protected. Not in the manner we should have been.”

He described a delayed response time from when the call came in to when the first fire truck arrived, with only one firefighter, and how he helped the firefighter along with one of his neighbors to drag the hose up to his burning house. He also said no one had a tool to shut off the natural gas going to the home.

Mayor Hayes asked Mr. Proctor to fill out a complaint form and that he would be able to attend the review meeting.

The meeting adjourned.