Council ponders A Street purchase
By: Mark Hudson
Source: Loudon County News-Herald

Lenoir City Council members voted Monday to approve a plan for the city to have the right of first refusal on the condemned A Street apartments, assuring the city will at least have the opportunity to match or exceed an offer on the property before a sale is finalized.

Mayor Matt Brookshire asked council to consider purchasing the property, saying, "the city needs to be involved in some way" in determining the site’s future.

City Attorney Shannon Littleton said approximately $43,500 is owed on the site, according to an attorney for Amsouth Bank, which holds the note on the site. In addition, Codes Enforcement Officer DeAnn Bogus said demolition costs for the site were bid at approximately $30,000, meaning city officials could have as much as $75,000 invested in the site if they purchased it and went ahead with demolition.

Council member Buddy Hines questioned whether or not council should use taxpayer funds for such a project, asking how the city would recoup the money.

"I can’t see us getting into the real estate business," Hines said.

"What we’re doing is going to have long term benefits, long lasting benefits," Brookshire said. "I don’t know that that’s doing the people that live around [the apartments] justice," he added of only considering when or how the city would recoup the money.

Council member Eddie Simpson suggested back charging the property for the city’s cost. Littleton said the city could definitely back charge for demolition, but added back charging for the lot’s cost would depend on the market’s future.

Council ultimately decided to take first right of refusal, as suggested by Simpson. Doing so would allow the city to match or exceed any offer made on the property. The motion passed four to one, with Hines voting against it.

Council also voted to approve participation with Lenoir City Utilities Board (LCUB) in developing a master plan to combat water pressure problems throughout the city. Many of the city’s fireplugs lack adequate water pressure to be deemed properly working, a problem this study would address. According to Manager of Water/Wastewater Greg Jones, the city and LCUB would split the cost of the $15,000 study.

Hines asked Jones if there was any way to increase the water pressure in the interim through valve adjustments.

"Basically, what’s out there is what we have," Jones responded.

Simpson noted LCUB had already addressed the problem along Rock Springs Road, which Simpson said had registered the lowest pressure in the city.

The study will take approximately three months, according to Jones.

A resolution authorizing and providing for the financing of the construction of a wastewater facilities project was also approved.

"This is the first phase of the project," Jones said. He added this phase would handle solid waste disposal only.

Jones said the loan would be for $1.15-million, to be repaid by LCUB. He also noted that, according to a Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) audit, no rate increase would be necessary to cover the cost.

Council also appointed members of both a finance/budget committee and a personnel committee. Brookshire’s recommendation of council members Tony Aikens, Gene Hamby and Simpson for the budget committee and council members Blackie Johnson, Mike Henline and Hines for the personnel committee both earned unanimous approval.

Brookshire’s decision to name Henline as the new parks and recreation commissioner gained council approval as well. Henline replaces Mickey McNabb, who chose not to seek re-election to city council after last term.

Firefighter Don Lee, who recently completed his six-month probationary period, was granted full-time employment by council. In addition, council members approved the recommendation of Fire Chief Richard Martin to promote two part-time employees to full-time status to fill two vacancies. Eugene Aikens — who, according to Martin is unrelated to councilman Aikens — and Kevin Abercrombie were promoted. Both will immediately begin the mandatory six-month probationary period.

In other business, council approved re-appointing Jerry Bryant to the Lenoir City Housing Authority Board. Brookshire said Bryant had served on the board "for a couple of terms."