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Electric, safety, and sidewalks highlight City Council

With COVID still showing an alarming rise in the county, the regular-scheduled November 2020 meeting of the Elizabethton City Council was conducted Thursday night via Zoom.

And while the meeting didn’t have any major items of business that required in-depth discussion, there were still important items of business that needed to be approved by the Council which still are vital to the operation of the city.

In old business, one item that had its second hearing and a public hearing was a 2020/2021 budget ordinance amendment #1 for the Electric Fund.

In giving their unanimous approval, the Council set in motion the electric department’s move to another piece in the puzzle to improving the electric system’s infrastructure which has already seen many improvements in recent years.

The electric system will be installing an AMI system that will allow the system to remotely read meters, turn on and turn off services, look at power quality, and blend with the system’s outage management seamlessly.

By approving the amendment, the Council gave the system approval to remove $4,157,997 from the Fund Balance to cover the project which will take the balance of the fund from $64,848,881 to $60,690,884.

Council also voted to accept a grant in the amount of $41,880 without a match required for the Elizabethton Police Department. The grant funding from Project Safe Neighborhood will provide equipment to assist in investigations and assist in the prosecution of violent offenders.

Some of the equipment the grant will cover includes two license plate reader systems to upgrade camera systems in two cars, allow for the start of a body-worn camera program with two cameras integrated with the car systems, and allow the police department to update their current infrastructure to add storage capacity for data.

Also, addressed was a need to purchase video surveillance equipment, wireless access points, underground fiber optic, door access control system, and or networking/cable drops which were not included in the Elizabethton Police Department Renovation Project by Burleson Construction Company, Inc who was selected as project manager for the project.

At that time, $150,000 was budgeted for this separately as part of the General Obligation Bond.

Two bids were recently received for the work with Telecommunications Service Inc. coming in as the low bidder with a bid of $143,760. Both Burleson Construction and Reedy and Sykes were comfortable with the company providing the service.

Council gave Mayor Curt Alexander the go-ahead to execute all documents needed to award the contract and to put it in full force and effect.

The Council also gave their support to a resolution in support of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Grant application for the Bonnie Kate Theater and Arts Business Incubator.

The grant would be in the amount of $500,000 for the 2021 grant cycle. In order to apply for the grant, the City Council had to agree to a 70/30 funding match with the city required to contribute an amount of $214,286 should the grant be approved in the fiscal year 2021-2022 budget.

No city funding would be required should the grant not be successful.

During the citizen’s comment session of the meeting, Michael Howell – the owner of RIverside Tap House called in to voice a concern about being recently notified of the Sidewalk Encroachment Ordinance that pertains to tables and carts sitting on sidewalks outside of downtown businesses.

Howell said that while COVID had shut down much of the economy that the ordinance hadn’t been enforced and it was crucial to businesses especially with the cost of the materials needed to meet the rigid standards of the ordinance.

With the increase once again of COVID, Howell was asking that Council consider waiving the ordinance for a short time more due to what it would cost to meet the ordinance.

After listening to Howell’s appeal, City of Elizabethton Mayor Alexander suggested that City Manager Daniel Estes and Director of Planning and Economic Development Logan Engle work with the downtown merchants and Main Street to see how to proceed with the ordinance.

In the Beverage Board meeting that followed the conclusion of the City Council agenda, approval was given by the Councilmen for Family Dollar at 513 513 Broad Street for an Off-Premise Beer Permit.

The vote was unanimous in favor of granting the permit.