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City Council holds August meeting… Animal shelter, city code, vaccine, and Christmas Parade tops areas of discussion

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com

The Elizabethton City Council met for their regularly scheduled August meeting at the Elizabethton City Hall on Thursday evening with a few pieces of business to take care of.

One of the first things to be addressed was a proclamation to honor Joey Frank Hilbert who recently retired from the Water Resources Department and the Finance Department after 41 years of service to the City of Elizabethton.

Hilbert retired on June 25th. He started work with the City on November 7, 1980, as a Meter Repair Technician and worked his way to Meter Services Supervisor on April 10, 2001.

He was recognized by City Mayor Curt Alexander, Finance Director Preston Cobb, and City Manager Daniel Estes.

Mayor Alexander also issued a proclamation naming September 2021 as Suicide Prevention Month in Elizabethton and urged all citizens to work to prevent suicide and to raise awareness and tolerance around all people who are affected by the tragedy of suicide.

During the public comment segment of the meeting, Brandon Young, Pastor of Harmony Freewill Baptist Church in Hampton, and homeless task force chairman approached the Council to share that the Carter Compassion Center was interested in the former Elizabethton Chamber Office to use as an administration office for the homeless task force.

Young advised that several churches in the area were ready to lend a hand in the necessary repairs for the building that is located next to the Tweetsie Train display along Highway 19-E.

Asked by Councilman Jeff Treadway if there were plans to build a homeless shelter at the location, Young advised that the building would only be used to facilitate helping the homeless identify where they needed to go to receive services based upon their needs.

Steve Lowe, a founding member of the Carter County Sports Hall of Fame, followed Young and was also seeking the opportunity to utilize the building as a place where the Hall of Fame can display plaques and other memorabilia of those who have entered the Hall of Fame.

Lowe advised that there have been over 400 inductions and the building would be used where visitors could check out the history of some of the sports stars of the past in the history of Carter County.

City Councilman Richard Barker encouraged the governing body of the City of Elizabethton to take a strong stance on the importance of getting vaccinated, wearing masks, and social distancing to help prevent and stop the spread of COVID-19.

“School is starting back up and I know in the State of Tennessee only about 40 percent of people eligible to be vaccinated are fully vaccinated,” Barker said. “In Carter County, it’s about 32 percent. I would like to encourage everyone that if you have the opportunity to get the vaccine tomorrow – do it.

“If your child is 12 years of age or older and you got that opportunity to get the vaccine to get it because we have three effective vaccines that are proven to be true.

“This Council needs to say if you have the opportunity to go get the vaccine – then go. I was raised in a family of scientists somewhat. My dad was a chemist and in fact, if anyone asked him, he would say that he was a d**n good chemist. We have to trust the science.”

Councilman Michael Simerly also spoke to his fellow Councilmen about the need to put more teeth into the code violators saying that many of those who come before the court each month is the same people over and over.

Simerly said he felt if there was a way to put more pressure on these folks to do what they know they need to do it might help to encourage them to clean up, mow their yards, and keep old cars off their property.

Logan Ingle reminded Council that anything done has to meet state requirements in what can be done in these situations.

There were a number of events on the docket for approval and one drew some comments from the Mayor and a mixed bag of votes when it came to approval.

Main Street Elizabethton was asking for Council’s blessings to hold the Christmas Parade on December 4th as requested by the Christmas planning committee for Main Street.

Mayor Alexander asked why that they wanted to have the parade on that date as in the past couple of years that date has coincided with Elizabethton High School’s football team playing in Cookeville and those attending the game missing the parade.

He expressed that any area team could find themselves in the state championship on that date and it has been a big area of discussion the last two years as many expressed concerns with the date.

The Mayor asked if they had a second date and was told they had picked December 4th as their first choice and December 11th as the backup.

On the vote for December 4th, Mayor Alexander, Kim Birchfield, Simerly, and Mayor Pro Tem Bill Carter voted no which resulted in a failed vote for December 4th.

The Council took a second vote on December 11th with the end result being a 6-1 approval with Councilman Wes Frazier being the lone no vote.

Other events approved were Main Street’s Trick or Treat downtown, the Chamber of Commerce’s Ride into Fall, Elizabethton Parks and Recreation’s Covered Bridge Days and Douglas Park Block Party, and finally the Elizabethton High School Homecoming Parade.

Main Street also informed Council they will make an announcement next week of all the activities for Christmas 2021.

In new business, one of the ordinances that drew the most attendance for the night centered around the first reading of the City’s 2021-2022 budget amendment #1 for the General Fund regarding the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter.

After a small recap of where they were at in regard to animal control in the City, Director of the Animal Shelter Shannon Posada was asked if the $20,000 being considered would be enough to cover animal control in the City.

Posada responded that it would be very, very close.

Councilman Treadway commented that this was the first reading and stated that he felt that between the first and second reading that a deeper dive needed to be done to see if there needed to be more money made available to provide animal control for the City and possibly see if something could be worked out between the city and county in the meantime.

The Council voted unanimously to do more work on the ordinance and carry it over to the September meeting.

Several other first-reading ordinances and resolutions were quickly approved unanimously during the new business agenda.

Council also approved $724,429.38 for July of 2021 and approved a 2022 Mack TerraPro Heli HalfPack frontloading garbage truck in the amount of $310,413.51 for the Sanitation Department.

The new truck would replace a new truck that recently caught fire with some of the amount being covered by the insurance from the damaged truck.