​Council News: Member Election, Parking, Hospital, and Parks

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At the April 22 Sewanee Community Council meeting, the council approved on first reading a revision to the constitution to provide for filling vacant seats post election. The council also revisited the parking policy and received updates on the future of Emerald Hodgson Hospital (EHH) and the Parks Committee’s work.
A candidate withdrawing just prior to the November council election prompted election officer Charles Whitmer to recommend revising the constitution. The constitution stipulated a special election to fill a vacancy needed to be held within 30 days of the general election. Variously, the council could appoint someone to fill the seat. However, by that method, Whitmer noted, residents of the district would not have a voice in the selection process.
The amendment provides for a special election within one year after the regular election. If only one candidate submits a petition for the special election, the council can elect the candidate by majority vote.
The constitution requires two readings for an amendment to go into effect. If the council doesn’t meet in May, council members will vote on the amendment electronically.
Revisiting the parking policy, Police Chief Marie Eldridge set June 1 as the deadline for submitting suggestions for revising the policy. Residents can contact their council representative with suggestions or make suggestions online at the police department website. The parking policy can be viewed at the website under the heading “Students.”
“We try to be the kinder, gentler police,” Eldridge said, stressing that towing vehicles was a last resort. According to Eldridge, state law provides for towing a vehicle blocking a resident’s driveway. Asked about obstructions like trailer hitches extending beyond a parking space, Eldridge said the issue was dealt with on a different basis from parking violations.
Addressing rumors about the 2020 expiration of the lease arrangement between EHH and Southern Tennessee Regional Health Systems, Winchester-Sewanee STRHS Chief Operating Officer Cliff Wilson said, “We’re very committed to the campus hospital.”
Eric Hartman, chair of the STRHS board of directors, concurred. “The Sewanee hospital serves a vital part of the community not served otherwise.” Hartman emphasized EHH’s financial and quality of care metrics had improved. The hospital is “solvent” Hartman said, and patient satisfaction scores average in the 9-10 range.
Updating the council on the work of the newly formed Parks Committee, founding member Dixon Myers said the committee had met with the administrators of the four parks served to determine funding needs, access to funding, and capital improvement needs. Top on the capital improvement list is lights for the Sewanee Youth Ballpark.
Duck River declared the light system dangerous, Myers explained. Ballasts exploded at two ballparks with similar lighting systems. The estimated cost for replacing the ballpark lights is $40,000. “We’re putting together a strategy to raise funds,” Myers said.
Myers noted the ballpark lights were a capital improvement budget item separate from the operating budget the Parks Committee was working on.
Parks committee member Stephen Burnett commented on the need for a bathroom at Elliott Park and asked if the new Wellness Center could offer facilities.
Austin Oakes, Associate Vice President for Facilities Planning & Operations, said the Wellness Center was “not well designed for that use.”
Vice-Chancellor John McCardell acknowledged the need for bathroom facilities serving Elliott Park and said the circumstance “needs to be addressed.”
The council also heard an update on the Sewanee Village Plan. Frank Gladu who oversees the initiative outlined five priority projects: narrowing U.S. Hwy. 41A to calm traffic; a village green at the location of the current Sewanee Market; a mixed-use food market and apartment building; housing; and the new bookstore.
Gladu predicted construction of the bookstore would begin in May and projected completion by the end of the year. Development partner BP Construction has taken on the mixed use building, Gladu said. He stressed BP’s strategy would be driven by the developer’s ability to lease the apartments and retail space.
The council will meet May 20 if agenda items warrant.