Monteagle Approves Employee Bonuses; Residence Size Challenged

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Sept. 6 meeting, the Monteagle Town Council voted to give bonuses to all full-time employees to make employee wages competitive with neighboring communities. The council also took up three other unbudgeted expenses. During the public comment period, resident Dean Lay took issue with the Monteagle Planning Commission’s decision to set minimum residence size at 800 square feet.

“The [bonus] is an equal amount to each employee given in lieu of a wage increase,” said Mayor Greg Maloof. “Wages seem to be substantially less than neighboring towns. It’s meant to aid in retention.” Alderman Nate Wilson argued using the money for a wage increase would have been a more effective incentive. “It would not have been a substantial amount,” Maloof said. “We reviewed [the bonus] with the department heads. They’re thankful, but they also understand what people in the surrounding area are getting paid. This will be a good first step.” Monteagle allocated $24,760 for the bonuses. There are currently 26 employees. Employees will likely receive the bonus in November. Employees will also receive a Christmas bonus. “I wanted to give raises, and we didn’t get to do so,” Alderwoman Dorraine Parmley said, approving of the decision to give bonuses.

Turning to other unbudgeted expenses, the council authorized repair to the town’s bucket truck (cost $14,900), replacement of the stolen utility trailer ($9,000), and emergency removal of a tree on North Bluff Circle (cost $4,500). The tree, located on city property, posed a potential hazard to buildings and sheds. “Something has to be done before you have to buy a garage and a shed,” said street supervisor Keith Butner.

“The city is going overboard telling people what size houses they need,” said Lay objecting to the planning commission decision prohibiting 600 square feet residences in R-2 and R-3 residential, making 800 square feet the minimum in all residential zones. “I agree,” said Alderman Wilson. “I think it was a bad move. It will make it harder for local people to build.” “The rule implies ‘we don’t want poor folks,’” Lay insisted. “That’s unfair,” said Maloof. “[The decision resulted from] concern about developers trying to cram a lot of houses on a smaller piece of property.” Lay asked the council to take action on the minimum residence size decision at the next meeting.

The council approved a contract for Utility Process Management with United Systems, a computer system upgrade that will manage customer billing, cost $19,795 for set up and $3,400.50 monthly. “This is the utility program we use in the office,” explained city recorder Debbie Taylor. “If we don’t upgrade it, we won’t have any support.” Alderman Wilson objected to the $300 monthly fee for property tax management since Monteagle does not have a property tax. Taylor will investigate removing the clause from the contract.

The council also approved on first reading the planning commission’s recommendation to allow new truck stops only with review by and permission of the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Discussing future use of grant money for sewer upgrades to reduce inflow and infiltration (I & I) of storm water into the sanitary sewer, engineer Travis Wilson pointed out the town had other sewer problems that could not be addressed with the “free” grant money earmarked for I & I reduction. Sewer drain obstruction caused by grease trapped in sagging areas of sewer pipes could only be remedied by digging up the lines, engineer Wilson said. He advised residents not to pour grease down drains to minimize future expense incurred by the town.

Parmley announced attorney Rusty Leonard would offer estate planning advice at 4–6 p.m., Sept. 19, at the Monteagle Community Center. The center’s ongoing fundraiser, brick sales for a walkway, will be used for landscaping and a bench at the center and library. Donations can also be made at city hall.

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