​Sewanee Council News: Election, 41A, Cell Tower

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

Six seats are open for the Sewanee Community Council on the Nov. 3 election, four district seats and two at-large seats. Election officer Theresa Shackelford mapped out election protocols and possible changes at the Sept. 14 meeting. The council also heard updates on narrowing Highway 41A, reviewed cell tower plans and adopted a resolution honoring recently retired Vice-Chancellor John McCardell.

Council representative Pixie Dozier (District 3) and at-large representatives Cindy Potter and Shackelford will not seek re-election. Potential candidates must have resided in Sewanee at least two years and should submit a petition signed by 10 registered voters in their district to Tabatha Whitsett in the Provost’s Office. For at-large candidates, 10 signatures from any Sewanee registered voter suffice. Candidates should also submit a photo and brief bio. Nominating petitions are available from the Lease Office. The deadline for submitting petitions is Oct. 15. Page 11 of this issue has a nominating petition.

Early voting will be at the Lease Office during regular business hours from Oct. 16–30. Council representative Anna Palmer volunteered to help with Nov. 3 election day voting at Sewanee Elementary School.

Palmer suggested an electronic signature option for petitions, given the COVID-19 pandemic. Council representative Erik Keen proposed a remote voting option. Shackelford and Palmer will explore implementing the suggestions.

Frank Gladu, who heads up the Sewanee Village Project, updated the council on plans to narrow Highway 41A, a Tennessee Department of Transportation project six years in the making. Construction could begin as early as next spring, Gladu said. Benefits include sidewalks, planting strips, and a pedestrian activated crossing signal. Gladu estimates construction to take 9 to 15 months. Through-traffic passage will continue during construction with no traffic diverted onto University Avenue or other Sewanee streets.

Shackelford expressed concern about a rate increase to Sewanee Utility District customers to pay for the infrastructure relocation required by the project, estimated to cost $288,000. “The University is in discussion with SUD to address their expense and reached a verbal agreement to partner with SUD to avoid any rate increases associated with the project,” Gladu said. He praised SUD for working with TDOT to mitigate the expense and significantly reducing the initial estimated cost, $500,000.

Asked to comment on plans to locate a cell tower at the initially-proposed football field site, Vice-Chancellor Reuben Brigety said, “Because we have no idea how long the pandemic will last, it’s vital we improve our cell phone IT as quickly as possible and that we do so as cost effectively as possible.” In the meantime, Verizon will supply the University with COLT (Cell On Light Truck) service, cost $100,000 each six months. Brigety hopes the COLT will be in place before Christmas. He stressed the football field site, estimated cost $245,000, offered the best propagation, and the tower would not require a light. Remarking on the possibility of relocation of the tower with technological advances allowing for improved propagation, Brigety said, “I can’t imagine 30 years from now there will still be a cell tower at the football field.”

The council adopted a resolution thanking former Vice-Chancellor John McCardell for his service as council chair and Sewanee mayor. [See McCardell Resolution page 2.] The resolution praised McCardell for his commitment to “shared understanding,” encouraging council representatives to consult with their constituents and community members to attend council meetings.

At the June meeting, Shackelford proposed revisioning use of the Funding Project monies, but at the Sept. 14 meeting she withdrew the suggestion, citing the uncertainties of the pandemic.

The council also approved a new Dog Control policy bringing the community’s policy in line with state law.