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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

City Council hears proposals from Retail Research Firms to consider for 2016-17 Budget

The Crossville city council heard from three firms that provide consulting work on recruiting nation retail chains during a work session May 26.

The city has discussed this possibility before but has not yet taken the plunge to work with the firms that provide data on the community, the gaps in retail available here and the so-called “out leakage” of spending to other area shopping locations. The three firms that spoke to the council included Retail Strategies, R360 and Buxton. All three companies pitched their services to the city with the idea that they could help increase sales tax collections by recruiting large retail stores and restaurant chains.

Brook Holbert, right, of Retail Strategies speaks to Crossville city council.  Also pictured left to right are Pam Harris, Pete Souza, Billy Loggins and Mayor James Mayberry.

The kind of data that the firms aggregate and interpret include trade areas such as where shoppers come from, types of consumers and how ans where consumers spend their money. The data can help to show how Crossville compares with other communities and that comparison can be used to look at similar communities and the retail operations that they support. This allows the city to approach the retailers that are not in Crossville but in similar locations and to encourage them to also locate at Crossville.

Two of the firms offer their services for $90,000 to $110,000 over three years of consulting. The larger Buxton firm's proposal totals $160,000. Buxton is one of the top firms in the business and has an exclusive agreement with VISA card to access data on purchases to help with their research.

One other interesting aspect of the research that each firm discussed was the tracking of cell phones to determine how many shop in a particular store in Crossville and where they come from. This tracking of the number of cell phones within a specific area was a part of the research planned by the firms.

Following the presentations, the council members will consider the information and determine if such a project will be included in the city's upcoming budget.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Success! Stolen Video removed by YouTube.

YouTube has removed at least one of the stolen videos the Crossville Recall group posted.

Memorial Day Observance at Crossville Outlet Mall Well Attended

Memorial Day 2016

A respectful crowd took part in a special Memorial Day program held in the Crossville Outlet Mall on Saturday afternoon.  The featured speaker was Cumberland County Sheriff Casey Cox.  Cox spoke about heroes and heroism, the sacrifice made by soldiers who lost their lives in battle and addressed the young people in the crowd by telling the story of local Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Alvin C. York.

Also participating in the program was Patrick Taylor, a Vietnam War veteran and former Navy Medic.  Taylor spoke on the history and significance of Memorial Day and led the Pledge of Allegiance. 

The Crossville Chapter 1050 of the Vietnam Veterans Color Guard presented the colors with an honor guard of local Boy and Girl Scouts.  

A time for questions included an explanation of why the flag is folded the way that it is with the triangle representing the three cornered hat of the Revolutionary War soldiers. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Stucco work on the Cumberland County Justice Center underway

Repairs are currently underway at the Cumberland County Justice Center at the entrance to the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department.  After problems with falling stones a decision was made to put stucco over the existing entrance and the work is expected to take another week or two, depending on the weather.

That part of the Justice Center is some 25 years old.

Crews were out today working on the job from Layton Hood Stucco.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Downtown Crossville sidewalk project faces possible delays or additional costs.

A potential change in the design of the downtown Crossville sidewalk project will either remove the intersection of 127-N and Lantana Road at the bottom of Watertank Hill or potentially increase the cost of the project by about $293,000.

Another alternative discussed by Council members Danny Wyatt and Jesse Kerley would delay the sidewalk improvement project over 2 to 3 years allowing it to be done by city employees was discussed but there are several issues with that change. No decision was made on the project and a work session is expected to discuss the project in June.

The problem is with the height of the mounts for the traffic signal at the bottom of water tank hill and an easy fix has not be allowed by TDOT. According to city engineer Tim Begley, that leaves the alternatives of either not completing the sidewalks at that intersection or replacing the traffic signal at that intersection. The cost of the new signal and the addition of conduits to tie the traffic signals together from Lantana Road to First Street and Fourth Street is estimated at $293,000 including engineering fees.

Begley said that he feels the estimate is a bit high. He added that with the sidewalk project and the replacement of street lights, the traffic signal conduit can use the same trench as the power for the new traffic lights.

Councilman Danny Wyatt asked Begley if it was possible for the city to redo the sidewalks piecemeal over a period of 2 to 3 years with city staff doing the work.

Begley said, “We've put the state off for two years on paving Main Street and I think they are going to pave it next year regardless. I think they're going to have to.”

Mayor James Mayberry asked if the project had already been approved by the council and Begley responded that it had been. Mayberry continued his questions asking if the project hadn't been under discussion for some 8 years and over $4.5 million in grants returned. Mayberry asked, “Why do you want to back up now and start talking about patches?”

Wyatt responded, “I'm just asking questions mayor.”

Councilman Jesse Kerley asked, “Why was that project never put on a referendum? It's only went through 5 elections.” Kerley then answered his own questions, “I can tell you why, because it wouldn't pass.”

Street department supervisor Kevin Music told the council that he would do whatever they wanted but it would take a longer time based on the other projects his department is working on.

Councilman Wyatt said he'd like to know the cost numbers if the sidewalks were done in house with city crews. Wyatt said he though all the intersections had ADA ramps installed. Mr. Music repsonded and said not all the intersections had ramps and when the state comes in they will mill 4 inches of asphalt off and only put 2 inches back so the current ramps would no longer be even with the pavement.

Begley pointed out that the ADA was not just at the corners, but also where the entrances to the Main Street businesses are.

Wyatt responded saying there were many businesses and residences in the city that had no sidewalks. “If we could do this for $300 instead of $3 million. You're the engineer and I'd like to know if it is possible to do that,” added Mr. Wyatt.

Mayor Mayberry asked if TDOT would fix the corners when they paved the road. Mr. Begley said they would fix what they could but there were several corners they could not bring up to standards.

Mr. Wyatt asked the city engineer if he could get some numbers together by the next meeting along with the time frame. Begley said he thought they could do that in 4 weeks. Mr. Kerley commented that he felt a work session might be better suited to discuss such a big project and such a work session is expected to be arranged sometime in June.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

DMCA action filed against Crossville Recall for improper use of videos

Please note that our news organization has filed a DMCA take-down request against the Crossville Recall group for copyright infringement in a video they posted on YouTube with a link on their webpage. The video uses parts of two videos that are property of Jim Young Reporter and our YouTube channel MaxHeadroom56.

Our videos were taken without permission or any request to use them for political purposes. It is one thing to post a link to our videos on our YouTube channel but to steal our work and re-edit it is simply wrong.  

Many may not realize that signatures on election petitions become public records.

When you sign an official election petition, whether it is in support of a candidate getting their name on the ballot or in support of the recall efforts currently going on in the city of Crossville, those petitions and your name and address information become public records once those petitions are turned in to the election commission.

Many people may not realize that their information can be seen by others when they sign these forms. These documents become public records in order to keep the process open and transparent.

The local election office explained that anyone who inspects or gets copies of these documents must give their name for a request to see them and that also becomes public record as well.   

Terri Neal Manning comments on her run for Crossville city council seat

One of the candidates who has taken out a petition to run for Crossville city council in the November 8 election is Terri Neal Manning. We contacted her through Facebook for her comments.

As a female candidate she seems to be following in the footsteps of current council member Pamala Harris.

Statement from Terri Neal Manning, candidate for Crossville city council:

I would commit to all citizens of Crossville to do just that knowledge is the key to any successful councilman.

City government should try to work together towards common goals which would benefit all citizens of Crossville. Decisions will be made based on what will be in the best interest citizens as a whole not just one.

I want to be their voice to stand up for all the citizens of Crossville that is why i am running for city councilman.

Thank you, Terri Neal Manning”

We asked for Terri's suggestion for keeping the council meetings more calmer and she responded that the council should, “listen to each other, talk it out and be truthful.” She added part of her reason for running for office was “I always wanted to help people.”

Crossville City Budget deficit drops to to $577,641 from original $2.4 million

Following last weeks special called budget meeting that included further cuts to the 2016-17 budget and first readings in title only of the budget and tax rate ordinances, the budget for Cossville is at just over half a million in the red.

The initial budget started out at some $2.4 million in the red and after some discussion with individual council members then work by interim city manager Steve Hill and finance director Fred Houston with department heads, the deficit dropped to just under a million.

Council members discussed additional cuts during their 1.5 hour meeting and with the changes the budget deficit estimate now stands at $557,641.

An additional $150,000 was added to the sales tax collection estimates for the coming year and number of cuts to department requests included reducing the codes departments demolition budget by $50,000, fire suppression in the city's server room at $20,000, $25,000 in requested defibrillators for the fire department.

There are no currently scheduled meetings on the budget but a public hearing on the budget as well as the second readings of the budget and tax rate are expected to be part of the regular June 9 council meeting agenda.

Following last weeks special called budget meeting that included further cuts to the 2016-17 budget and first readings in title only of the budget and tax rate ordinances, the budget for Cossville is at just over half a million in the red.

The initial budget started out at some $2.4 million in the red and after some discussion with individual council members then work by interim city manager Steve Hill and finance director Fred Houston with department heads, the deficit dropped to just under a million.

Council members discussed additional cuts during their 1.5 hour meeting and with the changes the budget deficit estimate now stands at $557,641.

An additional $150,000 was added to the sales tax collection estimates for the coming year and number of cuts to department requests included reducing the codes departments demolition budget by $50,000, fire suppression in the city's server room at $20,000, $25,000 in requested defibrillators for the fire department.

There are no currently scheduled meetings on the budget but a public hearing on the budget as well as the second readings of the budget and tax rate are expected to be part of the regular June 9 council meeting agenda.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Candidates for city council election taking out papers--5 possible candidates so far.

With May 20 the first day potential candidates could pick up petitions seeking signatures to get their name on the ballot for the two city council seats to be elected in the November 8 election, five potential candidates have taken papers out so far.

The most recognizable names that have picked up petitions so far are incumbent council member Jesse Kerley and former mayor J. H. Graham III. 

Kerley is seeking reelection after serving two terms separated by two years when he ran against Graham for mayor and lost.  

J. H. Graham served several years on council then the held the longest tenure as mayor in Crossville's history.  Graham was unseated 2 years ago by James Mayberry.  

Crossville engineer Barry Field has also taken out a petition for a council seat. Field operates Field Engineering Consultant Services, LLC providing civil, environmental and structural engineering services.

The others who have taken out petitions include Jeanette Parsons and Terri Neal Manning.

The deadline for candidates to turn in completed petitions is August 18 at noon.

It is unclear if council member Pete Souza will run for reelection after originally saying he would only serve one term when he ran 4 years ago.

Crossville council approves settlement in eminent domain lawsuit from 2011

Meeting in a special called meeting, the Crossville city council approved a settlement worked out over an eminent domain claim from 2011 and the construction of the Northwest Connector.

City attorney Will Ridley went over the legal matter with the council that started back in 2011 as part of the city securing necessary property to build the first section of the so-called Northwest Connector. The city offered land owner John Turner and his wife an initial amount of $33,360 based on an appraisal done on the property. Mr. Turner sought a total amount of some $109,000 for the property based on what he felt it was worth. About 2 acres of property was involved that included .9 of an acre purchased in fee simple, another .65 acre for easements and temporary construction use, .2 of an acre for drainage slope and .65 on an acre landlocked by the project without access to a road.

Previous city attorney Ken Chadwell filed the eminent domain action and putting the $33,360 on deposit with the court and allowing the city to use the property while waiting until later to settle on the final compensation. As a court date approached on the matter, the city council authorized attorney Ridely to participate in a mediation on the matter in an attempt to settle the matter without going to court.

The agreement reached through the mediation included paying Turner an additional $36,150 plus interest at prime plus 2 percent. The total amount to be paid to Turner would be $45,000.

Council member Pan Harris asked Ridley what the expected cost to try the case might be and Ridley said between $25,000 and $32,000 was budgeted for that expense. In addition, there could be additional payment to Turner ordered by the court.

Will Ridley told the council that he recommended the council to accept the settlement. Mayor James Mayberry moved to accept the settlement and received a second from council member Harris.

Councilman Jesse Kerley commented, pointing out that there had been no complaints about the special called meeting at a mid-day time as had been made about previous special called meetings.

Said Kerley, “I find that a little interesting considering a man is getting $36,000 here today who painted a council members political signs...”

“Point of order!” stated councilman Pete Souza, saying the comments had nothing to do with the agenda item under discussion. Souza added, “I have no political signs.”

Mayor Mayberry ruled that Souza's point was well taken and asked for no personal attacks. Mr. Kerley responded that he had used no names in his comment.

Kerley continued saying that the appraisal was the most inflated one he had ever seen. “I think this was handled wrong.” Kerley said he would not support the settlement. Kerley also added that he wanted the city manager to give a copy of the appraisal to the county property assessor David Simcox adding that Turner should be taxed off of the appraisal.

Councilman Danny Wyatt said he did not agree 100 percent with the settlement, but said it was probably best for the city and everybody involved in it.

The vote on the motion included three ayes from Wyatt, Harris and Mayberry. Mr. Kerley voted against the motion and Mr. Souza abstained having previously said he would recuse himself as he and Mr. Turner were close friends.   

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Called meeting and work session keep Crossville council busy this week.

The Crossville city council has two meetings set up for this week. A special called meeting may 23 at noon to deal with a long running eminent domain matter related to the Northwest Connector and a request from the Crossville dragway for sewer service.

A work session later in the week to discuss retail consulting is scheduled for Thursday May 26 at 5 PM.

The case involves a property taken to complete the Northwest connector portion that is between US-127 and Sparta Highway. Property owned by John Turner and his wife Wynell was taken by the city using eminent domain to complete the project. In such a case, the property is taken and the amount of compensation is determined later usually based on appraisals. Rarely does such a case go as far as the Turner case has gone.

Because the Turners sought more money for their property then the city was willing to pay based on appraisals, the case seemed headed to court. The judge in the case ordered the two sides to mediation in an attempt to settle the case. The mediation was held last week on May 19 and an agreement was reached.

The proposed settlement still must be approved by the city council and more details of the proposal will be presented by city attorney Will Ridley during the called meeting.

Council member Pete Souza has previously stated that he and John Turner are close friends and he will recuse himself from any decision on the matter.

The Crossville dragway has requested to be connected to the sewer at outside rates. At the regular council meeting earlier this month a motion to approve the connection failed over lack of being annexed into the city. Discussion at the meeting said that the business was concerned about the city noise ordinance and the noise generated by their races.

The matter will come back before the council during the special called meeting Monday.

The work session on retail consulting will involve presentation by three firms that provide services to help the city land new retail businesses. The three firms include R360, Retail Strategies and Buxton Company. The firms also consultant with the retail businesses helping them determine good locations for new locations. When consulting with municipalities, the firms help with gap analysis, retail market studies and business retention.

The goal of the consultation is to bring new business, tax base and sales tax to the local area.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Crossville council approves title only reading of budget and tax rate.

After just over 1.5 hours of budget discussion during a special called meeting, the Crossville city council approved the first reading of 2016-17 budget and tax rate.

The readings are mainly ceremonial at this time since neither the budget nor the tax rate are finalized.  Three readings of both the budget and tax rate are required for approval of these ordinances.

Going into the meeting, the budget was down to $900,000 in the red from the $2.4 million that it started at.  Crossville mayor James Mayberry told the council he felt the city should use money from its fund balance to complete projects that had been in the planning for several years.

Councilman Pete Souza was not at the meeting and sent an email out earlier in the week accusing other council members of setting the meeting when they knew he'd be out of town.  That comment elicited a response from councilman Jesse Kerley that Mayor Mayberry had set the meeting.

The next reading of the budget is expected to come during the June regular meeting and a public hearing on the budget will be held immediately prior to that meeting. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

UCBJ article on a new industrial spec building for Crossville

From the May issue of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal.

My story about Butch Smith's proposal to build a spec industrial building.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Could a 6th District US Congressional challenger be indicted on drug related charges?

A Genesis Road resident, identified as the property owner of a location where a large indoor marijuana growing operation was found May 13 is also currently a candidate for a 6th district US Congress seat.

A press release issued by the Crossville Police Department on May 16 states that a search warrant was executed at a property located at 16536 Genesis Road following a multi-agency joint narcotics undercover operation. The property is owned by Florence “Flo” Matheson who is a current democratic candidate for the seat currently held by US Representative Diane Black. Matheson previously ran for the 25th district state representative seat against Cameron Sexton in 2012.

According to the press release concerning the drug operation, evidence is expected to be presented against Matheson seeking an indictment from the Cumberland County grand jury. Matheson is identified as the property's owner and primary resident in the press release as well as state property records. A drug bust earlier in the month was also made at a property owned by Ms. Matheson located on E. First St.

An indictment is also sought against Stephen M. Harrington who is currently on probation from previous charges.

Information online from the website indicates Matheson was born in 1938 in Atlantic City NJ and has three children. The site lists previous jobs for Matheson including an English teacher in New York, a probation officer in the state of Florida, a riding instructor and owner of Pampered Pets in Crossville.  

Crossville city council meets in special called session Tuesday May 17 to discuss budget and tax rate.

A special called meeting has been set by the Crossville city council to be held Tuesday evening May 17 starting at 5 PM.

Council members have worked on the budget individually with city staff and met twice in work session to discuss the general fund and water and sewer budgets.  The budget started out at $2.4 million in the hole and after work by interim city manager Steve Hill and city finance director Fred Houston that deficit was reduced to $900,000.

The special called meeting will start out with a discussion of the budget and review of the changes that have already been made.  Following the discussion, the first reading of the budget and the tax rate in title only are expected to be approved.  Three readings of each ordinance are required for final approval before the budget goes into effect July 1, 2016.

The city's current property tax rate is $.063.  It is unclear if the rate will change.

Council members continue to take shots at each other over meetings.  Councilman Pete Souza released the following statement about the meeting saying he would be unavailable to attend,

Souza's statement is: "the process to which this budget was developed was not through the open transparency of the work shop process which was put on for show, but rather a host of deals created some where else other than in public view. This new process as part of the NEW ORDER of the Tri -Pac might as well say if you want anything in the form of city money we (Wyatt an Kerley) are the ones to deal with because we control the council.

Councilman Kerley responded with the following comment: "Actually the Mayor set this meeting. You still are struggling getting your facts straight."

Benches purchased for Depot questioned by Councilman Kerley. DCI responds

The purchase of number of benches that are to be installed at the Crossville depot were called into question by councilman Jesse Kerley during the regular May city council meeting eliciting a response from Bob Schwartz, the president of DCI during the public comment.

Kerley brought up the matter during the city manager's report asking for details about the purchase and if it was approved by the city council as would be required for a purchase of  $5268.  Interim manager Steve Hill said the purchase took place before he started and he did not know if the purchase had gone before the council.  The funds for the purchase came from the city's budget line for administration/public relations.

Kerley asked Hill to investigate the matter further and bring a report back to council.

DCI president Schwartz spoke a short time later during public comment saying he wanted to set the record straight on the purchase.  Schwartz said the council had not approved the purchase and that DCI had paid the city for the benches as a "pass through" before the order was placed.

Councilman Kerley snapped that the purchase needed to be approved by the council.

More details released on Genesis Rd. drug operation. Barn used as indoor grow operation.

May 16, 2016
On May 13, 2016 a joint narcotics operation led to the service of a Search Warrant at 16536 Genesis Road, in Cumberland County, TN.   Crossville Police Department Narcotics Detectives were working together with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, 13thJudicial Drug Task Force the HIDTA / TBI Drug Task Force and the Office of the District Attorney General in the execution of a search warrant at an indoor Marijuana cultivation operation.
This search warrant comes after in-depth undercover investigations led to the discovery of an indoor grow operation. This is the second grow operation found by Crossville Narcotics Detectives, from Stephen Michael Harrington. Currently serving 3 years of Supervised Probation, he was again found operating a Marijuana grow operation. Following the search of the property; Firearms, Cash, Processed Marijuana and over 180 Marijuana plants were discovered.
Some evidence of an illegal grow operation were found inside the residence, however, the full scale cultivation was found in a large barn, just a few hundred yards away. The inside of barn had been finished to create two separate tropical grow environments, with electrical service costing thousands of dollars annually to operate.  Additionally, remote wireless surveillance equipment had been installed to monitor areas of the compound, including the locked gate at the driveway entrance.
Criminal indictments will again be sought on Stephen M. Harrington, at an upcoming session of the Cumberland County Grand Jury. Additionally, criminal indictments will also be sought on the owner, and primary resident of the property, Florence “Flo” Matheson, in connection with the operation.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Kerley questions info on Recall website--Jeff Dahlbergh responds--questions remain.

An item on the agenda of the May Crossville city council meeting requested by councilman Jesse Kerley was to question Howard Burnette, the man that leads the group behind the recall efforts against council members Danny Wyatt and Pam Harris.

Kerley said there was information he had read on the site that he questioned but had since been changed.  Also, Howard Burnette was not present at the meeting so Kerley made brief comments and the council meeting moved on until the end of the meeting and the time of public comment.

One man got up to speak on behalf of the recall website and gave an explanation of the website and at one point it appeared he might be removed from the meeting by police.  The man refused to identify him self but had spoken previously at another council meeting and is car salesman Jeff Dahlberg.

Dahlberg tried to tell the council that Howard Burnette had nothing to do with the website but at the bottom of that site's home page it states that the page is "copyright 2016 by Crossville Citizens for Good Government" The paperwork filed with the local election office shows that the only name on those filings lists Howard Burnette as the groups treasurer.  

Another notice indicates that artwork is copyrighted by Advantamax with a link to that businesse's website that says it is still under construction.  Checking sources, it appears that Advantamax was once registered as a corporation with the state of Tennessee at an address in Goodlestville but has been administratively dissolved since 2002 for failing to file paperwork.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Joint narcotics operation closes Marijuana indoor growing operation Friday afternoon

A sting of law enforcmenet vehicles including Crossville police and Cumberland Co. Sheriff's vehicles including the city's SWAT van headed out Genesis Road this afternoon.  Here is the story behind it. 

May 13, 2016
A joint narcotics operation is currently underway at 16536 Genesis Road, in Cumberland County, TN. Crossville Police Department Narcotics Detectives are working together with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, 13th Judicial Drug Task Force the HIDTA / TBI Drug Task Force and the Office of the District Attorney General in the execution of a search warrant at an indoor Marijuana cultivation operation.
This search warrant comes after in-depth undercover operations led to the discovery of the operation of an indoor grow. This is the second grow operation found by Crossville Narcotics Detectives, from Stephen Michael Harrington, who was indicted and sentenced in Criminal Court, in 2015, for manufacture of marijuana in an amount of over 20 plants, at an East First Street residence. Currently serving 3 years of Supervised Probation, he is again operating a Marijuana grow house. Harrington’s previous arrest date was, coincidentally one year ago, on May 13, 2015.
As the search of the property is currently on-going, no further information is available as to the amount of plants and other items that will be discovered. Following the completed execution of this search warrant, a full press release will go out on May 16, 2016.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign...

Like my page on Facebook.

Homemade signs became a big part of Crossville politics four years ago when councilman Pete Souza first ran for a council seat. The signs, stenciled on large pieces of plywood made complaints and accusations and were put up in numerous locations.

Less homemade looking signs have begun springing up around town as part of the recall efforts against council members Danny Wyatt and Pam Haris. At the city council's May regular meeting, a homemade sign on the back of a pickup truck created a stir and complaints from at least one citizen who attended the meeting.

The sign, attached to a truck driven by J. R. Blankenship and parked in front of city hall during the meeting.  Blankenship has stirred the council in the past and who was accused of distributing unsigned fliers in the downtown area several weeks ago. Blankenship was in city court earlier in the week and fined for the fliers. It is believed he has appealed the fine to a higher court.

In March of this year Blankenship spoke in public comments claiming he had proof of "council members violation of fiduciary duties,” that he had “polled 25 law professors” and added that he would make the information public after he heard from them. So far he has released no information on his claimed accusations.

Blankenship had the sign lying in the bed of his truck when he arrived and he flipped it up near the start of the council meeting. The sign accused Mr. Kerley of being a liar and included lines from an email from Mr. Kerley and one from police chief Rod Shoap. The question was whether Mr. Blankenship lived at his mother's house or not. Kerley's email said his mother said that he did not and chief Shoap's said she had not made that statement to officers.

At least one citizen in attendance at the meeting stood up and complained about the sign. Long time local resident Vancieneta Wisdom said, “I was very disappointment to see a large sign out front. I think it speaks volumes about the person who parked the sign there and it speaks volumes about our city.” Wisdom asked that the council consider an ordinance banning political signs on city property. She apologized to Mr. Kerley who was named on the sign and then thanked all the council members for serving adding, “You do a good job and I'm proud of each of you. I think it takes a lot of nerve to sit up there.” Scattered applause came as Mrs. Wisdom finished.

This blog has received a copy of a photo that appears to show council member Pete Souza's truck and him working on one of the Crossville recall signs near the community complex.    
Such temporary political signs are allowed under the city's sign ordinance but there are some restrictions on placement including:  
   (C) Signs listed above will be located off the street or highway right-of-way.
   (D)   Signs listed above shall not obstruct, or otherwise physically interfere with the effectiveness of an official traffic sign, signal or device and cannot obstruct or physically interfere with a driver's view of approaching or intersecting traffic.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

J R Blankenship vs. Jesse Kerley

At tonight's city council meeting, a sign put in the parking lot on the back of a pickup truck accused Kerley of being a liar and quotes parts of some emails from Kerley and Police Chief Shoap.  

Blankenship was charged after political flyers were discovered in the downtown area several weeks ago.  He was fined in city court and has appealed the conviction to chancery court.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Water/Sewer rate increases in city budget, general fund budget improved with first reading of budget to be 5-17-16

Four members of the Crossville city council discussed the water and sewer department budget in the work session held Wednesday night at Crossville city hall.

City finance director Fred Houston went over the budget with the council members but few changes were suggested by the council. The water and sewer department budget revenues exceed expenses by about $160,000 and the budget includes a 2 percent increase in water rates and a 5 percent increase in sewer rates. Councilman Pete Souza was not present.

Interim city manager Steve Hill and Houston have also worked through the general fund budget that was $2.4 million in the red and with changes made in consultation with department heads have dropped the red ink to $900,641 for the general fund budget.

The council plans to hold a special called meeting at 5 pm Tuesday May 17 to approve the first reading of the budget and tax rate in title only. Council will then hold a work session to continue work on the budget following the called meeting.

The budget ordinance requires three readings and the second reading along with a public hearing is expected to be held with the June 9th council meeting and a third reading to come in another special called meeting before the end of June. The new budget goes into effect on July 1, 2016.

Kerley seeks to discuss inspection fees charged to local liquor stores.

Councilman Jesse Kerley has asked that discussion of the city's liquor inspection fee be on the May 12 council meeting agenda.

Crossville's liquor stores first opened in 2009 and, in addition to sales tax on the retail sales of liquor, the city receives an 8 percent “inspection fee” on the wholesale value of liquor purchased by all Crossville liquor stores.

The maximum amount of the inspection fee is 8 percent, but the council can reduce the amount if they vote to do so. Once the county population reaches 60,000, the maximum amount of the fee drops to 5 percent. In 2010, the US Census put the Cumberland County population at 56,053.

When the liquor stores first opened, the owners requested that the city reduce the inspection fee from 8 to 5 percent as a way for them to be more competitive with other areas that changed less, allowing stores in Harriman and Knoxville to charge lower prices for their wares.

In August 2009, then councilman Boyd Wyatt said that he didn't think an extra $2 or $3 on a bottle of liquor would hardly make it worth driving out of town over, but Roger York of Peavine Wine and Spirits countered that when someone buys 36 to 48 bottles the difference can pay for both the tank of gas and dinner while in Knoxville.

Liquor store operators returned to the council in January of 2010 again seeking relief on the fee. At that meeting, councilman Kerley moved to reduce the fee to 5 percent but did not receive a second on his motion.

Information provided with this month's agenda indicate the drop in revenue to the city would be $162,700. The increase in sales needed to offset the loss would mean an additional $3.3 million in wholesale product would need to be sold.

Recall proponents claim tonight's budget work session is a called meeting. It is not.

The Facebook page of the Crossville Recall movement has sponsored a message on Facebook today that states the following:

"Tonight after a long day of work, while a large number of families are attending church three members of city council will be taking advantage of your worship time by engaging in a shady "special called meeting" for the purpose of eliminating from the budget: city side walks, community projects and the Horizon Initiative, a program to bring many higher wage jobs to Crossville and Cumberland County."

The meeting scheduled for tonight is a work session for discussion of the upcoming fiscal year budget for 2016-17.  No official votes can be taken at a work session though the council can be polled about their opinion but any decisions will have to be approved a future council meeting.  

Councilman Jesse Kerley posted a comment under the groups post saying:

"This is a good example of how this group twist the truth. There is no special called meeting only a work session budget meeting. We are only discussing water and sewer today. What lies. Hopefully these guys will be at the alter tonight. 
IX: Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor."

Notice of the work session was sent out just before 9 am on Tuesday morning, well within the required 24 hours notice to make the work session legal.  The work session was notice was posted on this blog within 5 minutes of receiving the meeting notice.  

The meeting is set for 5 PM tonight and is open to the public.  It will be held in room 317, the conference room at city hall. 

Crossville police VIP program to be considered by council

Crossville police chief Rod Shoap will be asking city council for approval to start a new program he is calling the "Volunteers in Police" of VIP program at the May 12 council meeting.

According to chief Shoap, he hopes to have 20 members in the program that will help the department with non-confrontational duties including school crossings, traffic control for parades and accidents, vacation house and welfare checks.  Shoap said he already had 8 individuals interested in participating with the program.

Costs for the program that are in the upcoming fiscal year budget include $230 per participant for insurance and a cost uniforms.  Some local businesses are expected to help by providing cars and equipment at no cost.

Shoap will be explaining the program to the council at the meeting and seeking permission from the council to move forward with the program.

Crossville Police Department website

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Souza continuing to try and undo last changes to council's standing rules to return public comment/work sessions.

The Crossville city council meets Thursday evening May 12 and once again, councilman Pete Souza will try to convince other council members to put back public comments and the monthly work session that were removed in the last change of the council's standing rules.  

That last change in the council's standing rules came in March this year and Souza has been attempting to undo those changes ever since trying to give the public more voice at the council meetings. State law does not require the council to allow the public to speak at meetings but citizens do still have the chance to speak for a limited time at the end of the meetings. 

At the April meeting Souza brought up the change and his motion to rescind the previous standing rule changes failed with only two votes in favor from Souza and Mayor James Mayberry.  Souza described the previous action as “an assault on the people's rights to express what they have to say.” 

Contact information of city council members is available on the city's website at this link:  Crossville city council information 

 Souza added that the absence of the workshops encumbers the city in performance of the duties of the elected officials and gives more opportunities for the public to see the inner workings of government as each agenda item is discussed.

Famous treehouse owner asking all to stay off of property

The following message was posted today to the Good Treehouse Memories page about the famous treehouse on Beehive Lane in Crossville.  The once popular treehouse attraction has been closed for somtime by the State Fire Marshall ' s office over public safety.  The message appears to indicate the attraction will not reopen.

This is a personal message from Horace Burgess, he is asking that everyone to stay out of the treehouse. Anyone caught will be charged with trespassing and their vehicles will be towed at the owners expense. The treehouse is not in any way open nor will it be, no one can pay to stay the night there nor is it for sale. Absolutely no one is to be there swimming or doing anything else, regrets of having to do this but no one has any respect of the signs and fence to keep people out, so the next step is to start putting charges on the ones that ignore the notice and trespass. Once again so sorry and God Bless!

Crossville city council budget work session Wed.

Crossville city council has set a work session on the 2016-17 fiscal year budget for Wed May 11 at 5 pm at city hall.  The meeting will be in room 317, the 3rd floor conference room.

This will be the 2nd full council work session on the budget.  Last week council went through the general fund budget but has yet to go over the water and sewer budget numbers.

City manager Steve Hill and finance director Fred Houston were to go over the numbers with department heads to reduce the $2.4 million in red ink for the initial numbers.

Kerley seeks to question recall proponent on information on his website

While he is not a target of the current recall drive as he is already up for reelection in November, councilman Jesse Kerley put an item on the May Crossville city council meeting concerning information on the website promoting the recall.  Operated by the organization known as "Crossville Citizens for Good Government," the webpage has information criticizing actions of council members Danny Wyatt and Pam Harris the group is hoping to remove from office. 

Kerley's agenda item seeks permission from the council to question Howard Burnette about information on his website.  

The council has no way to force any response from Mr. Burnette.

A list of questions pulled from the recall website included the following:

"1. Do you agree with Harris and Wyatt’s vote to silence the taxpayer’s comments prior to ALL council votes?
2. Do you support the vote by Harris and Wyatt to eliminate work session meetings which were a forum to discuss the issues in detail and for you, the voter, to hear ALL the facts prior to a council's final vote?
3. Danny Wyatt not once but twice stated citizens who have concerns about illegal drugs in Crossville might want to move somewhere else. Do these statements reflect your views?
4. Did you agree with Pamala Harris and Danny Wyatt to give away annually $90K of city taxpayer money to golfing events held outside of the city limits?
5. Do you support Harris' and Wyatt’s decisions to block a vote to audit Crossville’s multi-million dollar airport?
6. Do you agree with Harris' and Wyatt's refusal to provide evidence or conduct an audit to determine the guilt or innocence of the city manager prior to termination of employment?
7. Do you agree with Harris' and Wyatt’s abuse of special called/emergency meetings during normal work hours for the purpose of avoiding voters' availability? (These meetings are to be reserved in severe cases where the welfare of the community demands it, in order that the public has full access, per the city charter.)
8. Would you have preferred council member Pamala Harris have disclosed in her initial campaign her close relationship with, city marketing department head, Billy Loggins? Would it bother you to know, Harris’ fraternization with her boyfriend, Billy Loggins, was brought to the attention of the public when she was forced to divulge her close personal relationship during a vote to make him City Manager?
9. Do you support Harris' and Wyatt’s decision to hire an interim city manager without going through proper human resource recruitment processes as would be required of any other city employee? (For example; an employment and background check.)This decision was made in less than one hour without any voter input or professional vetting.
10. Would you support Harris and Wyatt if they wanted to oust from office both Mayor James Mayberry and block the efforts of law enforcement, who have both stepped up efforts to stamp out drugs on the Plateau?
11. Did you know Harris and Wyatt have meet in secret away from the view of the public in violation of the Open Meetings Law? Do you support this form of corruption and backroom dealings?

12. Do you support Harris' and Wyatt's decision to pay a small vendor over $1M to manage his own business, in addition to his normal contract agreement, while voting against ALL first responders and other city employees receiving a meager 5% pay raise? How will this affect the moral of highly skilled professionals you depend on?"

Monday, May 9, 2016

Crossville City Council schedule for May 12, 2016

Crossville city council has a busy schedule for their meeting night Thursday.

5:00 pm Council meets as the audit committee

5:35 pm Public hearing on annexation of Stagecoach Place Cafe property on 127-S

5:45 pm Solicitation board

5:50 pm Public hearing on 2016-2025 capital improvement plan

6:00 pm Council meeting

More information to come.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Photos from Crossville council's first budget work sessions

Crossville Mayor James Mayberry consults with interim city manager Steve Hill before the meeting.

Members of the council review the 2016-17 budget looking for possible cuts 
to the $2.4 million in red ink.

Police chief Rod Shoap explains part of his budget request to the council.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My latest article in the Upper Cumberland Business Jounal

Some background on why this is the first ever attempt to recall any city council members in the history of Crossville.

New Crossville Recall Provision Making Waves

City council budget session getting underway

Missing councilman Pete Souza as the meeting gets started. (He arrived a few minutes late)  City manager Steve Hill told council that within 10 days, he and Fred Houston and the department heads could get budget a lot closer to balance. 

Initial version is $2.4 million in the red as work starts.

Police Department is asking for 7 new positions.  The Fire Department is seeking 3 new positions.  The airport budget was discussed at some length by Mr, Souza. The first reading of the budget is expected to be on the agenda, in title only, for next weeks council meeting.

Crossville city council work session tonight

The Crossville city council will hold a budget work session this evening at 5:15 PM at Crossville city hall.  The meeting will be in the third floor conference room and will be the first formal work session held on the city's 2016-17 fiscal year budget that starts July 1 this year.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Wreck at Walmart Traffic Light flips one.

A two vehicle wreck in front of Walmart involved 2 pickup trucks with one ending up on its side after the collision.  While numerous emergency personnel responded to the scene and the occupants were shaken up, all appeared to refuse transport to the ER following the wreck.   One occupant was in the red flipped truck and three appeared to have been in the white truck including a small child. 

Crossville fire chief Mike Turner commented that the city seemed to be having a lot of what he called "catastrophic" vehicle accidents lately that could possibly be blamed on drivers not heeding traffic lights.