Dresden Seeking Funding for Tornado-Related Projects
By RON PARK
The status of grant funding, as well as that of cleanup, construction, and repair projects related to the Dec. 10, 2001 tornado, were among the topics of discussion during Monday night’s meeting of the Dresden City Board.
Mayor Jeff Washburn advised the board that contracted work to cleanup debris caused by the tornado has been completed at a cost of just over $442,000, of which 90 percent is being covered by funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Of the remaining 10 percent, Washburn said that the State of Tennessee is covering five percent, leaving the city with the other five percent.
The mayor pointed out, however, that the city should be able to offset even that five percent with credit given for volunteer labor and brush removal work performed by city employees.
“Chances are we will not be out any money for hauling destruction debris,” said Washburn. “That’s good news for the City of Dresden.”
Washburn said that the city is seeking additional grant funding from FEMA to cover some of the cost of repairing sidewalks and streets damaged by the tornado.
The mayor also said that the city is looking into the possibility of getting some FEMA money to help cover the cost of building a new municipal complex. According to Washburn, the city is due to get close to $1 million in insurance money regarding the old city hall, which was destroyed by the tornado, and the cost of building a new municipal complex would have to be at least $1 million over and above the insured amount before any FEMA funding would kick in for that.
Washburn said the city is still looking at possible locations for a new municipal building and mentioned that he has heard some talk about the Simmons Bank building near downtown, which was damaged by the tornado but could be repaired and renovated, as being a possible location for a new city hall.
“I’m just throwing that out there,” said the mayor, who added that, regardless of which route they take, it could be next spring before the project can be started, depending on the weather.
Alderman Kenneth Moore commented that the city is lucky to have Barbara Gibson as its FEMA representative.
“She has bent over backwards for us,” said Moore, who added that Gibson recently advised him that much of the funding they need is currently being held by the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) and that it’s time for the city to “start playing politics” when it comes to making a bid for that funding.
Motion for Pay Hike Fails
Alderman Willie Parker brought up the matter of the monthly pay for Dresden aldermen and the mayor, which is currently $50 per month for aldermen and $200 for the mayor.
Parker said that he has asked around about what other area municipalities pay and pointed out that most of them pay more than Dresden. For example, he said that Greenfield pays $150 for aldermen and $500 for the mayor. Parker then made a motion to increase the city’s pay to the same level as Greenfield.
That motion was seconded by Alderman Sandra Klutts, but during discussion before the vote, the mayor pointed out that changing the pay would require amending the city’s charter, which would involve a two-thirds approval by the board, then sending a resolution with the changes to the Tennessee Legislature, approval by the General Assembly, and then another two-thirds vote by the city board to finalize it.
Washburn said that process could take months and that it would make more sense to wait until the new board is in place after the upcoming November election before taking any action on this matter.
Parker, however, did not want to withdraw his motion, and he, Klutts, and Aldermen Ralph Cobb voted for the pay increase. Aldermen Gwin Anderson, Donnie Essary, and Kenneth Moore voted against it, causing the motion to fail for lack of a two-thirds majority.
“This doesn’t mean it can’t be brought up later,” said the mayor.
In other business:
*Washburn advised the board that City Recorder Jennifer Branscum’s father is in the hospital with serious health issues and she will be working from home for a few days or maybe even weeks. The mayor asked everyone to keep that family in their prayers.
*Alderman Klutts pointed out that there are some yards around Dresden that have obviously not been mowed in quite a while. Public Works Director Josh Lassiter said that if residents haven’t taken care of the problem within 30 days of being notified by the city, then the city will either cite the property owners into city court or have city employees mow these yards and charge the property owners for it. The mayor said that they were lenient in enforcing this policy after the tornado due to the sheer level of debris in many yards, but he added that some people have been taking advantage of the situation.
*Regarding use of city park facilities, Park Director Joey Winstead said that middle school softball is underway, and that a new co-ed community softball league has been started. The mayor said the new league will bring visitors and revenue into the city.
*Washburn pointed out that the Dresden Fire Department has recently received a couple of awards for both safety preparedness and the department’s response to last December’s tornado. “They do a really good job,” he said.
*The board unanimously approved a $20,616.40 lone bid from Emergency Vehicle Specialists (EVS) for new breathing apparatus equipment for the Fire Department, as well as an $8,042.54 low bid, also from EVS, for 22 new helmets for firefighters. Fire Chief Paul Hutcherson pointed out that grant money is covering 95 percent of these purchases and that the department has money in the budget to cover the remaining five percent.
*A special meeting was set for Thursday, Sept. 15 at 2:30 p.m. for the board to meet again with construction managers and engineers regarding plans and options for a new municipal complex.