More than three months after an EF4 tornado destroyed much of the Highland business district Feb. 5, the city is still dealing with an assortment of issues.
Mayor Jerome Norwood said the city is still looking at possible locations to build the city fire station. The fire station, located on Luanne Drive, was completely destroyed by the tornado along with much of the contents of the building.
Federal Emergency Management Agency is reimbursing the city for $715 a month that the city is paying to rent a temporary building to use as the fire station. The building, once used as the Sharp County Road shop, is just on the edge of Cherokee Village near the Highland city limits. FEMA will pay for six months of rent.
Norwood said if the city build's the station on the land the city currently owns on Big Creek Lane the city's ISO rating could increase. The ISO rating determines how much residents and businesses pay for insurance on structures inside the city. Norwood said one factor in determining the rating is how far away the station is located from the main business area.
There are still other possibilities, Norwood said.
Norwood said Midway Plaza property is for sale although he would not state the price. He also said the former Conley Ford building, Pap Beardsley dealership and Timberline Restaurant sites are also for sale.
He said one of the benefits of building on a site with a slab foundation already in place is the savings. The city was reimbursed to rebuild without the cost of a slab figured in.
In addition, Norwood said there are some properties in the city where owners have yet to clean up from the Feb. 5 tornado.
At the April council meeting the council approved an ordinance that authorizes the city to raze or remove unsafe buildings in the city. The ordinance was approved unanimously. The ordinance requires the council to act on the matter, not just the mayor.
Norwood said nothing has been done at the former site of Timberline Restaurant, A Rose Garden or Conley Ford.
Alderman David Harris said although he voted in favor of the measure, the city should give the business owners some leeway.
"Let's give these people a little bit of time. It took me two weeks to move mine," he said. "I think we need to use a little discretion on that."
No action was taken although the council discussed having Norwood write a letter to the property owners asking when they plan to begin work.
The council unanimously accepted a $3,500 bid to cleanup stumps left on residential lots and road sides. Norwood said there are 91 stumps in the city.
Vaughn's Dozing Service had the low bid. Gill's Backhoe submitted a bid for $70 per stump. Jim Counts submitted a $9,380 bid. Michael Orosz gave a bid of $200 per stump.
The money will be paid out of the city's disaster fund.
The council is also asking for bids on a minipumper truck that was severely damaged during the tornado. Fire Chief Stephen Davis said he knew someone who was interested in purchasing the truck for the motor and rearend. Before the truck can be sold, bids must be obtained.
The bids will be opened at the June council meeting.
The council also unanimously agreed to allow the fire department to use parts on another damaged firetruck and then use the body for practice with extrication. The left over metal can then be given to the auxiliary and sold.
Recorder/treasurer Mary Ruth Wiles said the city will have to make some adjustments to the city's budget due to fuel increases.
The city has already spent 107 percent of the budgeted amount for the fire department's utilities. The city had $5,000 budgeted and has already spent more than $5,300.
The police department's budget for fuel and repairs is already nearly depleted due to damage to both the Dodge Charger and Dodge Durango in recent months.
"We're going to have to do some fuel adjustments in the next few months," Norwood said.
Wiles said the city's health insurance plan for employees is increasing. Last year the plan collected more than $24,000 but paid out more than $35,000. As of July 1 the rates are increasing. Employees currently pay $335.50 a month for individual insurance. It will be increased to $369 each month. Employees currently pay $748 a month for family coverage. It will be increased to $819 per month.
The council unanimously agreed to purchase 10 sewer pumps at a total cost of $18,000. The pumps will be used to complete the citywide sewer system.
The council unanimously agreed to permanently table an ordinance to assess franchise fees on the residents' and business owners' cable bills.
Norwood said the city's 10 year anniversary is Sept. 29.
Alderman Larry Allen said he thinks a lot of people in Highland feel as if they aren't really in a city.
He said the city had a low turnout at the last town meeting.
He said he thinks a 10th anniversary celebration would be good to promote the city and get residents more involved.
Allen and Aldermen Woody Pardue and Mary Jo Clark will serve on a committee to head up the celebration.