BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
A revised employee handbook is underway following a vote on first reading by the Tusculum Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday.
The board met at 7 p.m. at Tusculum City Hall to discuss the proposed changes, which Mayor John Foster said have been more extensive than the board originally planned.
"This started out as making a few little changes here and there," Foster said. "We thought we had made all the changes we wanted to until the attorney got ahold of it."
City Attorney Jim Mercer explained that the handbook, last updated in 1997, needed updated legal language concerning workers' compensation, the Military Leave Act, and bereavement leave.
Mercer said he had thoroughly reviewed the handbook with the mayor, but took revision requests from Vice-Mayor Alan Corley and Alderman Barbara Britton during the meeting.
The two requested more specific language in areas including vacation leave for garbage-pickup workers, employees' use of controlled substances, and details concerning when employees may take their three days of bereavement leave.
Corley made the motion to adopt the revised handbook with the understanding that Mercer will make these changes for presentation prior to their vote on second reading at next month's meeting.
"I think it's probably a first-class handbook now," Foster said. "Hopefully [the employees] will feel good about what the city has done."
In other business, the board voted to accept the low bid for paving around Tusculum in the coming fiscal year.
Foster said that Florence Street, Park Avenue West and Richland Street will all be repaved.
The city has $68,000 in the 2013-2014 budget for paving, and the low bid came in at $62,400 by Brown Brothers' Paving, Foster reported.
The mayor also noted a number of improvements made around Tusculum at the end of the 2012-2013 fiscal year, including painting of pavement along major roadways, improvements and tree trimming at Tusculum City Park, mowing along roadways, and the ordering of 12 new signs urging motorists to stop and use caution at the city's crosswalks.
The city also contracted with a professional tree-trimmer for Edens Road and Richland Street, where Foster said overhanging trees have become a problem for larger vehicles such as school buses and ambulances.
Delays in a planned sewer project for businesses along the East Andrew Johnson Highway also required the board to make some amendments to the 2012-2013 budget.
The board approved significant changes to the budget within their main fund due to the delayed project, including a $424,000 decrease in revenues from not receiving an associated sewer grant in that fiscal year and an $842,000 reduction in expenditures since neither the grant nor the city's funds were expended on the project.
These numbers will, however, carry into the 2013-2014 budget as revenues and expenditures.
Other adjustments included nearly $30,000 in upward adjustments to other revenues, including sales tax, and some slight downward adjustments in spending for street improvements and lighting.
The board did increase the Solid Waste budget's expenditures by $9,000 to reflect the higher-than-anticipated cost of maintenance and repairs to equipment after the expensive repair of one of the city's garbage pickup trucks.
Tusculum Volunteer Fire Department Chief Steve Harris and Tusculum Police Chief Danny Greene updated the board on their departments' activities over the course of the prior two months.
In June, Tusculum police issued 21 citations, wrote two reports and made five arrests. During July there were 10 citations, four reports and four arrests.
The VFD had 14 calls in June, including three structure fires, five motor vehicle accidents and six other calls.
In July, the VFD had 10 calls, including three motor vehicle accidents and seven other calls such as false alarms and training.
Greene also reported that he is attempting to enforce the city's property maintenance ordinance at several local residences, including 124 Park Ave., where he said tall grass and a number of parked cars caused problems.
The grass is now mowed and the cars have been moved, Greene reported.
The police chief said he gave the property-owner at 245 Harlan Street until Aug. 31 to get a broken-down trailer sold and the lawn mowed.
Finally, he noted that overgrown lots at 535 Cumberland Drive and 389 South Rufe Taylor Road are bank-owned and are still a work-in-progress for contacting the individuals responsible for the cleanup.
The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the board will be at 7 p.m., Sept. 16.