New Albany to look at smoke-free restaurants

By Lynn West/New Albany News-Exchange

New Albany handled a 90-minute agenda with only three members present this past week highlighted by discussion about making all restaurants smoke-free, having the city serve as its own contractor for the Sportsplex addition and hiring a company to replace TVA as purchaser for the city’s natural gas supplies.
Aldermen Scott Dunnam and Tommie Beasley were absent.
The anti-smoking question was brought up by Alderman Johnny Anderson but this was really just to start discussion. City Attorney Regan Russell was directed to do some research and propose an ordinance. And before any action is taken, residents will have an opportunity to express opinions at a public hearing to be held at the board meeting on Nov. 1, starting at 5:30 p.m.
The Sportsplex question also received little discussion, apparently having been dealt with a some previous meeting.
Aldermen voted to make the city its own contractor for the construction of the new building in the north part of the Sportsplex where the Freedom Park will also be. Mayor Tim Kent said they have a $250,000 budget for the building, which will house concessions, restrooms, dressing rooms, an office, welcome area and possibly a conference room. The reason given for the move was to do the project as cheaply as possible and that the project must stay within that budget in order to not cause problems for other parts of the expansion. Kent said the city attorney had checked state attorney general’s opinions concerning this and found no legal conflict. Alderman Jeff Olson moved that the city do this, Will Tucker seconded and the measure passed unanimously.
The board selected Atmos Energy to manage gas procurement for the city gas system as TVA moves away from that. Manager Bill Mattox said TVA had been managing orders as well as supplying gas to us for many years, but now New Albany is the only municipality left that they manage.
Mattox talked with several energy consultants, took proposals from several companies and scored them on a matrix showing their level and types of service.
Atmos scored second-highest and the consultants said the company would best suit New Albany’s needs based on their history, services and recommendations.
Although the department gets little public notice, Mattox said the New Albany gas system represents a $5 million annual revenue stream and Atmos is adequate to handle that. The company will actually provide gas that will be put into the Tennessee Gas pipeline for the city, but they will also calculate present and future gas needs and determine when it is best to book gas ahead of time as well as rates to accept in order for the city to get the best use of its money and keep costs down for customers.
Aldermen spent considerable time discussing a request by the Keownville Rural Water Association. While working on a grant proposal for the association, officials learned that an area around Tate Lake off Hwy. 30 East that has been served by the Keownville association is actually in the East New Albany system, which the city purchased several years ago. Keownville was asking the city to release that territory to them.
There appeared to be some confusion or misunderstanding among aldermen as they weighed options. One choice was for the city to keep the area, in which case it would have to begin serving the area. This is something department head Bill Mattox said would be too costly and they would not want to do it. On the other hand, aldermen seemed to be reluctant to give up territory that could provide desirable customers in the future.
After assurances that the request involved only the customers being served by Keownville right now and would not include future customers, aldermen agreed, with the proviso that any legal description in application paperwork accurately reflect the limits of the area.
The city still has not come to an agreement with Metrocast Communications concerning the cable TV franchise for New Albany. The company had asked for a 10-year contract but aldermen preferred a shorter period. The cable company says 5-year contract acceptable instead on 10 but they will be coming back to negotiate in a year or two. Also, if the contract is only for five years they will be more reluctant to introduce new technology here. The company assured the city the Federal Communications Commission gives city options if company is not doing its job here but aldermen apparently do not have the right to approve rate increases as was the case in former franchise agreements. The mayor was to ask specifically what sort of technology the cable company was talking about potentially withholding and would discuss the issue at the next work session Oct. 17 at 5:30.

Read more on the meeting in this week’s New Albany News-Exchange.