Where there is a will, there is a way. The Cumberland Gap Board of Mayor & Aldermen met electronically on April 6 to conduct business in the city via Zoom. All the council was present except Councilor Susan Bain, who formulated the necessary quorum.
City businesses not deemed essential have closed their doors in connection with Governor Bill Lee’s recent executive orders. Those small business owners have been hit twice by Covid-19 restrictions. The owners are losing valuable tourist dollars while receiving monthly bills.
Councilor John Ravnum objected.
“Our businesses will remain closed for another 5 months, but they will receive an account for their sewers, water and waste. Personally I don’t think it’s fair – ask someone to be closed and then say” oh, and anyway, pay us $ 90, 10, “said Ravnum.
Some of the city’s businesses remain open, in particular the restaurants which now offer a concierge service while the restaurants are closed.
Ravnum clarified his statement by listing other currently closed businesses, including the Artists Cooperative, Papa Chum and the two antique stores, among others.
“When asked to close completely, but still pay the bills – I’m not asking anyone else to do it, but I’ve lowered my rent by 25 percent for my renters,” said Ravnum.
City recorder Linda Moyers reminded Ravnum that services could be disabled during this time and activated when businesses could reopen.
Under normal circumstances, disconnections and reconnections of services cost $ 25 each. Mayor Neal Pucciarelli said the city had waived all taxes, interest and financial charges overdue on debit cards.
“If you want to present a proposal, we will also bring people. We will try to draw up payment plans for them,” said Pucciarelli.
“I understand what you’re saying and my heart goes out for these people. But in the end, it’s not just the business (owners). What about the person who loses their job.”
Alderman Kathy Maxwell suggested that owners check the various federal programs that address this type of situation.
Pucciarelli said that the BMA must brainstorm what can be done for companies, while keeping the city’s revenue solvent.
In other actions, the council agreed to spend approximately $ 4,500 to tackle the asphalt cracks in the downtown district. Repairs will be concentrated along St. Cumberland Avenue. and move on to Colwyn and portions of Pendleton Streets.
The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown an important curve in upcoming festivals and other events for the historic city. Those event coordinators whose applications have been approved do not need to reapply. The mayor said that promoters only need to get their rescheduling dates approved by the city council.
“For example, the ABC licenses for wine tasting. Insurance for the Mountain Fiesta, “said Pucciarelli.
Alderman John Douglas asked when the city parks will reopen.
The mayor said he was “ready to go with that” as soon as the governor gives the go ahead. He suggested that the council take a roll-call vote once the governor releases the park ban.
Water losses continue to appease the city, with a 32% loss of wet stuff during the previous month. Pucciarelli assured the board that the city maintenance department would resume its search for water leaks as soon as the pandemic subsided.
The mayor said he spoke to David Breeding, executive director of the Claiborne Emergency Management / Office of Homeland Security. Apparently, there are no masks available in the county. They all went to the first responders, he said.
“Even some of the Sheriff’s deputies don’t have masks. He told me he thought the hospital was in good shape and that most of the first responders were in good shape – that if there had been an outbreak in Claiborne County, any overflow he would go to a regional hospital which is a field hospital that would be installed near Knoxville, “said Pucciarelli.
The city received its latest fiscal year audit from Richard Hill, partner of CPA Mitchell Emert & Hill. The board approved a $ 500 increase in the company’s service fees, increasing the cost of services to $ 10,450.
The next meeting of the Cumberland Gap Board of Mayor & Aldermen is tentatively scheduled for May 4 at 19:00. Due to the pandemic, the board is likely to meet again electronically.