Motorists traveling U.S. Highways 321 and 11 should see improved traffic conditions within the next year.

Lenoir City Council approved Monday a $2.3 million matchless grant contract with Tennessee Department of Transportation to enter into phase two of installing a new traffic light system.

The system will cover 22 major intersections along U.S. 321 and downtown.

“You got a grant a couple of years ago that’s probably going out in the next three months, and it will run the fiber to the traffic signals,” Jack Qualls, Loudon County Economic Development Agency executive director, said. “There will be also be a software kind of in the backbone of the system. This is phase two of that system, and what it will do is go through and actually put advanced controllers in each panel. Each traffic system would have advanced controllers.”

The system can more accurately detect the flow of traffic and increase the timing of light changes.

“It will also do short-range communications, so that in the event autonomous vehicles come to town, the vehicles will talk to each other and talk to the traffic signals moving forward,” Qualls said. “The old system of loop detection in the ground will be removed and replaced with radar detection, which is actually more efficient and it’s better at detecting vehicles.

“The hope with the system in the community when it’s all said and done, especially down 321, is it will actually daisy chain all the traffic signals together,” he added. “The traffic signals downstream will be able to project what car flow’s coming down so it will keep the red lights turning green, hopefully.”

Qualls anticipates phases one and two will be completed “anywhere between 18 and 24 months.”

City

passes annual budgetCity council approved the annual budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year in light of a “very challenging” year due to COVID-19.

{p class=”p1”}Total revenue is $12.1 million, while the estimated available funds for the current fiscal year is about $11.8 million.

{p class=”p1”}”I’ll say this has been a very unusual budget year and will be for the next 12 months,” Tony Aikens, Lenoir City mayor, said. “I know the budget committee and the rest of city council has worked very hard, along with the department heads and employees, to try to balance the budget. We know revenues are going to be down. Of course, the school system is here and we appreciate their efforts in trying to be conservative and balance the budget.”

{p class=”p1”}The city tax rate of $0.9955 will remain the same.

{p class=”p1”}”Certainly we shouldn’t put the burden on the taxpayers here, and certainly this budget does not do that,” Aikens said. “The property tax rate remains 99 cents, and it’s been the way for the past 10 years. That’s just amazing with what we’ve been able to accomplish in keeping the property tax this low.”

{p class=”p1”}City council also approved the 2020-21 fiscal year budget for Lenoir City Schools. Total revenues are proposed at $22.7 million, which is down $715,400 from the current fiscal year.

{p class=”p1”}School employees will not receive raises, but Lenoir City Administrator Amber Scott said council could revisit the budget in December to discuss the possibility of including a raise or bonus for employees.

{p class=”p1”}”This has been difficult this year to try and balance, and I would like to swap all the praise to Maggie Hunt (city finance director), Amber and all the other employees,” Eddie Simpson, councilman, said. “They’re the ones who have to suffer through this. All we have to do is take the numbers that Maggie and them present to us and make the hard decision of if it’s going to work or if it’s not going to work. I praise for them for what they do.”

In other news, Lenoir City Council:

• Established the Martel Water Department and advisory committee for its service area.

• Postponed final ordinance reading of Martel Utility Department transferral to Lenoir City Utilities Board for the July 13 meeting.

• Passed 2019-20 budget amendments for general fund.

• Appointed Greg Reed and Mark White to Martel Utility Department Advisory Committee.

• Approved renewal of terms for Industrial Development Group C, consisting of Vonnie Myers, Doug Patterson and Jack Swann.

• Adopted a resolution related to special assessment financing and related agreements.

• Adopted a resolution authorizing the issuance of not to exceed $7 million in general obligations bonds.

• Adopted a resolution authorizing the general obligations bonds of the city to not exceed $26 million in one or more series.

• Adopted a resolution authorizing the issuance of not to exceed $60.75 million in aggregate principal amount of electric system revenue bonds.

• Approved corrections to water/sewer system revenue bond and gas system revenue bond.

• Declared 26 Lenoir City Police Department vehicles as surplus property.

• Approved $198,967.85 for the new splash pad project.

• Approved naming of the new downtown fire hall as Grayson-Denton Fire Hall.