Signal Mountain is the recipient of the Tennessee Municipal League award for Small Town Progress.
The award, given annually to a Tennessee town or city exemplifying progressive qualities, was presented during the league's annual conference June 25.
Honna Rogers, a consultant for the University of Tennessee's Municipal Technical Advisory Service and the town's former manager, nominated Signal Mountain for the award.
"I thought it was a great year to recognize them because of their centennial," said Rogers, explaining that as an MTAS consultant, she considers which of the 38 Tennessee towns and cities she works with display the qualities recognized by the Tennessee Municipal League through its annual awards and deserve to be nominated. "As a resident, I wanted to nominate them because we're a great small city, and I think that should be recognized."
Among the town's accomplishments Rogers included in her nomination was the high level of police, fire, public works, financial and cultural services it consistently provides to its citizens, while maintaining at least a 35 percent fund balance and balanced budget over the past two years. Signal Mountain was still able to undertake several major projects during that same time period, she added.
Earlier this year the Signal Mountain Police Department became the second-smallest department in the state to be awarded accreditation status from the Tennessee Law Enforcement Accreditation Coalition and the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police.
To become accredited, agencies must meet 160 professional standards involving pursuit, emergency vehicle operation, use of force, search and seizure and more, according to Rex Barton, a representative of the coalition and the association. Accredited departments receive benefits including a discount on Public Entity Partners, formerly the Tennessee Municipal League Risk Management Pool, which provides insurance for law enforcement agencies.
Through a new technology initiative, officers' tablet computers were connected wirelessly to patrol cars, other law enforcement agencies, the National Crime Information Center records database, and Hamilton County 911 for computer-aided dispatch capabilities.
Officers can now complete their reports from their patrol vehicles and send them wirelessly to their digital records management system, allowing them to spend time out in the field rather than at the station filing reports.
The town's police department is also the first law enforcement agency in Tennessee to implement the federal FirstNet wireless communications system, a nationwide broadband network for first responders. The dedicated mobile service, which has been allocated a preferred bandwidth of the broadcast spectrum, ensures that police, fire and other emergency agencies have the highest priority for wireless communications during disasters and major events.
Signal Mountain also constructed a second fire station for $3 million that has improved response times, especially in the northern end of the town in the Fox Run subdivision and around the middle/high school and Nolan Elementary, Town Manager Boyd Veal said.
The facility is both large enough to house a second engine company and provide space for reserve apparatus. It also includes training equipment.
Veal said the new station is the town accomplishment he is most proud of, as it will serve the town in the long-term without need for expansion.
To staff the new station with nine new firefighters, the fire department was awarded a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security-Federal Emergency Management Agency for more than $900,000.
Signal Mountain's Public Works Department also gained a new facility: a $2 million, 7,000-square-foot building with a three-bay garage, new administrative offices and a truck wash. The department acquired new equipment that allows it to operate more efficiently, including hooklift-system trucks with dump beds, a brine tank, and automated leaf machines that can be operated by a single person.
The town received more than $3.5 million in grant funding for significant infrastructure improvements, including a bridge replacement, the reconstruction of historic James Boulevard, and sidewalk replacement and expansion in Old Town.
Signal Mountain invested just under $900,000 to complete four infrastructure water system projects and replaced aging water mains in problem areas of the system.
The town also recently completed and adopted its first Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.
To improve the quality of life for citizens, the town has also worked to provide facilities for a wide range of youth sports activities, including earning a Local Parks and Recreation Fund grant to assist in an $880,000 project to rebuild the Marion and Driver softball fields and improve the surrounding area.
The town invested about $600,000 into refurbishing the former Signal Mountain Elementary School, a historical landmark built in 1926 that has been transformed into the Mountain Arts Community Center. The arts and cultural center that hosts classes, performances, exhibits and concerts has now been brought up to current fire and safety codes and is set to open soon.
Veal, the town manager for the past five years, said he credits the award to the cumulative effect of the town's commitment to quality service.
"We've had councils that have enabled us to do these things," he added. "All levels of staff contributed to our goals."
A voluntary, cooperative organization established by Tennessee cities and towns for mutual assistance and improvements, the Tennessee Municipal League's primary function is to advocate on behalf of city governments. Each year the municipal league honors cities throughout the state for overall excellence, improvement, specific outstanding programs or department accomplishments.
Other award winners for 2019 include the town of Collierville, for Excellence in Stormwater Management; the city of Johnson City, for Excellence in Fire Services; the town of Livingston, for Excellence in Intergovernmental Relations; the city of Memphis, for Excellence in Green Leadership and for Excellence in Progressive Leadership; the city of Morristown, for Excellence in Governance; the city of Shelbyville, for Excellence in Police Services; and the city of Winchester, for Excellence in Economic Revitalization.
Contact Emily Crisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.