The November general election netted a new face about town hall. Cumberland Gap Mayor Neal Pucciarelli was sworn into office during the opening moments of the council meeting last week. Directly after, three returning alderpersons — Phillip Waller, Teresa Fuson and Susan Bain — took their oaths of office with town attorney James Estep III officiating.
Moments before the swearing-in ceremony, Bill McGaffee spoke of his 16 years on the town council, the last four of which he spent as mayor.
“I feel great about leaving. It’s time to let somebody else do it,” said McGaffee of his decision not to run for reelection.
The former mayor said he felt secure in moving forward with retirement plans, which means he will stay busy conquering the ‘honey-do list.’
“I’ve had a good council and a well-run office. We’ve stabilized the fire department with the (Lincoln Memorial University) D-COM students, many who are med students,” said McGaffee.
The main reason he ran four years ago for the mayoral seat, he said, was to aggressively battle the chronic problems with the town water system.
“We’ve been able to bring the water losses down to 25 percent, from a high just a few months ago of 55 to 60 percent losses,” said McGaffee.
Another item he said he was able to tick off the priority list was improvements to the infrastructure.
“It’s been a great four years. There’s been some aggravation, but the town has accomplished a lot during those four years,” said McGaffee.
Once the oaths of office were taken, the board got quickly down to business.
Water system project engineers Vaughn & Melton will be marking locations about town for approximately 50 new meters, said Pucciarelli.
Project funds in the amount of $168,000 were awarded earlier this year through a CDBG (Community Development Block Grant). The money will go toward the replacement of the town’s old and problematic water service connections.
A good bit of the town’s portion of the matching grant – some $32,000 – will likely come from the savings realized through reducing the amount of water leaks, said town recorder Linda Moyers.
The project, estimated for a February start date, will begin on Pennlyn Street where phase I of the project ended. It will continue to the intersection of Selwyn Street and Cumberland Drive, ending at the northern most section of Colwyn Street.
In other action, the board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) voted down the ordinance that would have set guidelines for the town’s open container laws during special events.
Apparently, much of the verbiage is causing concern. Alderman John Ravnum said the ordinance would need rewritten.
“We need to work on this steadily and not sweep it under the rug,” said Ravnum.
Pucciarelli agreed, suggesting the board take the winter months to rework the ordinance.
“We need to get some of the ambiguousness out of it,” said Pucciarelli.
Alderpersons Jerry Hopson and Susan Bain made and seconded the motion to scratch the proposed ordinance in favor of starting over with a new one.
Town water customers will now have the ability to pay their monthly bills with a credit or debit card. The BMA unanimously approved a motion to create an account that will allow the convenience.
The much-anticipated annual Polar Bear Dip will occur promptly at noon on Jan. 1 in front of the Little Congress Bicycle Shop. For the last 15 years, the event has drawn all manner of brave souls who delight in plunging into frigid waters.
In another matter, alderman Phillip Waller will hold the office of vice-mayor for the next two years.
Town Hall will be closed from Dec. 19 to Dec. 27.
Reach Jan Runions at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @scribeCP.