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Various variances approved for Ham Days

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By Stephen Lega

It could get loud Ham Days weekend.

The Lebanon City Council approved noise variance requests spanning three days from six different businesses during its regular monthly meeting Monday evening.  All of those requests were for Ham Days weekend, although representatives of the Ham Days Committee had hoped for a little less noise. By the end of the discussion, the council had approved the following noise variances: - Friday, Sept. 24 Noise variances were approved from 7 p.m. until 1 a.m. Saturday for Chaser's, La Fuente Mexican Restaurant, Joe's Deli on Main, McB's (formerly Big Jim's) and for WLBN/WLSK for its annual Battle of the Bands at Centre Square. - Saturday, Sept. 25 A noise variance was approved for the Marion County Ham Days Committee from 7:30 a.m. Saturday until 1 a.m. Sunday for the Main Street stage. Noise variances were approved for Joe's Deli on Main and McB's from 10 a.m. Saturday until 1 a.m. Sunday and for La Fuente from 7 p.m. Saturday until 1 a.m. Sunday. - Sunday, Sept. 25 A noise variance was approved for the Marion County Ham Days Committee from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. for the Main Street stage. A noise variance was approved from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. for McB's and from noon until 4 p.m. for Joe's Deli. However, Elmer George agreed that McB's would not have music before noon Sunday. Monica Pickerill addressed the council on behalf of the Ham Days Committee. She requested the various noise variances, a variance to the city ordinance prohibiting carnivals and several street closings in the downtown area for Ham Days weekend. "We further ask that you refrain from granting any variances which might conflict with our efforts on that weekend," Monica Pickerill said. The city approved the noise variance, the carnival variance and the street closings unanimously. However, there was some concern from downtown business representatives regarding access to their businesses. Charles Mills of Chaser's wanted to know if he would be able to deliver items, such as ice, to his restaurant, if necessary. Bernard Miles of Joe's Deli on Main also questioned how close they would be able to get to make deliveries, adding that people can't carry 50 pounds of merchandise for long distances. "I thought that's what Ham Days was for, to help businesses in Marion County, not to cater to somebody else that's going to take their money and run," he said. Bernadette O'Daniel of the Ham Days Committee said that all downtown businesses could get to within a block of their locations under the committee's request.  And Monica Pickerill explained that the committee was requesting that the city authorize the street closings so that the police could enforce those closings. O'Daniel said in previous years Ham Days Committee members returned on Sunday mornings to find that their barricades had been torn down and had to be reset. Attorney Elmer George said he hoped the Chamber of Commerce wasn't trying to prohibit any downtown businesses from conducting business. "If you are going to, then I will file suit to seek an injunction to prohibit this," George said. In the end, the council approved the requested street closures for Ham Days with the understanding that the police could allow access to downtown residents and to downtown businesses to drop off items if necessary. The street closings for Ham Days will be as follows: - Depot Street from Lincoln Avenue to Main Street. - ML King Avenue from Depot Street to Proctor Knott Avenue and from Spalding Avenue to Harrison Street. - Proctor Knott from ML King Avenue to Mulberry Street. - Mulberry Street from Proctor Knott Avenue to Spalding Avenue. - Spalding Avenue from Mulberry Street to ML King Avenue. - Main Street may be closed from the library to College Street After the street closing issue was resolved, the council turned its attention to the various noise variance requests from businesses during Ham Days weekend. Ham Days Committee members were particularly concerned about the other noise variance requests for downtown Saturday and Sunday. "In the past, when we have had multiple live entertainment groups outside on Saturday evening, we've become in a bit of a competition, if you will, between who has the most decibels in their speaker system and who can blast out whom," Monica Pickerill said. George said he thought the situation could be worked out. "I think we can get along. I think we can control it," he said. "Let everybody have a fair shot." Councilman Kenny Marrett said he thought everyone could make it work and went on to make the motion to allow the other noise variance requests. Councilwoman Denise Fogle seconded that motion but asked for a change to the motion that the businesses would turn down the volume if they were getting too loud. The Ham Days Committee members were also concerned that music from Joe's Deli may disrupt vendor and customer interactions in the arts and crafts area during Ham Days and that live outdoor music at McB's may interfere with the Main Street Stage performances. O'Daniel added that the committee prohibited vendors from making sound for the same reason. Mayor Gary Crenshaw said that Ham Days needs to be a success in order to allow the Chamber of Commerce to continue its work, while the downtown businesses want to maximize their profits during the weekend.   Tax rate approved The Lebanon City Council approved a tax rate increase from .175 cents in 2009 to .18 cents per $100 of property value in 2010. The city's projected revenue from its property tax is expected to increase by 3.6 percent from $499,988 to $517,829. Local governments are allowed to approve a revenue increase of up to 4 percent without requiring a vote of the community. The council voted 4-0 to approve the first reading of the ordinance setting the 2010 tax rate during a special-called meeting Sept. 7. Crenshaw and council members Fogle and Bill Pickerill were not present for the Sept. 7 meeting. Monday, the second reading of the tax rate ordinance was approved, 6-0.   In other business: - The council approved allowing First Baptist Church to have a Youth March for Christ at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 18. Jerry Evans, a deacon in the church, said they anticipated having 75-100 participants from churches in and around Marion County. He estimated the march would conclude between 11 and 11:30 a.m. The proposed route for the march is from First Baptist, which is on Depot Street, to Main Street, then to Spalding Avenue, then to ML King Avenue and back to Depot Street. - City Attorney Kandice Engle-Gray and Building Inspector John Thompson spoke with the council about taking the next step to pursue liens against properties that have remained non-compliant with the property nuisance ordinance. Engle-Gray explained that they wanted the council's approval before moving forward because they are aware that the budget is tight, and this process may lead to tearing down houses. She estimated the average cost would be between $8,000-$10,000 to tear down the houses in question, although she noted that some houses could cost as little as $3,000 while others may cost closer to $20,000 to demolish. Thompson said the city would like to hire a contractor to perform any demolitions, but the city is not likely to pursue all the demolitions at the same time. Councilman Marrett expressed reservations about the city tearing down properties, while Councilman Bill Pickerill argued that if the city didn't take this next step that there was no reason to have a nuisance property ordinance. The consensus of the council was for Engle-Gray and Thompson to move forward. On a related note, the Property Maintenance Code Enforcement Board is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m.  Monday, Sept. 20, at city hall to discuss properties owned by Frank Spragens. - Joe Pat Kirkland asked the city to consider creating an RV camping area at Graham Memorial Park. The mayor asked John Thompson and Wastewater Superintendent Eddie Masterson to look into the expenses related to that kind of project. - Michael Veatch of the Village of Lebanon and Cedars of Lebanon nursing homes asked the city to add a transfer switch at Centre Square to make it generator- ready in the event of an emergency. Veatch made a similar request to the Marion County Fiscal Court, which agreed to look into transfer switches at possible emergency shelters at the St. Joe Community Center, in Loretto and in Bradfordsville, and to offer to split the costs of installing a transfer switch at Centre Square with the City of Lebanon. - Marion County REACT donated its communications trailer to the city. The city council approved donating the trailer to the Marion County Rescue Squad. Crenshaw said REACT was disbanding. City Administrator John O. Thomas also expressed his appreciation to REACT members for the work they had done for the community over the years.