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Watertown council names new alderman, fire chief

Jared Felkins • Sep 27, 2018 at 6:59 PM

The Watertown City Council appointed a new alderman to replace the late Tom Nix, as well as a new fire chief to replace John Jewell, who retired in June, at its meeting Tuesday night. 

After four nominations of potential aldermen and two rounds of votes, Howell Roberts returned to the council for the first time in 16 years. He will serve the remaining half of Nix’s four-year term. 

Drew Heering, Jim Mahoney and Ricky Nixon were also nominated as potential aldermen. Roberts received one more of the necessary four votes on the second go-around in the appointment process. 

“I suspect Tom Nix is looking down smiling,” said Mayor Mike Jennings.

Roberts took the oath of office and took his seat among his new peers. 

The council nominated Acting Chief Blake Haun and Joe Fisher for fire chief to replace Jewell. Haun, who has served as acting chief of the volunteer fire department, was appointed unanimously. 

Jennings made a point to praise Fisher for his service to the city, including his role in engineering the fireworks show each Fourth of July.  

“I hope that [Fisher] knows he is appreciated,” Jennings said. 

Haun said the department has 19 firefighters on staff. He also said the department’s self-contained breathing apparatus bottles are out of date, and requested the city replace them. He hopes to get a grant to help pay for them. Haun said the department will also be evaluated for its ISO rating in November. 

In other business, Jennings said an unidentified industry’s officials approached him to get a price on a 3-acre tract of land near the Watertown Drive-in. He charged the council to determine a price for the land. Alderman Brandon Howard pitched $25,000 per acre, and the price was passed unanimously. 

Jennings said he would take the price back to the industry officials to see if it’s agreeable. 

“I can tell you I am optimistic about this,” Jennings said. “I can tell you he was impressed with Watertown and the people around this table.”

Business owner Jim Amero gave the council an update on the upcoming Mile-Long Yard Sale, which will be Oct. 6. 

“We are wishing for good weather,” Amero said. “Our vendors seem to be lining up nicely. If the weather holds out, we should have a good event.”

The council approved a waiver on the $400 agriculture pavilion to be used for the yard sale. 

Amero also announced the yard sale dates will be March 30 and Oct. 12 for next year, but the Nashville excursion train would not make a visit during the fall version of the sale. 

“We’ve all put our heads together, and we can do it all without the train. We may fall flat on our noses. We don’t know,” Amero said.  

Howard, who pitched plans to upgrade playground equipment and facilities at Three Forks Community Park a few months ago, said he spoke with state officials, who told him grants were available to help pay for upgrades. 

“It’s in the beginning stages, but it’s something I want to see it through,” Howard said.  

Jennings touted the work of the council when he announced the city currently has nearly $1 million in its coffers. He said it’s a stark improvement from just a few years ago when the city had to borrow money from the water and sewer fund to pay its bills at times and pay it back later. 

Jennings said a large portion of the money was earmarked for state-mandated upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant, but he said the city would continue to keep a positive balance on hand at all times in the future. 

The council will meet Oct. 16 at 6 p.m. at the Watertown Community Center. 

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