East Ridge Settles Beth Tatum Lawsuit; New City Treasurer Post Approved

Friday, January 24, 2014 - by Gail Perry

The East Ridge Council members voted 4-1 Thursday night to settle a lawsuit pending since 2012. Former budget clerk Beth Tatum sued the city and former City Manager Tim Gobble for wrongful termination and an alleged violation of the fair labor standards act. In the settlement, the city agrees to reinstate Ms. Tatum at the same rate she was paid at the time of termination. However, she will now be placed in the city clerk’s office. Her original seniority date will be uninterrupted and an additional payment of $100,000 will be made.  

Mayor Brent Lambert voted against the settlement. 

At the May 8, 2012 council meeting it was announced that East Ridge had received a 50/50 matching state grant to purchase 30 bullet proof vests for the police department. Several weeks ago, it was discovered that those vests had never been bought and some officers were still wearing outdated ones from 2003. Failing to find an explanation for why that happened, Vice Mayor Jim Bethune said he concluded that “the ball just got dropped.” That should never happen, he said. Every grant that is received should be used. That grant was valid for three years and so the vests have now been ordered JR Reed, the new East Ridge Police Chief, told Mr. Bethune.

This incident prompted Mr. Bethune’s proposal to create a new management position of city treasurer. The position would oversee all city finances, and would include being a full time grants coordinator as well as an assistant city manager. His thinking is that if more grants were procured they would pay for the additional job. The motion to create this job was approved and it will be advertised as “salary negotiable, based on qualifications.” The person hired will answer directly to City Manager Andrew Hyatt.

The position of court clerk will now be elected and this will be the only race on the August ballot in East Ridge. It was decided that one qualification would be that the person must live in East Ridge, which is consistent with all other elected positions in the city. Out of the concern for job security of the current employees in the clerk’s office, it was specified that the elected clerk must adhere to the city’s employment policies and that any firing has to be for cause.

The council also created a plan for providing city health insurance for spouses of retirees. The councilmen agreed that an employee of 25 or more years should benefit from their loyalty and voted to pay 100 percent of the cost for the retirees insurance and 50 percent of the cost for their spouse. A 90-day window was designated, so that this benefit will apply to anyone retiring in the next 90 days.

The sign at the entrance of Camp Jordan will be revamped with a message board mounted below the existing one. The work will be done by Ortwein Signs that submitted the winning bid of $44,053. Stump Martin, director of Parks and Recreation, was authorized to request bids for a second smaller sign with a video board to replace the one now in front of the City Hall on Tombras Avenue.

A resolution by the council approved the city manager to open a non-interest bearing escrow account for use by the police department. It will be used to deposit evidence money collected by the police that will be returned. After approval is given by the court, the finance department will be the one to issue checks. 

Authorization was also given to the city to apply and accept a clean energy grant from the Tennessee Department of the Environment and Conservation.

 A gift of landscaping, way-finding signage and outdoor furniture worth approximately $72,000 has been given from the Lyndhurst Foundation, for use at the new canoe launches at Camp Jordan Park. The vote was unanimous to accept this donation.

A request to purchase a new garbage truck was made due to the excessive cost of repairing a 2002 model that is now out of service. Approval to begin the bid process was authorized. The new truck will be self financed by the city of East Ridge.

The council also voted to give compensation for the assistant fire and police chiefs for the time they served as active chiefs. Each will receive $1,000 for every month they served in the interim chief capacity.

A study of flooding in East Ridge is available from the Army Corps of Engineers. Councilmen were told that the study alone is estimated to cost $700,000 and, with a 50/50 matching grant, the city would be responsible for paying $350,000-$400,000 to have the study done. It is possible that the recommendations that will be made to alleviate the problems could be excessively expensive and that the city could not afford to actually implement the plans once they have been developed, it was stated. The city manager suggested that the federal government may have funds available for this type of project.

Before the money is spent for a study, Mayor Lambert suggested having a representative from the Army Corps, FEMA and TEMA come to a regularly scheduled council meeting for discussions about the project.

East Ridge resident Mimi Lowry, who heads up the city’s community garden at Camp Jordan Park, reported that she has applied for a grant and, if it is received, will ask permission to make raised garden beds behind the City Hall. These would provide easier access for seniors or those with handicaps. These gardens are intended to encourage family and friends to work together. Credit is given for time worked and workers are paid with the food grown.  

A proposal was presented to the council by Ritchie and Tracy King based out of Bristol, Tn. Their family business would like to set up a 2014 holiday light show from Oct. 1-Jan. 27 in Camp Jordan Park. Their family business already has similar exhibitions in Myrtle Beach, Nashville, and Sevierville. These are computerized light displays that are synchronized with music, and are viewed from an automobile. The mile-long trail that cars follow ends at “Santa’s Village" where children can sit on Santa’s lap and shop from food and merchandise vendors each with an additional cost. Inflatables, pony rides and petting zoos would all be available for additional charges, as well. The cost to enter the drive through course is expected to be $20-$23 per car. This would cost the city nothing, but $1 per car would go to the city to be used for the Needy Child Fund. A vote on the proposition will take place at a later date.

Dalton Police Department Investigates Entering Auto Case

The Dalton Police Department is asking for the public’s help with identifying two suspects in the theft of several items from a car parked at an area business in March.  The suspects were recorded on surveillance video using a bank card stolen in the incident to rack up more than $80 in purchases shortly after the theft occurred. The victim reported to police that her ... (click for more)

Fire Causes Estimated $200,000 In Damages At Home On Old East Brainerd Road

A fire at 11316 Old East Brainerd Road caused an estimated $200,000 in damages on Wednesday.    The first engine was on the scene in less than two minutes and reported smoke showing. Six engines and 35 firefighters brought the fire under control in one hour.  The cause is under investigation.  HCEMS Medic 7 was on the scene, but there were no injuries. ... (click for more)

What's Wrong With The City Recycle Program? - And Response (2)

Being new to recycling, I have lots to learn.  I rely on 311 and the attendants at the neighborhood collection centers to assist in building my knowledge.   Recently, I had an experience that makes me reconsidered my recycling efforts.  I loaded up my car, called 311 to verify what I could take, only to be blocked by the attendant at my neighborhood collection ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: That Billboard & Much More

Now that early voting has started and our strawberries have hopefully survived this last blush of winter, allow me to catch up on some things but, first, here’s a letter from a concerned reader I feel compelled to share: “There is something I have noticed throughout Brainerd, East Brainerd, Dayton, etc. A billboard has been put up, I believe by the Health Department of Hamilton ... (click for more)

Cuonzo Martin Leaves Tennessee For Job At California

Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin apparently took his name out of the coaching search at Marquette so he could put it in a hat at the University of California at Berkeley. On Tuesday, Martin broke ties with the Volunteers and accepted the head coaching job with the Bears. Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart admitted Martin’s move surprised him. “Not from my perspective,” ... (click for more)

Mocs Win Women's Southern Conference Championship

The Chattanooga Mocs are your Southern Conference Women’s Golf Champions. That’s five straight team titles and sophomore Emily McLennan (Queensland, Australia) made it the fourth consecutive sweep winning medalist honors. McLennan was solid shooting 222 for her 54 holes on a tough week for scoring. She won by four strokes over Furman’s Taylor Totland and was seven clear of ... (click for more)