East Ridge Council Again Narrowly Approves Soccer Club Contract; Hyatt Gets $10,000 Raise

Friday, May 9, 2014

East Ridge Council members again voted three to two for an agreement with the Chattanooga Football Club which will allow the group to practice and play soccer matches at Camp Jordan. The club will pay East Ridge 33 percent of the revenue derived from CFC games after expenses have been paid and the CFC gets the rest. The club will also pay $500 per day to use the fields and concessions will be shared.

Vice Mayor Jim Bethune questioned why the city could not run tournaments on its own, and keep more of the profits. Director of Parks and Recreation Stump Martin answered that he would not be able to do it alone and that the CFC depends on around 10 volunteers to organize each tournament. The city will still provide care for the fields and CFC will supply the goals.

City Attorney Hal North cautioned that the soccer club has greater rights than the city according to the contract as written. The soccer club will have the right to renew the contract without the city council’s approval if everything agreed upon in the lease has been done right. Councilman Marc Gravitt dismissed that concern saying that East Ridge “can terminate the agreement if they don’t do what they’re supposed to do.”

A sign to replace the old one at city hall was approved for the lowest bid of $21,210 submitted by Bill Ortwein Signs, Inc. This is the same company that is constructing the new sign at Camp Jordan. The one at city hall will be a brick and stucco structure holding a stationary sign and a 36”x72 LED message board. Discussion took place about placement in front of the Fire Hall on Ringgold Road which sees more traffic than on Tombras Avenue. Fire Chief Mike Williams expressed concern that a flashing sign might be a safety issue. It was decided that the location will remain in front of the city hall.

A fee schedule was approved for the disposal of bulk items. Residents of East Ridge will be identified with a driver’s license and will be allowed to bring items to the dumpster twice a month for no charge, excluding construction materials. Charges ranging from $5 to $20 have been established for non-residents and for more than two drop-offs from a citizen with an East Ridge address.

Approval was given to Verizon for the construction of a cell phone tower at the parking lot of a retirement center at 1405A Mack Smith Road. A representative from Verizon told the council that it would be a silver pole construction with no lattice design and will be 150 feet tall.

On second and final reading the council approved modifying the definition of townhouse. It will change from a structure consisting of 4-12 units to allow for two-unit buildings. This was requested by the developer of a new group of townhomes on Frawley Road so the buildings could be configured to allow for additional housing units.

Increased compensation was discussed for all city employees. Councilman Gravitt raised the issue of boosting the salary of City Manager Andrew Hyatt who was hired at a lower rate than his predecessor with the possibility of receiving an increase dependent on job performance. Mr. Gravitt said that City Manager Hyatt has done an outstanding job and suggested upping his pay from $90,000 to $100,000. Councilman Larry Sewell and Mayor Brent Lambert suggested that this be part of the budget discussions in the upcoming meetings, but both were in agreement that a raise would be appropriate. The motion passed four to one and will begin immediately.

Budget discussions will begin next week for fiscal year 2014-2015. It was decided to take up the matter of increases for city employees at that time. What the city can afford will be determined at that time. Councilman Sewell said he has been told that a salary increase that will impact retirement plans is preferred by the city’s work force over a one-time bonus.

The council on second and final reading rescinded the annual permit fee assessed to all private waste disposal companies that operate in the city. These companies primarily service commercial properties that do not qualify for city sanitation services. The fee that was determined by the number of trucks and dumpsters the company operated in the city was difficult to enforce and yielded only around $2,000 yearly.

Approval was also given to amend the budget to reflect changes that occurred during the year. Changes from the original budget must be balanced at the end of each fiscal year. What was anticipated was not received. Some changes that caused the discrepancy were that more youths than expected signed up to play soccer which added expense to the parks and recreation department for additional uniforms. Workers compensation insurance premiums paid by the city increased and $1 million was moved to a capital improvements fund. All these occurred after the original budget was adopted.

Resident and former city employee Mimi Lowrey told the council that she is leading the effort to raise money to update Pioneer Frontier and to build a playground at Camp Jordan Park. She estimated that it would take about one year to have the funds available for starting the renovations and that it would cost the city nothing because it would be built by volunteers just like the original playground. She said that a resident who is also an employee of Playcore is in the process of doing a rendering of what the revised park would look like and figuring a “guesstimate” She asked for approval from the council before starting the fundraising process.

A budget planning meeting has been tentatively scheduled for next Thursday, at 5:30 p.m.

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