East Ridge Votes 3-2 To Allow Beer At Special Events On City-Owned Property; Campground At Camp Jordan May Close

Saturday, November 11, 2017 - by Gail Perry

The proposal to allow beer sales at special events on city-owned property passed on a vote of three for and two against at the East Ridge City Council meeting Thursday night, with Mayor Brent Lambert and Councilman Jacky Cagle opposed.  

A room full of East Ridge citizens had the opportunity to speak for and against the proposal to issue special event beer permits on city-owned property. The pastors of two city churches appealed to the council to deny the sale on moral grounds. Others spoke in favor, saying that allowing beer would attract more events to the city’s facilities increasing revenue.

Erin Rickman told the council that the emergence of micro breweries in Chattanooga has increased business and tourism in Chattanooga where new restaurants and art galleries have sprung up around them. She said a lot of people are opposed to any change but times are changing and the city should consider the proposal. Lifelong resident of East Ridge Dick Cook cited a vote in the 1970s that prevented liquor by the drink that impeded economic development for 30 years because restaurants chose not to locate in the city. “The sky is not falling,” he said, if beer sales are allowed at special events in the parks. It is time to move forward.

Mayor Brent Lambert said it was important for the council to hear the varying opinions before making a decision. The council needs to look at what it will lose if the option of selling beer at special events is not allowed, said Councilmember Brian Williams, recognizing that the 30-year prohibition of liquor by the drink was a detriment to growth. Some large events have not considered using Camp Jordan’s facilities because temporary beer permits have not been allowed, said city officials.

Karen Shostack, who is in charge of beer sales at special events for the city of Chattanooga, was present to answer questions and give advice about allowing the practice in East Ridge.

The ordinance that passed has strict restrictions, partially because of liability issues for the city, said City Manager Scott Miller. He would like the ordinance to spell out penalties for violations so an event could be closed down immediately if a problem occurs. There would be strict parameters, rules and regulations, he said of the ordinance drafted by City Attorney Mark Litchford. The organizer of a special event that serves beer would be responsible to carry the liability and to pay for any services required such as police and sanitation. The city would determine the number of police necessary for each application.

An application would be reviewed by the city manager and his staff before being sent to the city council which would make the final determination if the permit is issued. The cost of an application was set at $250. Conditions include that only a non-profit or political organization or a caterer would be allowed to receive a permit. A diagram of the proposed event would be required from the applicant which would be used to determine the confined location where alcohol could be consumed. No outside food or beverages would be allowed.

The ordinance passed on first reading and changes can be made at the second reading that will take place at the Dec. 14 city council meeting.

Discussion also took place about closing the campground that is located in Camp Jordan. After heavy equipment used in the construction of Jordan Crossing broke underground water pipes,  there are so many leaks that the city has received water bills over $10,000 when water is turned on to accommodate campers. It would require hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs and improvements, said the city manager, and “it looks like a drive in theater that has been closed down,” said Parks and Recreation Director Stump Martin. A decision will be made at the next council meeting. That area could be used for additional parking, said Mr. Martin.

Mr. Miller updated the council on work at the Exit 1 interchange project, saying that it was 25 percent complete at the end of October. Construction is continuing seven days a week with the goal of opening on Memorial Day. To prevent work from stopping, the city manager approved a change order request for $84,663 that came about because core sampling was not performed before working on the roads. During the construction, problems were discovered with the underlying soil that needs to be reinforced for the integrity of the new road. Because the geo technical tests should have been done by the engineering company, the city manager is consulting with the city lawyer to pursue what can be done.

TDOT is planning to begin construction on the reconfiguration of the I-24 / I-75 interchange in October 2018, about the time that Exit 1 project is finished. “It will be a major mess,” said the city manager.

A five-year recreation plan to determine the future of East Ridge parks will be discussed at the Dec. 14 meeting. This will aid the city manager in pursuing grants to help pay for improvements. In the meantime, new outdoor exercise equipment will be installed at Pioneer Park. A splash pad and new playground equipment will also be added later. Playcore, a local company, will install the exercise equipment valued at $42,000, for the cost of $15,000 to East Ridge because the park will be used in advertising photos for the local company.

The council gave approval for the purchase of soccer uniform shirts for the 2018 indoor soccer season, and authorized the payment of salary supplements to firefighters and police officers for competing approved annual in-service training.

Jason Martin with Henderson, Hutcherson and McCullough presented the results of the fiscal year 2016-2017 audit which showed the city has reserves equal to five months of expenditures. There was a surplus in both the revenue and left after expenses for the year. The challenge, he told the council, is to not over commit from the dollars that will be received from the border region money. He warned the council to listen to the city manager and to look at future projects and the additional costs that inevitably come down the road with them.

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