East Ridge Opts For Mobile Police Radios Rather Than Tower; Legal Technicalities Arise On Red Wolves Using Camp Jordan

Friday, January 11, 2019 - by Dick Cook, East Ridge News Online

The East Ridge City Council backed away from building a new communications tower, opting instead to purchase new portable radios for the police department and in the process saving taxpayers half a million dollars on Thursday during its first meeting of 2019.

Acting City Manager Kenny Custer told the council that over the past couple of weeks he had multiple meetings with ERPD supervisors and patrol officers to identify issues with police radios.

The problem, he said, was spots in the city - including areas within the Fire and Police Services Center - where police radios didn’t work properly. 

“I wanted to know what this (a communications tower at a cost of $767,000) was going to accomplish,” Mr. Custer said. As it turns out, he said, the manufacturer could not guarantee total radio coverage across the city. 

The council voted unanimously to purchase from Motorola 45  mobile radios, 10 portable radios and  a base station for the police station. The $236,000 price tag includes installation and training.

The council voted to accept a bid from Premier Fence LLC to install six-foot, PVC-coated fencing on 13 baseball/softball fields inside Camp Jordan Park. Premier’s winning bid of $628,000 was $250,000 less than one of the four companies bidding on the project.

Parks and Recreation Director Adam Wilson said he wanted to replace all the fencing, including some relatively new custom made steel and wood fencing on several baseball fields, to give the park a uniform appearance.

Councilman Mike Chauncey said he would like to see as much fencing as possible salvaged from the park. It could be re-used by the city on the proposed dog park project.

Acting City Manager Custer said the idea on replacing all the fencing was “to avoid a piecemeal project that (the city) has been notorious for in the past.”

 City Attorney Mark Litchford briefed the council on the legal technicalities of entering into a public/private venture with the Chattanooga Red Wolves at Camp Jordan Park. Red Wolves owner Bob Martino has proposed using the soccer field at Weldon Osborne Stadium as a training facility for his professional soccer team. Mr. Martino wants to build several structures to be used as locker rooms, coaches offices and merchandising area for the Red Wolves. The improved field and facilities could be used to host important, high-profile amateur soccer events and bring visitors and notoriety to East Ridge.

Attorney Litchford said, in recent days, he had been in touch with state officials, including the comptroller’s office and representatives from Recreation Educational Service, about what uses are permitted in the park in a private/public partnership. Concerns have been raised that the city may not be eligible for certain state grants as it pertains to parks and recreation if it partners with private business on certain ventures.

Attorney Litchford said there is still more research to be done before he can assure the council that the deal with the Red Wolves is tenable to the city. He said he hopes to conclude the research and have a resolution for the council to consider by its second meeting of the month.

In the same vein, during the workshop agenda session, parks and recreation director Wilson told the council that Battlefield Outdoors wants to use Camp Jordan to promote its outdoor adventure business. David Bridges, the owner of Battlefield Outdoors, wants to rent canoes/kayaks and bikes to people inside the park. 

Mr. Wilson said he would like to enter into a five-year agreement where the city would receive a percentage of the gross sales from the rentals.

During the communications from citizens portion of the meeting, Steve Paris complained that he and his neighbors on Orlando Avenue were never notified of a planning commission meeting concerning the subdividing of 1.73 acres of land on the street into five separate parcels.

Mr. Paris said he contacted city hall and was told that he would receive a notice of any meeting concerning building four additional homes on the narrow, dead end street.

“I was lied to by City Hall and that upsets me deeply,” he said. 

Acting City Manager Custer apologized to Mr. Paris and told him that notice of dividing an existing residential (R-1) property wasn’t necessary. He said whoever gave Mr. Paris the information about a notice was assuming that a rezoning was taking place. In that instance a notification would have gone out to all residents within a 300-foot radius.

“You were told inadvertently (about a notice of the meeting),” Mr. Custer said. “It was not malicious.”

Mr. Paris said that he and his neighbors opposed subdividing the parcel and they were not given a chance to voice their opposition.

“If you want your legacy to be transparency and honesty you are not getting off to a good start,” he told the council before returning to his seat.

Councilman Chauncey, who also serves as the chairman of the East Ridge Planning Commission, said that he would like to take a closer look at how the city informs residents of development or construction near their properties. He urged Mr. Paris to reach out to the council if and when construction begins to keep them apprised of any issues.

Mr. Paris assured Councilman Chauncey that he wold do just that.

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