East Ridge’s Financial Director Diane Qualls said Thursday that, thanks to its Border Region, the city has been able to thrive financially in hard times. She said at the commission meeting, "During COVID, we made money while others were bleeding it."
East Ridge received its share of taxes from the Border Region in September, for the amount of $2,931,269.
This is an increase of around $391,000 over what was received in September 2019, she said, and that is not counting the new businesses that have recently opened in East Ridge that will be included next year. Sales taxes also increased this year and fast-food restaurants have continued to be supported during the pandemic. And a lot of events took place at Camp Jordan Park in July, she said.
The city has used Border Region money to pay as incentives for business to move into East Ridge. In 2020, the total of $1,888,258 was paid to four developers as incentives, and $601,138 of the money was used for debt payments instead of taking it from the general fund, she said.
The Border Region legislation allows East Ridge to provide financial incentives to spur new development in a prescribed district at the state line. The city can then be reimbursed by getting a portion of the state's share of increased sales tax in the district.
Designed to keep sales tax dollars in Tennessee by making its border cities more competitive, this legislation allows a city to enter into financial incentive agreements to spur new development within a prescribed area—its Border Region District. The city can then be reimbursed for the cost of those incentives by receiving a portion of the state’s share of increased sales tax revenue.
On the final reading the council approved a budget amendment to reconcile differences in the budget and actual expenditures. This amendment includes raises for city employees that will be retroactive to July 1. The first paid will be included on Nov. 1 pay checks. Mayor Brian Williams has also worked with City Manager Chris Dorsey to develop a service awards program to recognize employees’ dedication. It establishes the program beginning with a person who has worked at the city for five years. They will receive a five-year pin and a $50 gift card and will progress every five years until there has been 30 years of service. The first will be rewarded on Jan.1, 2021.
East Ridge applies for grants each year that are being used to build sidewalks alongside Ringgold Road. Community Involvement Coordinator Amanda Bowers told the council that it is time again to apply for the 2020 Multi Modal Grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation. At the same time an application has been made for a Transportation Alternatives Grant (TAP) from TDOT. The Multi Modal grant is a split of 95 percent coming from the state with the city contributing five percent. East Ridge’s portion will be $50,000 and TDOT will contribute $1 million for this portion of the sidewalk that will go east from Swope Drive to Keeble Street. The TAP grant will be used for the sidewalk between McBrien Road to Swope for a continuous walkway.
The council members, Assistant Police Chief Clint Uselton, Mayor Williams and City Manager Dorsey each praised the response of first responders when East Ridge Corporal Terry Prescott was shot several times after making a traffic stop Sunday. Chief Uselton cited a long list of surrounding law enforcement agencies that responded and he thanked them for bringing their various resources and manpower. Help also came from local businesses who fed the many people involved.
In his report, Mayor Williams said that traffic this weekend will be very congested due to the traffic pattern changes at the Interstate I-75/I-24 split. There will also be police stationed on Ringgold Road to stop trucks that are too tall before getting to the tunnels to prevent them from getting stuck. The police will be conducting a drug take-back day on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Walgreens at 5301 Ringgold Road. The mayor said that the city does not generally regulate Halloween celebrations, but that is left to the neighborhoods. He said this year people should follow the CDC guidelines. There is a link to these guidelines on the city’s website.
The city manager reported that leaf pick-ups will begin in mid-November. He also said due to difficulties from the coronavirus, the Industrial Development Board meetings will now be held in the large council room with auditorium seating to allow for social distancing. These meetings will be held the third Thursday of every month starting on Nov. 19. He also said that a lottery for tent locations for East Ridge candidates will take place next Tuesday starting at noon.