A majority of the City Council on Tuesday spoke in favor of a beautification project planned along the renovated U.S. 27 from I-24 to the Olgiati Bridge. Councilwoman Carol Berz and Councilman Erskine Oglesby were chief among those praising the effort led by Judge Neil Thomas.
“This is really a great initiative that Judge Thomas has privately taken upon himself, and it has set a standard that will start to be emulated across the state,” said Councilman Oglesby. “I want to thank Councilwoman Berz, who has been serving on this committee from the outset for her output.”
Jane Bowen also informed the council about the private aspect of this initiative. Most of the money comes from the state, with the city only contributing a limited amount. Private funding is also accounted for.
“The city will put in one-fourth, the county will put in one-fourth, and then Tennessee Interstate Conservancy will put in one half of the funds,” said Ms. Bowen. “We are about to do a public campaign. Money is starting to come in and we’re starting to ramp up. But of course, COVID has not been our friend.”
Ms. Bowen said the project ends at the freeway, and it does not incorporate the freeway itself.
Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod then wondered if this pilot program will be implemented in other areas of Chattanooga. She then wondered why the council was so enthusiastically behind funding a beautification project when other projects were strenuously debated about.
“I think it’s a great idea, don’t get me wrong, but I’d like to see the contract,” said Councilwoman Coonrod. “This is the first we’ve heard about it that we’re going to be entering into an agreement that will provide $62,500.”
“But we had so much to say as a council when a learning institution for our kids came forth with a campaign about making contributions to donate, and that was the creative discovery museum downtown. I get it, we need to have a beautiful intersection. But our kids need to have opportunities to learn as well. Why couldn’t we do both?”
“We have other areas of our city, where we’re not even getting the work that the city is supposed to do for our roads, where they’re not getting paid or getting the beautification that the city is supposed to take care of. But now we’re here saying that we have $62,500 for our interstate highway system.”
Ms. Bowen then emphasized the public relations aspect of the project and how it could eventually be adopted by Tennessee’s other large cities.
“We have Memphis, Knoxville, and Clarksville who have been very on-board with starting it in their cities. They get the minutes and notes from our city, so it seems to be a statewide effort to bring back pride in taking care of our interstates.”
The resolution says:
“A resolution authorizing the Administrator for the Department of Public Works to enter into an agreement with the State of Tennessee, Hamilton County, and Tennessee Interstate Conservancy to maintain landscaping improvements to the downtown interchanges of the roadway known as Hwy. 127 between the intersection of Interstate 24 and Olgiati Bridge as a pilot for the beautification of the Interstate Highway System by the State of Tennessee, with the City’s annual contribution not to exceed $62,500.00 for each fiscal year.”