East Ridge Mayor Brian Williams, at the Thursday night council meeting,cleared up some misconceptions about the city that he said have been going around on social media recently. During the Fourth of July celebrations where most public displays of fireworks were cancelled, there was a proliferation of people setting off their own. Confusion was caused, in part, because a previous city council had allowed the sale of fireworks in East Ridge but the municipal code prohibits individuals from using them in the city.
On the weekend of the Fourth, he said that police had received “many, many,” calls and had issued many warnings and citations. He thanked the police department for what they had tried to control. Erroneous posts on social media had also been made about the mayor shooting fireworks during that time. Mayor Williams dispelled that rumor, saying he has never bought or set them off and had been out of town that weekend.
Another matter that was cleared up involved the SRO at East Ridge Middle School. Because the middle and high schools are at the same location, problems occurred when school hours changed last year. The time change dismisses the middle school an hour earlier than the high school resulting in some students being left at the school for two hours before being picked up. During that time, he said those students were uncontrollable and caused many problems at and around city hall including fights at Pioneer Park and harassing people going to the community center requiring police intervention and arrests. He said that officer is needed at and has been reassigned to city hall.
City Manager Chris Dorsey said that SROs at other Hamilton County schools are not funded by the cities where they are located. Because the high school and middle school are in the same location, he said there is still an SRO presence and that he has requested that the school board provide one for the middle school.
Another rumor circulating is that the city is not stating its debt accurately and that it has increased during the past year. In reality, said the mayor it has decreased by 4.9 percent from the previous year. Finance Director Diane Qualls said financial audits are done and debt is reviewed regularly. This accurate information is available on the city’s website. Mayor Williams said the city is in very good financial shape.
Ms. Qualls reported on this year’s tax collections. She said that local option sales tax was less this year due to the businesses that were shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that East Ridge had still collected $2.8 million from this tax. There has been a 94 percent collection rate of property taxes and 136 percent has been collected in delinquent property taxes. The amount of state taxes that the city will receive is still unknown.
A moratorium that has been in place for accepting and processing applications for outdoor and advertising signs was extended for an additional 180 days. City Manager Dorsey said due to a Supreme Court decision, and state legislation, TDOT is altering its plan regulating signs. The result is unknown at this time because of delays caused by the coronavirus. The moratorium is needed in order to make sure the city is in sync with TDOT.
The city manager said there is an effort to have a referendum on allowing a liquor store within the city. He said this is a citizen-inspired effort and that the city’s opinion is neutral. The process is that a petition would be required to have signatures of 10 percent of the voters. It would then be presented to the city council which would pass a resolution to put it on the ballot.
A new service is being provided to residents of the city who may need help. The police department will head the program that allows individuals to sign up, after which the police will check on that person once a week to insure all is well. If a resident of the city is interested, information on the program can be found on the city’s website under the police tab.
A resolution was passed to accept a donation of $7,500 from Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd that will be used to buy supplies for the police department.