County Mayor Weston Wamp outlines plans for his second year in office at the Pachyderm Club meeting Monday
photo by Hannah Campbell
Hamilton County Mayor Weston Wamp will continue to focus on public education and economic development his second year in office, he told the Pachyderm Club at its meeting Monday.
Mayor Wamp said the Bend’s tax increment financing plan is set to be approved, which will fund a technical high school at the Gateway Building downtown.
“It appears to have all the political support it needs,” Mayor Wamp said, to get “out the gate.”
Mayor Wamp said that the Bend, a 120-acre, mixed-use “extension of downtown” TIF agreement is “novel” in that the $120 million it’s set to raise for public education is protected, and that the “lion’s share” of risk will be assumed by developer Jimmy White of Urban Story Ventures. Mayor Wamp said even in a worst-case scenario, taxpayers are structurally protected from losing money.
“The last thing our party ought to stand for is corporate welfare,” he said.
Mayor Wamp separated the Bend agreement from the South Broad TIF agreement, which he said does place financial risk on taxpayers and the county.
He went a step further and separated the Tennessee Aquarium, which opened in 1992, from the South Broad stadium for the Chattanooga Lookouts. Mayor Wamp said that Minor League Baseball is not a driver of local economy or of tourist activity.
“It’s not a driver of anything,” he said.
He said he’ll commit to public school student athletes with state-of-the-art fields and training facilities, as private schools lock in an “arms race” with each other for ultramodern athletic spaces, he said.
He announced that the county will invest in the Business Development Center on Manufacturers Road in North Chattanooga and that the site has big potential.
The historic McDonald Farm property is about halfway through improvements to host the Hamilton County Fair this November, he said.
“We all decided we were going to lean into it,” he said, and that the county has not funded the county fair in the past.
The Harrison Elementary senior center is on track to be open by the end of the year, he said.
Mayor Wamp told the Pachyderm Club that traditionally the county and city have tried to align with each other and stay on the “same page.”
“It’s a new time in county government,” he said. “We’re aligned with the state.”
Mayor Wamp said Hamilton County is a subdivision of the state and the “Republican leadership in Nashville.”
MORE IN MAYOR WAMP’S SECOND YEAR
In his second year, Mayor Wamp said he’ll attract career and technical teachers to public schools with a $7,000 bonus, plus $5,000 to cover teacher certifications. He said a new state funding formula gives schools money for career and technical students, but schools need that staff first.
He said he will get creative with state opioid abatement funds to prevent addiction and hold dealers accountable. “Being willing to fail, even,” he said. Though he praised nonprofit and private groups that do these things, he said, “There’s a lot of this we have to lead in government.”
He said he’ll continue the new Hamilton Counted data collection survey to track violent crime, opioid abuse, homelessness, sex abuse and education.
The county has applied for $200 million grants during Mayor Wamp’s first year in office. He said applying for grant money was not a priority for the previous administration.
“In this day and age it doesn’t make any sense (not to apply),” he said.