East Ridge Mayor Brian Williams said Wednesday that he was unable to get a meeting today with Chattanooga officials concerning Chattanooga’s plan to house its homeless in 100 rooms at the Budgetel, an extended stay motel in East Ridge.
Mayor Williams said he has spoken with East Ridge City Attorney Mark Litchford about the issue and that Litchford “is engaged” in responding to Chattanooga’s plan.
“We will obtain information from Chattanooga (Thursday) and we will then decide how the City of East Ridge will proceed,” Mayor Williams said in a written statement to East Ridge News Online.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd, who represents District 8 that includes East Ridge, wasn’t waiting around. Boyd fired of a letter to both East Ridge and Chattanooga officials voicing his concern over the plan.
What follows is Commissioner Boyd’s letter:
It has come to my attention that the City of Chattanooga has unilaterally decided to provide services for a portion of the Homeless Population of Chattanooga within the boundaries of East Ridge without mutual consent from the City of East Ridge. This gives me great concern that the City of Chattanooga Mayor and Counsel Members feel they can make decisions concerning other municipalities within Hamilton County without any consideration of the impacts any City of Chattanooga services may have on the municipality where the proposed services are actually located and/or provided.
It is also my understanding that the City of Chattanooga has been housing a small number of homeless at an extended stay hotel (hereinafter referred to as “hotel”) located within East Ridge since last fall. This alone may be in direct violation of the operating permit issued to the hotel owners where the homeless are residing. As per an East Ridge ordinance, a hotel operator cannot provide housing for more than ninety (90) consecutive days to any individual residing at the hotel.
Due to the fact Hamilton County District 8 encompasses all of East Ridge and a large portion of Chattanooga, and I have been elected to represent the citizens of District-8, I am very concerned that there is no interlocal agreement between the City of Chattanooga and the City of East Ridge concerning the housing of homeless persons within the City of East Ridge. As such both municipalities may be in violation of their respective city charters. According to the “Handbook for Interlocal Agreements and Contracts” issued by the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (Washington DC, March 1967), a ” … municipal corporations’ powers generally are deemed to end at the municipal boundaries… ” without an interlocal agreement.
I suggest a meeting between the City of Chattanooga Mayor’s Staff and the City of East Ridge Mayor’s Staff be convened as soon as possible to discuss this issue, and any actions taken by the City of Chattanooga to transfer homeless to the City of East Ridge be stopped immediately. All parties involved with the decision to house homeless in a hotel within East Ridge should meet to consider all the issues impacted by this proposal. A mutually agreeable interlocal agreement should be drafted, approved by both the City Counsels of Chattanooga and East Ridge, and signed by both Mayors, before any further actions be taken to relocate homeless from Chattanooga to East Ridge.
If I can be of any assistance in helping develop a mutually agreeable solution to this issue, please do not hesitate to contact me.
On Tuesday, Tyler Yount, a representative of Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, gave a presentation to the Chattanooga City Council outlining a plan to house its homeless at the Budgetel on North Mack Smith Road for up to 90 days.
Chattanooga and Budgetel entered into an agreement where Chattanooga would pay up to $400,000 to lodge the homeless. The City of Chattanooga would be reimbursed by FEMA. In addition, FEMA would fund various agencies to work with those staying at the Budgetel in an effort to find them permanent shelter and other services.
The motel would provide a shuttle for the homeless staying there, as well as a security component.