City officials gave a warm welcome to the man who will be in charge of the new Bass Pro Shops when it opens later this year as the centerpiece of economic development in the city.
During Thursday’s City Council Meeting, Mayor Brent Lambert presented Jarron Ritchie with a gift basket of locally produced products and welcomed him to the city.
Stump Martin, Director of Parks and Recreation, was sporting a Bass Pro cap as he told council members that Ritchie was originally from Southwest Missouri and had been working for the giant retailer of outdoor equipment in Nashville for three years.
“He (Ritchie) told me that he and his wife loved the Chattanooga area and that they’ve moved to East Ridge,” Martin said.
The Bass Pro Shops store is currently under construction at Camp Jordan Parkway in the Jordan Crossings development. The store’s anticipated opening is sometime early this summer.
Martin introduced University of Tennessee at Chattanooga economics professor Dr. Bruce Hutchison, who gave a presentation on the economic impact that Camp Jordan has on the local economy. The study was done by his colleague Dr. William Legg, who was unable to be at the meeting due to health reasons.
Dr. Hutchison said that revenues from the park have increased from 2012 _ the year East Ridge took over operations of the park _ by more than $160,00. The operating deficit has decreased from about $850,000 in 2012 to $550,000 in 2015, or about 36 percent.
The study claims that Camp Jordan had a direct economic impact on the City of East Ridge of almost $900,000 last year. That came through about 3,000 overnight visitors who spent almost $300 a day in East Ridge.
Mayor Lambert said the study “makes tangible what we’ve expected for a long time.” He said Camp Jordan is very significant to the economy of the city and that officials will continue to encourage events in the park that will draw people to East Ridge.
In “Old Business,” the Council tabled on second reading a proposed reworking of the city’s sign ordinance.
Fire Marshal Kenny Custer told the Council that he needed more time to fine tune provisions in the proposed new legislation that deals with LED signs and billboards. He said the city is growing and changing at a rapid pace and that he wants to “get it right.” Custer said he wants to make sure that provisions in the ordinance can be realistically enforced by codes officials.
Vice Mayor Marc Gravitt made a motion that was passed to establish a 90-day moratorium on granting permits for LED billboards and retrofitting conventional billboards to the bright LED lights.
Gravitt said that his aim was not to discourage development but to get a handle on proliferating signage, some of which he said was “gaudy.” He said that there are between 60 and 70 billboards along Ringgold Road from the tunnels to Interstate 75.
Lambert agreed that the City should “get ahead of the curve” as it pertains to regulating LED signs and billboards.
The Council continued to wrangle with personnel issues. A discussion of adding a position to the administrative staff ensued where confusion reigned. Recent moves in personnel has shifted a position from codes enforcement to administrative staff, leaving that department shorthanded.
Interim City Manager Mike Williams argued that the entire city is short staffed, but critically so in administration, as the city is without a permanent City Manager and a Treasurer. These absences have created more of a hardship on staff inside City Hall, he said.
Vice Mayor Gravitt said he was not prepared to approve hiring an additional administrative person without a solid job description and salary range. The issue remains unresolved.
During the communication from council portion of the meeting, Councilman Jacky Cagle questioned the contract the city has with Ridgeside for fire and police protection. He said that he asked city staff for updated information about the City of East Ridge’s resources as it pertains to fire and police protection for Ridgeside more than a month ago. He has yet to get that information.
Mayor Lambert shared information which demonstrates how the city is taking off with development. He said that last year the city collected almost $225,000 in various building permit fees. That figure is more than double the fees collected from 2013 and 2014.
Gravitt asked how many resumes the city has received for the vacant City Manager’s position? He was told that 40 people have applied for the job. The application period closes on Jan. 29. Cagle said that he wanted a list of those names within the next few days.
During the citizens comments period of the meeting, Matthew DeGlopper (a frequent contributor to East Ridge News Online) encouraged the city to purchase software to track pawn shop transactions. He said the relatively inexpensive software would be cost effective and enormously aid law enforcement in recovering residents’ stolen property.
Interim City Manager Williams told those in attendance after DeGlopper expressed his concerns, that Williams had met with Police Chief J.R. Reed earlier in the day and decided to move forward with the purchase of the software. It should be operational in the near future.