During Thursday night’s East Ridge City Council meeting at City Hall, councilman heard from two people with divergent views on how the city should act in terms of the condemned Superior Creek Lodge.
One man wanted city officials to never allow it to reopen as an extended stay motel, saying it trapped the poor. One woman asked the council to allow her to have a benefit concert in Camp Jordan with the proceeds going to help the displaced.
Ben Strickland gave councilmen a petition that he had started on social media that has 154 followers asking to keep SCL closed. “It’s a money trap for low-income families that attracts bad people,” Strickland told the council. He said that the condemnation of the business was a “blessing” to the residence, enabling them now to find another place to live.
Strickland said that local churches have helped the displaced and asked city officials if the city could help in some way to give former residence “a little boost.”
Teresa St. Clair told the council that she was trying to organize a benefit concert and wanted permission to use Camp Jordan as a venue. St. Clair said she had been talking with representatives of the Charlie Daniels Band who she said were sympathetic and seriously considering performing for the relief effort.
Mayor Brent Lambert said using the park must first be coordinated with Parks & Recreation Director Stump Martin and City Attorney Hal North. Martin said the potential benefit concert was “a great idea,” but there were conflicts with the Oct. 11 date. He said the Shrine Circus would be using Camp Jordan at that time and that Christmas Night of Lights would be using the amphitheater area for staging its holiday light show.
“The road (Camp Jordan Parkway) may even be closed at that time,” Martin said.
On Friday, Vice Mayor Marc Gravitt said that St. Clair was “putting the cart before the horse,” by setting a date with talent and publicizing the event on social media without talking to city officials to see if Camp Jordan might be available.
Matthew DeGlopper was concerned about traffic flow around the new Walmart Neighborhood Grocery store on Ringgold Road. He wanted to know if city officials had asked the Tennessee Department of Transportation if it could install a turn lane into the store?
“TDOT is throwing everything back on the city,” DeGlopper said.
Mayor Lambert said he recalled former City Manager Andrew Hyatt requesting that TDOT do a study for the turn lane.
David Sprouse, owner of Express Vapor in the 3300 block of Ringgold Road, told councilmen that personnel from the city’s codes enforcement department made him remove a flag used for advertising in front of his business.
“It was up for a year and a half … and it draws about 50 percent of my customers,” Sprouse said. He wanted some relief from the council. Sprouse considers the “flag,” an inverted teardrop, more of a sign than a flag, which does not comply with the city’s ordinances.
Mayor Lambert said he would like to see the “sign” after the meeting. He said the city had a workshop on the city’s sign ordinance after several small business owners had complained that the existing ordinance was too restrictive.
“We want to be as business friendly as we can,” he said. “The ordinance is still in progress. We don’t want to run people off or shut them down.”
Interim City Manager Mike Williams said he would check with codes enforcement officials if there may be an exception granted to Sprouse.
The council voted unanimously to hold East Ridge’s 95th birthday celebration over a two-day period on May 15 and 16. The budget for the birthday party would be set at a later time.
Williams told the council that he had been contacted by an employee of East Ridge High School asking if the city would use some heavy equipment to dig out and clean up a long-jump pit on the school’s property. Councilman Denny Manning asked if the city should get “the OK” from Hamilton County “since it’s their property.”
City Attorney North said he didn’t think the county would have a problem with the city doing work on their property. He suggested notifying the county of the city’s intention to do work at the high school.
The Crestwood Garden Club’s project to install a memorial garden at Camp Jordan in honor of former member Jo Lawrence was tabled by the council. It was unclear how much money the city would be required to spend on materials, in particular the rich soil recommended by Crestwood’s master gardener called “Black Gold.”
“I know I got some of that stuff and it was $30 a scoop,” Councilman Larry Sewell said.
Lambert suggested that the council “get its ducks in a row,” and the issue will be taken up at the next meeting.
The council passed an ordinance on first reading to allow the new fire station proposed on St. Thomas Street to operate under a “conditional use permit.” The fire hall would be built on a street that is zoned “residential.”
The council passed a resolution authorizing the Tennessee Economic Development District to enter into an agreement with ASA for engineering and consulting work on the multi-modal grant the city received. The grant will be used to build sidewalks and install islands along several blocks of Ringgold Road.
Finally, Vice Mayor Gravitt wanted to discuss the idea of rental property inspections being done by the city. He cited several state laws which would permit the city to take such actions. Attorney North said that state law prohibits the city from establishing a “fee schedule” to put the cost of inspections on landlords.
“We need to start a discussion about who is responsible for inspecting what,” Gravitt said.
Councilman Sewell said the city needed more manpower to establish such a program. Vice Mayor Gravitt agreed. “Citizens don’t understand that we have a bare-bones staff,” he said. “Let’s take into consideration hiring some more people as long as they are a qualified inspector.”