The East Ridge City Council gave its blessing to hire an architectural firm to design a pavilion adjacent to City Hall, the first step in creating a “Town Center,” Thursday evening during its regular meeting.
“We’re going to fast track this,” said City Manager Scott Miller. “
The City will pay $104,000 to the architectural firm of Hefferlin and Kronenberg to design a multi-purpose pavilion on land where children once played little league baseball adjacent to the old McBrien School. The open air pavilion will include restrooms and a concession area.
According to the 32-page agreement, city officials and the firm will hold a community meeting on May 3 to receive input on what the public would like to see in the pavilion. The structure’s design will be partly based on community input.
Miller said the project’s anticipated cost is $1.5 million and will paid for with Border Region tax money the city receives from the state. He said the design should be complete by late June with construction starting in the fall and completed by spring of next year.
The council also gave its blessing for the City to apply for a Local Parks and Recreation Fund grant through the state. City officials would apply for the maximum grant of $500,000, which would be matched by East Ridge. The grant is to be used to refurbish Pioneer Frontier playground incorporating a new splash pad.
Miller said the City did a recreational study last year that concluded the number one feature that residents wanted in East Ridge was a swimming pool or splash pad.
“We are listening to the public,” Miller said.
The council passed on first reading an ordinance that would regulate short term vacation rentals. Kenny Custer, Director of Community Services, explained that municipalities are scrambling to enact local laws prior to the state legislature passing measures that would “grandfather” in existing businesses.
Custer said the East Ridge ordinance would establish basic regulations that would include oversight and safety inspections. Short term vacation rentals, which operates under trade names like Airbnb, would not be allowed in areas zoned for single family homes or residential town houses.
Councilman Jacky Cagle named Jim Bethune to the city’s Industrial Development Board. He is replacing James Citty, who said he did not want to be reappointed. Councilman Brian Williams reappointed local attorney Estes Cocke to the IDB. Both men will serve four-year terms.
Mayor Brent Lambert had an opportunity to make an appointment to the newly-formed East Ridge Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Curtis Adams’ one-year term expires at the end of June. Adams is in ill-health and has attended only two meetings.
During the “Communications from Citizens” portion of the meeting, political activist Laura Mathis told the council that she had attended all the housing and redevelopment meetings and was “up to speed” on the issues facing the board. She asked to be considered for the appointment.
Lambert declined to act on either re-appointing Adams or naming a replacement. He said there was plenty of time to act before Adams’ term expires on June 30, 2018.
During the Agenda Workshop, which sets what the council will consider in its next meeting slated for April 26, City Manager Miller said that he had spoken with representatives of the East Ridge Alumni Association and East Ridge High School about the prospect of loaning the alumni association $200,000 for the construction of restroom facilities at Raymond James Stadium. The promissory note would be repaid by the alumni association over 10 years.
Miller said that the alumni association has raised $70,000 and that Hamilton County has chipped in another $50,000 toward completing the athletic facilities at the stadium. The cost of a new restrooms and a field house is estimated to be $350,000.
Miller said he did not want to “piecemeal” the project. “The stadium is our baby now,” he said.
East Ridge condemned the home stands of Raymond James Stadium in August 2015. Hamilton County Schools built aluminum stands to replace the 50-year-old concrete structure. Last year East Ridge negotiated with Hamilton County to assume ownership of all athletic fields surrounding the school.
Councilman Jacky Cagle asked about a provision in the agreement with Hamilton County Schools which would allow it to reclaim the athletic fields and pay the City for any improvements that it had made.
“What happens if the schools take it back?” Cagle asked.
City Attorney Mark Litchford told the council that if the schools reclaim the athletic fields, the alumni association would still be on the hook to pay back the $200,000 loan.