The city will pay Retail Strategies $48,000 in the first year of a three-year agreement to help bring new retail businesses to East Ridge. Representatives of the firm told the council that they will work with local property owners, developers and real estate professionals to match up with companies wanting to come to the city.
“They would act as an agent working on behalf of East Ridge,” said City Treasurer Thad Jablonski. “It’s a strategic approach (to economic development) with control.”
Jablonski said the three-year deal would total $100,000, but that the city could opt out of the agreement after any given year if not satisfied with the results Retail Strategies produces. In addition, the city may receive reimbursement of the cost through the state’s Border Region Act.
Councilman Jacky Cagle offered an alternative proposal. The councilman suggested having two people inside City Hall _ the director of community involvement and the development services manager _ take on the work of what Retail Strategies would provide.
City Manager Andrew Hyatt told Councilman Cagle that those two positions were budgeted for this year but never approved and therefore never filled.
The measure, which had been tabled for several months, was approved by a 3-2 vote, with Councilmen Cagle and Denny Manning voting no.
The council voted unanimously on first reading on an ordinance that would limit “clustering” of payday lending businesses. City Attorney Hal North told the council that the ordinance was fashioned after one which was recently adopted by Chattanooga.
The ordinance, which only applies to new “payday lending” businesses moving into the city, limits distances between these types of businesses and distances from residential areas. The ordinance states they can be no closer that 1,500 from each other and no closer than 500 feet to a residential area.
At one point the council_ which for years had stated it could take no action whatsoever pertaining to “payday lenders” because they were regulated by the state under banking rules _ wanted to expand the distances involving “clustering” under the ordinance. North cautioned the board to not effectively make it impossible for new businesses of this type to come to East Ridge.
According to the state, East Ridge has 10 “payday lenders.” Recent news articles in the Chattanooga Times Free Press report that there are as many as 30 of these types of businesses in the city.
A second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for April 9.
The board approved five resolutions on short order. They deal with grants to law enforcement, and the purchase of a $9,885 thermal imaging camera for the fire department.
One resolution _ allowing the city to offer a matching grant of up to $10,000 for businesses to improve its facades _ received some scrutiny. The program would assist businesses in upgrading the appearance of their buildings, landscaping or signs.
City Manager Hyatt told the council that this facade grant program could be used by business owners to come into compliance with a possible new sign ordinance being considered by the city. Jablonski added that there were a number of guidelines that owners would have to meet. Hyatt said he would like to see the program up and running by June or July of this year.
The city approved the purchase of a new mini-excavator. The winning bid by Mid South Equipment was $58,000.
City staff provided the council with a proposed schedule in which to formulate next year’s budget. An initial presentation to the council is scheduled for April 23. On May 14, the council will have an opportunity to make recommendations, and by May 28 those changes could be integrated into the new budget. The budget is scheduled to be approved by June 30, but not before the city holds necessary public hearings, and the ordinance is published “in a newspaper of general circulation … not less than ten days prior to the meeting where the governing body will consider final passage.”
Finally, the council agreed to take the proceeds from the sale of the Monroe Street property and place it in the Capital Improvement Fund, not the General Fund. Mayor Brent Lambert suggested, and the council agreed, that a portion of the $561,000 be used to pay for the services provided by Retail Strategies.