East Ridge Police Chief J.R. Reed introduced its newest officer to the City Council Thursday night during its regular monthly meeting.
Cpl. Steve Rogers entered the chambers and on the end of a tether was his new partner, Axel, a 14-month old Belgian Malinois.
“I didn’t administer the oath of office,” Chief Reed told the council. “I thought there might be a language barrier.”
Axel is a dual purpose K9 officer who will be able to track suspects if they run away from authorities or find folks who get lost, Cpl. Rogers said. Axel is also capable of sniffing out various narcotics that crooks might be trying to conceal from police.
The police dog was purchased with money from the department’s “drug fund,” officials said.
The meeting was held without Mayor Brent Lambert, Councilman Larry Sewell and City Attorney Hal North. Vice Mayor Marc Gravitt, who served as the chairman of the meeting, explained that the mayor and city attorney were absent because of a court case of which the city is a party. Councilman Sewell is on vacation.
Gravitt welcomed new City Manager Scott Miller to the dais saying that he thinks Miller and the city are a good fit. Miller thanked the council for having the confidence to hire him and that he will “give 110 percent to make East Ridge a better place to live, work and play.”
In an unusually short agenda, the council approved on second reading an ordinance to rezone a piece of property at the corner of South Terrace and Notre Dame Avenue from residential to commercial/office.
Councilman Jacky Cagle nominated Kenneth Rogers to a re-instituted city housing board. Vice Mayor Gravitt nominated Jim Winters, a former police officer for the city. When Councilman Denny Manning reiterated that he had selected Jim Bethune to serve on the board, from the audience Bethune asked that his name be withdrawn, stating that he is running in the November election for a seat on the council.
Councilman Manning quickly moved to nominate John Tilley, a former councilman who has since moved out of the city. It was noted that all housing board members must be residents of the city, so Councilman Manning said he would nominate at a later time. Both Rogers and Winters nominations were accepted by the council.
The council passed an ordinance for a continuation budget, as a new budget for fiscal year 2016-17 will not be adopted by the end of the month. City Manager Scott Miller informed the council that the continuation budget would allow the council to continue to appropriate money on a limited basis. Miller said the council per state law only allows the city to spend 1/12 of what was budgeted for the year in the general fund.
The council approved on an emergency basis the purchase of a condenser for a broken air conditioning unit at the fire station. This purchase will be made without going through the standard bidding process, which could take several weeks. Firefighters have been sweltering in the building and using portable air conditioners, Fire Chief Mike Williams said.
Miller said that the existing units had been installed too closely together and that the lack of circulation between the units was burning them out.
This prompted Chief Williams to say, “right now we’re burning the fireman out.”
Miller recommended to council that Allied Mechanical Construction be given the contract in the amount of $11,500. The council accepted the recommendation.
During the “communication from citizens” portion of the meeting, Mimi Lowery asked the council to reconsider removing part of a boundary fence on the north-west side of Camp Jordan. She said the plan of planting small trees and installing bollards would be insufficient to prevent an out of control vehicle from crashing down into the soccer stadium.
Miller said the lack of a fence may promote vandalism in the form of “turfing,” when a car intentionally drives through a field causing extensive damage. He urged the council to reconsider removing the fence.