On Thursday, the East Ridge City Council approved spending more than $100,000 on the city’s SWAT team to replace aging body armor and provide new firearms.
Police Chief J.R. Reed said he will order 12 state-of-the-art tactical vests, 12 light-weight helmets and 13 rifles with accessories from GT Distributors as soon as possible at a cost of $107,251. The money to pay for the expenditure will come from the city’s “rainy day” fund.
The need for the equipment came to the fore when the recently formed International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 735 came before the council some weeks ago saying that the city’s SWAT team members where using outdated equipment, which was putting officers’ lives in danger. The union members claimed that some of the body armor was as much as 15 years-old. Officials said that most body armor has an effective lifespan of about five years.
The council also approved the spending of $62,000 on two SUV’s for the ERPD’s Crime Suppression Unit (CSU). In a memo to the mayor and council, Chief Reed said that initially CSU – something akin to undercover officers – where going to use vehicles that the department had seized. That plan fell through.
More equipment for the ERPD is being purchased from federal grant money. The council authorized spending roughly $25,000 on Tasers and related equipment.
The council did not take action on a request by the East Ridge Alumni Association to allocate funds for the construction of a field house at East Ridge High School’s Raymond James Stadium. In recent council meetings ERHS football coach Tim James had briefed the council on the critical need for the facility, which would include restrooms and concession stands.
The alumni association has raised more than $75,000 and Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd has secured $50,000 for the project. A recent fundraising golf tournament raised about $25,000. The association wanted to be responsible for construction of the field house and was asking for the city to donate as much as $250,000 toward the project.
On its own, the alumni association has had architectural plans drawn for the facility. The association also lined up in-kind work from skilled tradesman to provide their services in the construction of the facility.
City Manager Scott Miller was informed by state officials that the city could not donate funds to another organization for construction of a building on city-owned property. The City of East Ridge must be responsible for the construction of the field house.
Depending upon the size of the facility, the cost could be as much as $750,000, money that city doesn’t have.
Miller said he would meet with Coach James to obtain specific information on the size of the facility so that city officials might once again consider funding the facility.
The re-zoning of the property on Fountain Avenue where the Sweetbay Apartments want to build a 20-unit complex remained tabled.
On Wednesday, Russell Smith with the management firm that operates the apartments met with concerned members of the community who were asking for stipulations, including fencing, lighting and a crime-free leasing policy.
Smith said that work will begin soon on razing condemned buildings on the property.