It was the feel good moment of the year at the East Ridge City Council meeting, Thursday night, as Mimi Lowery briefed the board on what the Needy Child Fund had accomplished over the holidays.
Lowery, the chairperson of the NCF board of directors, informed the council that 160 children and 56 families essentially had a Christmas as beneficiaries of the Needy Child Fund. Those children received shoes, coats, socks, shirts and toys all purchased through donations from the people, businesses and organizations of the community.
The non-profit charity – which was formed after the East Ridge Fire Department’s departure as the driving force behind the charity_ raised $46,480 during the course of the year and used more than $19,000 to make Christmas possible for the less fortunate. Lowery said the NCF has $52,000 in its account to carry on its work in the future.
“This is what your community can do if you just let us do it,” Lowery told the council.
Lowery acknowledged the contributions of the fire department, which left the NCF with money in the bank, Rep. Marc Gravitt, who assisted with issues arising from the formation of the 501 (c) (3), and Herman Schrader, whose Christmas light show on “Helton Hill” drew thousands of people who generously gave to the charity.
Lowery said that she and the volunteers of the NCF were looking forward to next year and she offered city fathers the organization’s help in efforts to revitalize Pioneer Frontier playground.
Mayor Brent Lambert thanked the NCF – whose board members gathered around Lowery at the podium for her briefing, and its volunteers in attendance at the meeting rose from their seats for recognition and rousing applause – for making a difference in the lives of less-fortunate children in East Ridge.
“(NCF) may get recruited to do other things,” Lambert added.
Under “old business,” the council approved the rezoning of property on Sewanee Drive from commercial to residential. It also amended an ordinance which allows the mayor to appoint a “designee” for the mayor’s position on the East Ridge Planning Commission.
Once again the council tabled discussion of raising the salary of the City Court Clerk. Councilman Jacky Cagle said he wanted to wait and get more information because of “stuff I hear is going on.”
Under “new business,” the council passed on first reading an ordinance that would allow the city to accept credit and debit cards as a source of payment. City Manager Scott Miller said that many people no longer carry cash and that it was a “matter of convenience.”
The city now has a vacancy in its Administrative Hearing Officer position, after Kyle Hedrick stepped down to accept the appointed position as a county judge. The Administrative Hearing Officer position was created in 2011, officials said, to hear cases involving code violations.
Two candidates for the position, James Exum and Chris Harris introduced themselves to the council and said they would like to serve. The council decided to advertise for the position and accept resumes. It was noted that the city needed to move with some degree of urgency to prevent a backlog of cases. It was also noted that there are no pending cases currently before the Administrative Hearing Officer.
The council passed a resolution authorizing $20,000 funding for the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority. That money will be used for professional services, including legal fees and fees for appraisals.
The council authorized the spending of $15,000 on a change order for construction of the Exit 1 reconfiguration project at Interstate 75. City Manager Miller said the money will be used to raise two manholes up to grade level at the new on-ramp on the north side of the project. Miller also noted that Exit 1 B – the exit that takes traffic off I-75 and allows cars to travel west on Ringgold Road – will be closed on Jan. 30. Signs will be posted on the interstate alerting motorists, he said.
During the “communications from citizens” portion of the meeting, Randy Sewell urged the council to take action against the Waverly Motel. Sewell, who lives in a neighborhood behind the business, noted numerous drug busts, people being charged with weapons’ crimes and validated gang members being taken into custody at the location.
“When is enough, enough?” Sewell asked the council.
Lambert said that city officials have had conversations with the owner of the motel and the city is looking at “several potential solutions.” Lambert said one of those solutions is redevelopment of the property as some business other than a motel.
Jeff Fisher, a Harris Hills resident, said he felt “conned” after signing a neighbor’s petition to resist city action on his neighbor having too many dogs. Fisher said the neighbor, who began renting the house in November, told him that numerous dogs at the house were family pets. Fisher subsequently discovered a Website in which the man advertised a dog breeding business. Fisher said he does not support his neighbor’s activities with the dogs.
Councilwoman Esther Helton read into the record a Facebook post she received from the owner of the Harris Hills house that he is leasing to the individual with the dogs. That statement urged the council to move forward with any action to remedy concerns of the neighbors.