The East Ridge City Council adopted a $13.6 million budget and awarded a $5.7 million bid for the reconfiguration of Exit 1, Thursday night during its regular meeting.
The fiscal year 2017-18 budget represents an increase of almost $1 million over the actual 2016 budget and includes a three percent cost of living raise for city employees. It is based on a tax rate of $1.33, the “rolled back” rate after reappraisal by Hamilton County.
There was a public hearing on the budget prior to the council meeting where not one citizen commented or presented questions. During that meeting, Mayor Lambert noted an increase of more than 19 percent in local option sales taxes from $2.5 million to $2.7 million.
The city awarded C.W. Matthews Contracting Company the bid for construction on the reconfiguration of Exit 1. The company out of Marietta, Georgia, had the low bid of $5.753 million for the project. The council then authorized City Manager Scott Miller to submit paperwork to the Tennessee Department of Revenue to sign off on East Ridge obtaining a $4.9 million bond from the Tennessee Municipal Bond Fund to help pay for the project.
Councilman Brian Williams asked about a timetable for completion. Miller said that he expects completion of the roadway from Exit 1 on Interstate 75 connecting directly with Camp Jordan Parkway by Thanksgiving of this year. The total project – an on-ramp from Ringgold Road to I-75 north, along with lighting and landscaping – would take at least seven months.
During the regular meeting the council finalized a contract with CARTA to provide bus service to the city. The service, a version of CARTA’s “para-transit” will provide the disabled and qualifying senior citizens with door-to-door service for a $5 round trip fee. The city has set aside $30,000 to cover a $15 round-trip subsidy.
CARTA service will run Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and requires riders to give a 48-hour notice of a trip. It will go into effect on Sept 1, officials said. Amanda Miller, the city’s Community Involvement Coordinator, said the city will provide specific information about rider registration and how to access bus service on its Website.
The council approved a measure allowing the City Manager to move forward in seeking an engineering firm for work on a streetscape project for west Ringgold Road from Wimberly Lane to South Seminole Drive. The 2.5 mile section of the city’s main commercial artery is fraught with drainage issues which discourages businesses locating there, Miller said.
“There are lots of empty businesses there,” he said. “We need something to stimulate revitalization. This would do it.”
The project, which may take six to eight months to complete, would be funded by money reimbursed to the city from the Border Region Act, Miller said.
The council authorized Miller to move forward in his effort to contract with an architect/planner for a proposed Town Center on the seven acres of property in and around City Hall.
Miller said that he has reconsidered the prospect of moving the entire police department and fire department to the building that was once McBrien School. He said that possibly the records department and criminal investigative division of ERPD could be housed in the former McBrien building. Miller said that he definitely was looking to relocate the Animal Services Department from its Yale Street facility that is prone to flooding.
He took special note of the need for parking to accommodate visitors and city staff at the new facilities..
“We need the help of an architect to put together a plan that makes sense for the recreation uses and city services,” Miller said.
The Town Center would include a renovated Pioneer Frontier playground with the new element of a splash pad. During the “Communication from Citizens” portion of the meeting, Peter Yakimowich addressed the council after Mayor Lambert announced that Yakimowich had given the city $1,000 to go toward playground/splash pad renovation.
Yakimowich said that he and his wife, Elyse, had started an engineering company more than 20 years ago. The City of East Ridge was one of the new company’s first clients, and “a big help in launching our company.”
He said that he spoke with Councilwoman Esther Helton about how he and his wife could help the city with its plans. Helton, he said, suggested Yakimowich’s donation could be used to help build the splash pad.
“Thanks to the city for what you’ve done for us in the past,” Yakimowich said. “We remember.”