Usually on Thursdays East Ridge News Online files a news story detailing what happened at the City Council meeting.
This week, however, the council has decided to reschedule its meeting to July 16 because the entire council _ with the exception of Vice-Mayor Marc Gravitt who has business in Nashville _ has loaded up and hit the road to Bristol to check out the Bass Pro Shops store there. Tagging along with the council is the acting City Manager, the city’s Chief Building Inspector (Don’t know his/her name as this person was just hired within the last couple weeks or so) and the Fire Marshall.
It is unclear if the wives of councilmen will be going along on this trip. However, I would bet Shirley Manning is along for the ride, because Denny goes nowhere without his better half.
Acting City Manager Mike Williams told ERNO this morning that city officials were invited by Bass Pro Shops executives to come up and get a good look at what’s happening in Bristol. Williams said they could have left after the scheduled council meeting but felt like it would be safer to go up Thursday afternoon.
Of course, the council will have to have hotel/motel accommodations, there is mileage involved, there are meals to be eaten and so on. Williams said he didn’t know how much this trip would cost the city. One official said the trip could cost as much as five grand. The city has that in its travel budget, I’m sure, so it’s no big deal, right?
When told of this trip, a friend of mine who is a top-notch businessman in Atlanta said he was somewhat perplexed. His question was this: “Will the city receive $5,000 worth of benefits from the council’s trip?”
Just exactly what can the council learn from an overnight trip to Bristol to see the Bass Pro Shops _ on which developers said the East Ridge store will be modeled?
This trip might not be about Bass Pro Shops at all. The developers of the East Ridge Bass Pro told the Industrial Development Board Tuesday afternoon that blocks will start being laid at the Exit 1 development within the next couple weeks. The city has already come through with the incentives it’s promised. The developers have delivered on what they said they would do _ bring the land up to grade and prepare a pad for construction.
Bass Pro in East Ridge is a done deal. That begs the question; what can city officials, acting on behalf of the 20,000 citizens of East Ridge gain from the trip?
Let’s look back at Tuesday’s IDB meeting and the information developers shared with the board. The Bass Pro Shops is good to go. But, the developers told the board that the additional construction of Jordan Crossing _ 300,000 square-feet of retail space that would include a number of restaurants plus a hotel _ is not going to happen without two major issues being addressed … sewers and roads.
The developers told the board that the price tag on the roads was going to be about $2.8 million. TDOT, East Ridge and the developers are on board to pony up some cash. Hamilton County, in principle, has said it will also come through with some help on the financing.
Sewers are another story, though. The city applied for a sewer grant from the federal government on behalf of the county Water & Wastewater Treatment Authority (WWTA) this past winter. This grant could help finance a project to increase sewer capacity and manage stormwater runoff in the Camp Jordan area. I’m told the sewer project could cost upwards of $1.2 million. Once that is completed, the developers can ink deals with restaurants and hotels to do business in the new Jordan Crossing development that will rise up around the Bass Pro Shops.
It makes sense to me that the council’s trip to Bristol is more about seeing what businesses spring up around Bass Pro than going through a store that has been open for the better part of a year now.
I’m not sure the council members realize that or not.
No sewers _ no restaurants or hotel.
“Yeah, Bass Pro is great. It’s going to generate considerable sales tax revenue for the city. But, hey, think of what Jordan Crossing could truly be if we only had the infrastructure in place to land the businesses that typically spring up around Bass Pro.” I believe that is going to be the pitch that the council gets from the developers after the trip to Bristol.
I’m not saying that’s good or bad. It’s business, plain and simple.
The question is, who is going to pay for the infrastructure? I don’t think the developers have the resources to do it. Will WWTA, which receives a third of its revenues from East Ridge, step up to the plate and use the federal grant money ($500,000 with a match from WWTA) to get this project off the ground?
Does East Ridge have the financial wherewithal to once again reach into its coffers and write a six-figure check? Remember, our reserve fund is down to about $2.6 million now, after we wrote a $1 million check to the developers last month.
These are tough questions. The future of the city is riding on them.
But, the council is not around. They’ve rescheduled the July 9 meeting (one item on the agenda was a resolution to authorize the payment of a $750,000 capital outlay note to Cornerstone Bank) to take a field trip.
I think it’s high time the council gets down to business and stops playing at running a city.