I fear there are some challenging days ahead for our city. These challenges may try the patience of city leaders and those they lead.
On Saturday, Camp Jordan Park hosted the Chattanooga Cruise-In. I’m told thousands of people gathered there for the giant event that brought car enthusiasts from all over the region. I’m also told that motorists striving to get from their homes in Harris Hills to the eastern side of Interstate 75 confronted challenging congestion.
Another incident on Saturday posed a challenge that was met head on: a fire on Camp Jordan Road. Our firefighters, with the help of East Ridge police, were able to navigate the snarled traffic to get to the incident. Officials said someone inside a duplex left food on the stove resulting in nothing more than smoke damage.
Could’ve been much worse. I’m thinking a perfect storm of a multiple events at a packed park; big fire in the area, mutual aid response, fire hoses across streets, traffic detoured … challenging, to say the least.
Let’s add a couple of variable into the equation. Southern Honda Powersports is going to be relocating to Ringgold Road in the Camp Jordan area. A proposed Marriott Hotel may be going up on the other side of the street. It’s promised some kind of a water park.
More people, more cars, more business. That’s a good thing, right?
Well, yes. But our city officials must plan to keep all those visitors to our city and all the residents safe. And, our city officials have plans to do that, right? Well, I’m told they do.
I recall talk of more money for a fire truck and more firefighters in next year’s budget. If I’m not mistaken, we’re getting a grant to hire more cops for three years. So, there’s a fair chance that challenge will be met.
There is the small matter of not having a permanent police chief installed after J.R. Reed was dismissed.
I’m growing increasingly concerned over a challenge that the city has failed to address … extended stay motels.
City officials condemned the Superior Creek Lodge on N. Mack Smith Road in the fall of 2015. It was deemed unsafe for people to stay there. In fact, engineering studies concluded part of it could collapse under its own weight. More than 700 people were told to leave.
Fast forward to 2018. Budgetel opens on the same site, after a three-year renovation. Gone are the less than desirable folks who patronized Superior Creek, right?
Not necessarily so. I refer the reader to a plethora of police reports and calls for service by first responders and EMS to the address. Same old, same old.
This, despite the City passing an extended stay ordinance limiting the time a person(s) is allowed to stay in one of these facilities. When that ordinance was passed our city attorney warned the council that enforcing the maximum stay (180 days in a year) would be almost impossible. That would take a great deal of time and effort on someone inside City Hall to monitor.
I’m told that monitoring is taking place by city officials. Challenge met, right?
Take a look at another extended stay; the Waverly. One member of the East Ridge Housing Commission said that the Waverly was exempt from the extended stay ordinance. It’s now classified as an apartment.
However, the acting city manager said it operates under the same rules as the city’s other extended stay facilities.
It’s telling that this week – and this is not a rarity – ERPD booked a man into the Hamilton County Jail, and he gave his permanent address as the Waverly.
I won’t waste your time or mine writing about the Cascades. Sorry, dear reader, too big a challenge for this scribe.
Here’s a challenge; the old McBrien School site. A decade has passed and city officials still can’t rise to meet that challenge.
Out its front door, there’s Pioneer Frontier. We’ve got a $500,000 grant from the state, which the city will match. A million bucks for a playground! Just think if our leaders had the foresight to scale that baby back a bit and use just half of that loot to fund hiring a staffer to monitor and enforce our extended stay ordinance.
I’m going to wrap this thing up with a real doozy of a challenge facing the city: the beautification, sidewalk, multi-modal path and storm water project on the west end of Ringgold Road.
The engineering is done. The acquisition of right-of-way is beginning. The heavy equipment is on its way in the foreseeable future. Lane closures. Traffic disruptions. And, all this will happen about the same time that the state embarks on the reconfiguration of the I-75/I-24 split.
It’s gotta be done, no question. It will spur future growth on that end of town and potentially alleviate flooding along the commercial corridor.
Chris Dorsey, I hope you’re reading this. You must channel your inner Winston Churchill to inspire and lead East Ridge through the challenging days, weeks, months and years ahead.
Here’s a quote attributed to Churchill in 1940: “It is the time to dare and endure.” Mr. Dorsey, feel free to use it.