I’m beginning to become annoyed by the idolatry of the Border Region Act by some of our city leaders.
I’m in the second meeting of the East Ridge Housing and Redevelopment Authority meeting on Friday morning. Yes, Friday morning is the best time. It apparently discourages residents, citizens, taxpayers and other interested parties from attending and seeing this esteemed panel appointed by the mayor in action.
I’m not going to name names here because I don’t want to be blacklisted. I’m sure you understand.
The meeting, for the most part, was pretty banal. City Attorney Mark Litchford, who is currently acting in the capacity of the Housing Authority’s attorney, walked the board through how it will establish its by-laws and conduct business. One of the board members – again, I won’t name names – snoozed through much of the meeting, that’s how stimulating most of the proceedings were.
But, as the meeting was concluding and Litchford and Mayor Brent Lambert had excused themselves, things heated up a little bit.
A question was asked if the East Ridge Housing and Redevelopment Authority would hire its own lawyer in the future and not use the City Attorney as its legal counsel going forward? I believe the idea here is that, in the future, it is conceivable that the completely independent Housing Authority could find itself in a position where it is on the other side of a legal battle with the City of East Ridge. Having the same lawyer representing both entities ain’t going to float.
It was also mentioned that Litchford practices law in the same firm as John Anderson (Grant Konvalinka & Harrison). Anderson has been used by the developers of Jordan Crossing as an attorney. It is conceivable that at some point in the future the completely independent Housing Authority could find itself in a position where it is on the other side of a legal battle with the Jordan Crossing developers. Having lawyers from the same firm representing the opposing entities ain’t going to work either.
I believe most people understand the problem here. It’s a conflict of interest that is impossible to wave.
Well, some of the members of the East Ridge Housing and Redevelopment Authority see no problems with Litchford becoming the board’s permanent attorney.
At this point of the meeting, one of the Housing Authority members, stridently came to the defense of Anderson, Litchford and the law firm. The member said that if it weren’t for John Anderson the City of East Ridge would not be participating in the Border Region Act, and would not benefit from all of the marvelous things it’s done for the city. The board member went on in worshipful tones about the developers making money and the city making money and everything is absolutely golden.
Wait a minute. Hold the phone. Just what has the Border Region done for this city?
On the plus side, over the last three years, including the current year, we’ve received about $4 million in reimbursements from the state as dictated by the Border Region Act. Of that $4 million, the City of East Ridge has turned over to the developers about half of that, as dictated by the contract the City of East Ridge has with the developers.
The City of East Ridge initially turned over $5 million in incentives to the developers to get things started at Jordan Crossing. That money was used to build the Bass Pro Shops. The City of East Ridge built a new Camp Jordan Parkway for the developers. The cost, if I’m not mistaken, was north of $2 million. The City of East Ridge is sprucing up said Parkway with three-quarters of a million bucks for sidewalks, landscaping and such.
The City of East Ridge is kicking in more than $5 million of the $7.2 million to reconfigure Exit 1 on Interstate 75. This, of course, is absolutely necessary to bring hordes of consumers to the doorstep of Jordan Crossing.
Oh, I nearly forgot, the City of East Ridge had to cough up more than $600,000 to the state of Tennessee at the beginning of this project to get the developers clear deed to the land that the old Fire Hall No. 2 sat on. You see, the City of East Ridge got that surplus land from the state at a fraction of its real value because it was to be used for the public good. The state informed the City of East Ridge early on that it couldn’t just hand the land over for economic development without making up the difference in the cost. That cost was the 600 grand, dear reader.
Another fact nearly forgotten in the mists of time … the Jordan Crossing developers were going to build the City of East Ridge another fire hall to replace the one it swallowed. City fathers said they would rather have some amenities built in Camp Jordan Park and the city would build its own. So, the developers built us a pavilion across from the arena.
The new No 2. Fire Hall on St. Thomas Street is due to open at the end of this month. Price tag … $1.49 million.
Add it up. If my calculator is working right, that’s about $17 million.
Oh, but we are going to get all that money back, per state reimbursement from the Border Redgion Act. Yes, perhaps. But, it’s going to trickle in as it is tied to increase in retail sales in East Ridge. We are not going to get a $17 million check next year, or the year after, or the year after that.
Oh, and how do you think shoppers in East Ridge are going to like all the construction along Ringgold Road that is slated for the next few years. Big drain pipes are going to be installed on the west side of our city’s main commercial artery along with sidewalks. I understand you can’t bake a cake without cracking a few eggs, but I’m going to wager that it will discourage people from driving on the road, much less making it a shopping destination.
Back to the point: Thus far the city has netted something in the neighborhood of $2 million from the Border Region Act. We’ve spent or are currently obligated for $17 million.
Am I missing something here? The next time I hear one of our City Fathers or a member of some appointed board that is acting on behalf of the city once again in reverential terms invoke the wonders of the Border Region Act, I may very well become sick.