This Thursday’s East Ridge City Council meeting just may determine the future direction of our city.
At the July 27 council meeting, City Manager Scott Miller rolled out an ambitious plan to revitalize the central part of East Ridge with his vision of creating a new “Town Center.” The project would finally, finally address that hulk of deteriorating masonry that once was home to McBrien School. After a decade of indecision concerning the building, Miller suggested it be renovated and become home to the police department, the fire department, Animal Services and the Streets Department.
He suggested renovating the decades-old Pioneer Frontier playground. Elements of the old playground – built by the sweat and tears of scores of volunteers – would be incorporated into the new design. A new feature would also be included … a splash pad for youngsters to play around in during the dog days of summer.
Another element of the “Town Center” would be a pavilion under which would be built a full-court basketball court. The pavilion could also be used to host concerts and perhaps even a seasonal farmer’s market.
A series of public meetings, including an online survey of 200-plus citizens, revealed this kind of “Town Center” is what the people of East Ridge are crying out for. The presentation before the July 27 council meeting by Michael Frixon of Southeast Development backed that up. What the citizens want in recreation has everything to do with dog parks and tennis courts, not some mega sports complex off the interstate to be the playground of soccer moms and lacrosse dads from all over the south.
No, that’s Mayor Brent Lambert’s vision and the vision of the developers of Jordan Crossing, who have apparently been pitching this concept to anyone in Hamilton County who will listen to them. They want to turn the 250-acre Camp Jordan Park into “LakePoint North” … that sprawling money-maker 60 miles to the south drawing millions, literally millions of people to North Georgia. Of course, it’s never mentioned that LakePoint was built by private investors, not funded by taxpayers’ money.
Lambert and the developers first wanted to fund this vision by earmarking property tax dollars on the future development of Jordan Crossing. When that financing didn’t resonate as hoped, these guys turned to General Obligation Bonds. Hey folks, that’s a fancy term for the city (not the county) borrowing tens of millions of bucks to build this thing. The collateral for GO Bonds as they are known in the business, is property taxes. If the current property tax revenue ain’t enough to pay the loan the city fathers can just vote to raise the rate.
Oh, a quick check of Emerson, Georgia’s Website revealed a .75 increase this year in its property tax rate to 1.872. Emerson is where LakePoint is, by the way. I have no idea if the tax increase has a thing to do with LakePoint, to be quite honest.
Of course, the voting public has a short memory so your council can pretty much raise taxes with impunity. Wake up people!
Now, Thursday night, City Manager Miller will test the waters by asking the council to allow him to hire an architect/planner to get the ball rolling on the “Town Center.” It was emphasized during the July 27 meeting that this first step in hiring an architect/planner must be done promptly because several members of your City Council will not be attending future meetings in August, September and maybe October due to vacations, school fall break schedules and the like.
So, this meeting on Thursday, August 10 is likely to be the only one in the foreseeable future in which all the council will be attending. And what we have is a stage that’s set for competing interests and competing visions of the future of East Ridge.
Will three members of the council go with Miller’s “Town Center” to build what our citizens have asked for and increase the quality of life for the average Pioneer who lives here? Or will Mayor Lambert tamp this bad boy down and go once again with his developers who only wish to exploit this city and its potential to line their pockets?
It’s one or the other … “LakePoint North” or the “Town Center.” What will it be, East Ridge?