By Ian Berry
Hamilton County Commission candidate Brian Caldwell on Tuesday said maintenance needs at local schools made him question whether the school district is spending money most effectively.
As an example, Mr. Caldwell told the Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial board, Central High School in Harrison has suffered from sewage backups for years and has condemned bleachers at the football field.
Such problems are not being addressed there and at other schools and detract from the neighborhoods that feed into those schools, he said.
“You want to protect those schools, not only for the children, but for the property owners as well,” Mr. Caldwell said.
Gary Waters, Hamilton County’s assistant school superintendent for auxiliary services, said both the sewage backup, which has been a problem at an ROTC facility at Central High, and the football bleachers are being addressed. A bid to replace the bleachers has already been approved.
Mr. Caldwell said his campaign treasurer’s daughter has to share textbooks with classmates at Hixson High School, while Howard High School, which he said has made “great strides” as a school, still suffers from maintenance problems.
The Republican is challenging Democrat Warren Mackey in the Aug. 3 election for the District 4 seat. Dr. Mackey was appointed to the seat in March, after losing a hotly contested race to William Cotton in 2002.
Mr. Caldwell said he thinks most people will support a tax increase if they think it is being spent wisely.
Dr. Mackey, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon, has singled out Howard High for its low graduation rate.
He told the editorial board earlier this month he wants to raise standards and expectations, and end practices such as social promotion for students.
“Suffice to say I am greatly concerned about men and women who don’t have the skills to go out and compete for jobs,” Dr. Mackey said.
Mr. Caldwell said Howard would benefit from a co-op program through which students could get internship experience in the summer.
“A diploma is good, but a diploma with work experience is even better,” Mr. Caldwell said.
He said he’s concerned about jobs and wages in the county.
“Hospitality jobs have grown so much in the past decade, but a person cannot raise a family on hospitality pay,” he said.
An employee in UnumProvident’s legal department, Mr. Caldwell also said too many people have to leave for Nashville, Atlanta or Birmingham, Ala., to find jobs. He said he wants the county to focus on attracting jobs throughout the district and county, not just at Enterprise South industrial park.
District 4 includes the Alton Park and Bushtown neighborhoods, and extends along state Highway 58 toward Harrison. It also includes parts of North Chattanooga.
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