Chattanooga City Council -- July 15, 2008
The principal in an architectural firm that has examined problems at the Passage told Chattanooga City Council members Tuesday that a $1.5 million reconstruction project will remedy structural issues at the waterfront attraction.
“We won’t have major maintenance (after this work),” said Vance Travis, with TWH Architects, Inc. “This fixes it.”
His comments came after Councilman Jack Benson questioned if the city was “entering into a money pit situation” with the Passage, which opened three years ago. The attraction, meant to honor American Indians, now is closed due to a number of structural problems.
Mr. Travis discussed those problems — which include cracks where water has seeped through and condensation in some lights — during a Budget, Finance and Personnel Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon.
He said crews will do a “partial demolition” that will include taking out blocks that make up the bottom of the reflection pool. The reconstruction work will include the installation of new guardrails and better lighting and also the alteration of steps to make it safer to wade into the pool, Mr. Travis said.
“In the end, we’ll put it back together,” he said. “It will end up being a place — a wonderful spiritual place — for all the right reasons, but also a place for the public to use again.”
Steve Leach, the city’s administrator of Public Works, said the work “likely” will be finished by next summer.
The Passage, which made its debut downtown in 2005, was part of the $120 million 21st Century Waterfront Plan.
The Passage, which is next to the Tennessee Aquarium and links Market Street to the Tennessee River, was part of the $120 million 21st Century Waterfront Plan pushed by former Mayor Bob Corker, now Tennessee’s junior U.S. senator.
Meanwhile, Assistant City Attorney Mike McMahan suggested to council members that the city should try to seek mediation with two contractors originally working on the Passage: Hargreaves Associates and Continental Construction Co.
“We need to bring them to the table and see if they’d be willing to contribute … to the repairs,” Mr. McMahan said.
City Chief Financial Officer Daisy Madison, who is chairwoman of the Chattanooga Downtown Redevelopment Corp. board, said the $1.5 million price tag for Passage fixes will be paid for with city funds, with the money coming from hotel/motel tax revenue that is earmarked for the waterfront.
Ms. Madison said the council has to authorize capital funds for the work.
Officials said the water attraction will remain interactive so that visitors still will be able to wade in its pool.
Councilwoman Sally Robinson said the pool was not originally conceived for that purpose, but “the public waded in … and they’ve never come out.”
In other business, the council on Tuesday night approved the use of public right of way for a small directional sign guiding people to Washington Hills United Methodist Church. Church-state issues had been raised on the matter.
Mr. Benson and Ms. Robinson voted against the measure, and Councilwoman Carol Berz abstained. The other six council members voted for the resolution, said Council Clerk Carol O’Neal.
Although several other churches already have been granted directional signs through a city ordinance that was modified in 1994, Mr. Benson has been outspoken in his concern that this use infringes on the church-state divide per the U.S. Constitution.
“Personally I can’t support this,” he said Tuesday night. “I believe in the separation between church and state.”
But Councilman Dan Page noted that the city ordinance allows nonprofit organizations to use public property for the signs.
“I think it would be wrong to exclude churches from that arena,” he said.