published Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Ideas offered for McBrien site

by Adam Crisp
Audio clip

Visioning meeting

When East Ridge takes control of the McBrien Elementary School building this summer, city residents would like to see it used in several ways.

On Thursday, about 20 residents turned out for what city leaders called a "visioning meeting," looking for ideas on how to use the 55-year-old school.

Ideas presented ranged from garden club meeting space to a senior citizen adult education facility.

"It will take two, three, four or even five years to realize some of the dreams and visions," City Manager William Whitson said. "This meeting is about finding out what ideas are out there."

Hamilton County Schools is building a larger school off Ringgold Road that will combine East Ridge and McBrien elementary schools.

Mayor Mike Steele has said that he would like part of the McBrien site to be used to expand the city's new afterschool program. On Thursday, others said they'd like the school to be used for the enrichment of the elderly in the community.

"The physical structure is already here for a learning center," resident Chuck Mehan said. "The majority of our citizens are mature, they are over 55 years old."

Ideas presented

* Adult education facility geared toward senior citizens

* Business incubator

* East Ridge Garden Club resource center

* Civic center

* Expansion room for East Ridge Community Center

* Storage for city records being housed at the East Ridge Museum

* English classes for immigrants

* Private school

* Outdoor tennis courts

One resident said she'd like to make sure the building was used in a way that would attract young families to East Ridge.

"Whatever we do has to be forward-thinking," Edna DeGarmo said. "It has to be something that attracts young families to this area. We have to think about what we want for the future of East Ridge opposed to just helping the people that are here now."

But with upkeep expenses including electric bills, the city also needs to generate income from the building, some said.

"There are a lot of organizations in our town that need a place to put something but, as we have visions, one thing that scares me is my pocketbook," resident Bill Brenemen said.

Mr. Whitson said the city would look for ways to generate income from the building including renting space to a permanent tenant.

All the ideas will be compiled by Waterhouse Public Relations, the city's public relations firm, then sent out in a monthly newsletter for comment.

about Adam Crisp...

Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...

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