published Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

City jobs on the line over weatherization failure

by Chris Carroll
Audio clip

City Council meeting

At least six city employees could be fired after state officials wrested a federal stimulus program away from the Chattanooga Department of Human Services.

The $3.6 million weatherization program, which provides energy-saving rehabilitation to homes, was transferred Tuesday night to Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, a nonprofit housing organization partially funded by the city.

A major reason for the change was the city department's "lack of urgency" to meet goals, according to Lisa Elam, director of Adult and Family Services contracts for the Tennessee Department of Human Services.

Under federal guidelines, the department was charged with weatherizing 118 homes by December 2009 but completed only 23. By March 31, employees had finished only 83 homes, records show.

Several city employees now find their jobs on the line, but one said the real problem sits inside the mayor's office.

"We needed more people, and it fell on deaf ears," said the worker, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution. "If you only send two players out during a football game, how are you expected to beat a whole team?"

But Mayor Ron Littlefield's spokesman, Richard Beeland, said the department "knew exactly where they needed to be and weren't even close," referring to the two state benchmarks. He said all the workers associated with the program could lose their jobs.

"We're evaluating the program to determine exactly what the problem was and take the corrective actions necessary," Mr. Beeland said.

He refused to elaborate on how the mayor will measure performance, saying the procedure "consists of a lot of different things."

Several people protested the switch to Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise during a public hearing Tuesday, and Chattanooga resident Shirley Deakins referred to the nonprofit organization as "that devil CNE."

Six Chattanooga City Council members then vouched for CNE before Council Chairman Manny Rico cut the hearing short as a woman attempted to speak in the back of the room.

"That'll be all here," Mr. Rico said.

Protesters spilled into the hallway to confront the mayor's spokesman and Ms. Elam.

"I appreciate your comments," Ms. Elam repeatedly said to the angry throng gathered around her.

Mr. Beeland said there was no evidence of discrimination or fraud brought against CNE, so the transfer will occur as planned.

Those still waiting for house repairs will have their documents sent to CNE, he said.

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: Council delays agency hearings, opts for more budget discussion

Article: Saving energy, saving jobs

Article: Weather work begins

Article: Stimulus helps pay for weatherproofing

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.

Nice work Littlemind. These were federally funded jobs that the city has squandered. Jobs that really were not necessary but the money was thrown at the city to burn in the name of "created or saved" Obama promises. Maybe the council could shift more city jobs to the private sector were the work will actually be performed. Like brush pick-up, for example.

June 9, 2010 at 6:12 p.m.
harrystatel said...

Hey Ron "Doh!" Littlefield. They city employees can lose money faster than you can! Sounds like new potential cabinet members.

June 9, 2010 at 9:11 p.m.
fftspam said...

Office of Sustainability? What is David Crockett getting paid to do?

June 9, 2010 at 10:17 p.m.
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