published Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

City of Chattanooga OKs wellness center design


by Cliff Hightower

RISING COSTS

The City Council approved two resolutions Tuesday night allowing more than $1.5 million to be paid out to two private contractors, if needed. The increases are:

  • $2 million: Amount made available to Byrd Emergency Services

  • $750,000: Previous amount available to Byrd Emergency Services

  • $500,000: Amount made available to True North Emergency Services

  • $300,000: Previous amount for True North Emergency Services

Source: Chattanooga

With no discussion, the City Council approved 6-2 Tuesday night designs for a projected $3.5 million employee health care center located on 11th Street.

Councilmen Andraé McGary and Peter Murphy voted against the resolution. Councilwoman Deborah Scott abstained.

McGary said afterward that he was not opposed to the center, but it seemed “out of step” to be brought up in this fiscal year budget.

“I believe it should have come up in the capital (projects) budget,” he said.

Murphy said last week he had reservations about the location of the property at the former Chattanooga Gas Co. site next to the old Farmer’s Market because he was concerned about the desirability of the location.

The city plans to conduct a $241,000 design of the proposed building and hopes to begin construction in the fall. The wellness center will hold a gym, pharmacy and a clinic and target the city’s 7,000 employees and retirees.

In other action, the council also voted 8-1 Tuesday night to increase storm brush collection contracts it first voted on two weeks ago. The contracts, to pick up debris left behind by recent storms and tornadoes, were awarded to North Carolina-based companies True North Emergency Management and Byrd Brothers Emergency Services.

Councilman Russell Gilbert voted against the contracts.

The prior resolution asked that the city pay up to $1 million for the services. The new contracts states for up to $2.5 million.

Lee Norris, deputy administrator for the city Department of Public Works, said the companies would only be paid for what comes over city scales.

But Gilbert argued that city employees should be doing the work and could be paid overtime. He argued that, in the end, it would come out cheaper than spending as much as $2.5 million.

“Could we not save some money by not using contractors and using our own employees?” he asked.

Norris said he did not think that would be wise because city employees could become overworked.

During a committee meeting Tuesday afternoon, Norris told council members that the estimate for brush collection rose after the private companies and the Federal Emergency Management Agency studied the details closer.

“We had no idea how much debris was on the ground,” he said.

The city is still in the middle of talks with the companies, Norris said, and he did not know how long it would take for them to remove all the brush. He said he would know more later this week.

He said 87.5 percent of the costs will be reimbursed by FEMA.

Contact Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CliffHightower.

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