published Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Chattanooga mayor’s homeless complex site goes up in flames


by Andrew Pantazi
Anthony Moore, fire investigator for the Chattanooga Fire Department, completes his morning inspection of Thursday's fire at 712 E. 11th Street. The building was scheduled for demolition recently.
Anthony Moore, fire investigator for the Chattanooga Fire Department, completes his morning inspection of Thursday's fire at 712 E. 11th Street. The building was scheduled for demolition recently.
Photo by Tim Barber.
  • photo
    Firemen work to put out a fire at 721 E. 11th St. in downtown Chattanooga on Thursday. Policemen at the scene speculated that it may have been started by homeless people.
    Photo by Alex Washburn /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

712 E. 11th Street.
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The yellow brick building on 11th Street across from the Community Kitchen that the city bought for $775,000 was gutted by fire tonight.

Rick Spencer, a homeless man who was squatting with others in the building, said he saw another person set a mattress alight and watched the fire spread. The roof collapsed as dozens of Chattanooga firefighters attacked the flames and police blocked off East 11th Street.

The building is on the site that the city bought in 2006 for $775,000 and which Mayor Ron Littlefield proposed to renovate as a homeless complex.

It’s now planned as the site of the Hamilton County Homeless Health Care Center, should the county eventually decide to build the facility. In April, the City Council agreed to pay for a design study for a police precinct on one end of the site.

Littlefield’s spokesman, Richard Beeland, said from the fire scene Thursday night that he didn’t have an immediate estimate of the building’s value.

As of 11:30 p.m. the fire has stopped.

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about Andrew Pantazi...

Andrew Pantazi is an intern at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who says that when he was 7 he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: play hockey for the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, he says he wasn't any good at hockey, so he became a journalist instead. He writes about the lives we hide, like the man who suffered a stroke but smiled, or the football walk-on who endured 5 ...

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nucanuck said...

It certainly appears that Mayor Littlefield's hands are dirty on this property acquisition...corruption in River City.

Virtually gifting city tax money to cronies may not be a first, but it sure stinks.

September 23, 2011 at 12:38 a.m.
Apache_Monk said...

Beyond graft, leave to one homeless person to ruin what could help many.

September 23, 2011 at 6:39 a.m.
sandyonsignal said...

I thought the place was a toxic dump. Did it ever get cleaned up? I know Littlefield and the council bought it from a campaign donor of Littlefield's and it was a polluted piece of property which would cost quite a bit for clean up. What a deal he gave the taxpayers!

September 23, 2011 at 6:44 a.m.
joneses said...

I think it time to arrest Littlefield.

From "Little Chicago Watch"

On March 30, 2006 or two weeks later, the City of Chattanooga under the authority delegated to the Mayor in Resolution No. 24705 purchased the property from William A. Thompson relatives, Richard D. Thompson and William R. Thompson who acquired the property just 2 months prior through Quitclaim Deed on January 23, 2006. The purchase price to the Thompson family from the City of Chattanooga was $775,000, or $646,655 more than Mr. William A. Thompson’s purchase price of $128,345, just 3.5 years prior on September 25, 2002.

The City of Chattanooga and Thompson family closing statement from the purchase lists accumulated back tax and stormwater fees to the City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County were $199,860.00, and owed taxes and fees on the Farmers Market propety that was $71,515 greater than the orignal purchase price of $128,345 (Closing Statement, March 30, 2006). Again, the Thompson family actually owned $71,515 more unpaid taxes and stormwater fees that the original purchase price of $128,345 just 3 years prior. The net profit to the Thompson family was $646, 655 for property within 6 months of the Farmers Market property being in a mandated ack tax property sale by the Hamilton County Clerk and Master for City and County on the courthouse steps.

September 23, 2011 at 6:48 a.m.
joneses said...

In Littlefield's mind if only he would have made it against the law to have matches in this building this fire would never have happened.

September 23, 2011 at 7:25 a.m.
joneses said...

I also find it funy the article says "the mayors homeless site" and not "the city's homeless site". I would bet this property eventually will end up sold to one of his corrupt friend at a fraction of the cost the mayor paid for it.

September 23, 2011 at 7:50 a.m.
pioneer1 said...

Apparently even the homeless thought the Mayor's idea was bad.

September 23, 2011 at 7:58 a.m.
dendod said...

FIRE IN THE HOLE!!!!!!!!!

Mental Health Alert for Chattanooga Tennessee Please be advised that there is a mental disorder effecting our city. OCCD Obsessive Compulsive Consolidation Disorder This disorder strikes 1 in 6 Mayors

Symptoms include: Mixes green peas with mashed potatoes

Always chooses Neapolitan ice cream

Hangs pants and shirts on the same hanger

Eats with a spork even when spoons and forks are available

Buys peanut butter and jelly premixed

This illness can cause the affected Mayor to:

Become obsessed with METRO Government

Take away police take home cars Purpose outlandish TAX HIKES

Deny the city has a GANG PROBLEM

Wish the homeless people would just “GO AWAY”

There’s a rumor that the Mayor has asked VW to build an Amphibious vehicle in Chattanooga.

He believes car/boat combinations will help the Riverfront

September 23, 2011 at 8:22 a.m.
PaulWilson said...

Insurance fraud anyone?

September 23, 2011 at 8:57 a.m.
SGTWRIGHT said...

I patrolled the riverfront on the downtown side for 2 years and met many homeless people, and found that if you just treat them as human,let them get to know you and you them,build a relationship,you will find that there is a huge percentage of them that show respect,apprecieate a listening ear. i am also a minister and feed/clothe them as much as possible. i have personaly met the president of The Homeless Coalition of Chattanooga, and talked with her about what i do, Her words to me was "here is my card, just call and i will assist you in any and every way possible'.....after many months of calling with no answer or call back,i gave up on them, the mayor has declared not only does chattanooga not have a homeless crisis, but also said that for the size of the city,we do not have a gang problem....i extended an invitation for them to come walk my beat with me and see for themselves...again NO RESPONSE. In the case where this fire was started,why did the witness just watch.....i think he was not homeless at all but placed there to be a lookout ,how long did it take before the fire department got the call??? and respond??? Not All homeless people are bad people. not all of them are out there because they choose to be...why dont the director/president of the Homelss coalition of Chattanooga along with the mayor go spend a few nights out under a bridge.... and dont take all the supplies with you,, rough it,just like the homeless people have to do many a time.!

September 23, 2011 at 9:30 a.m.
Tennessee1 said...

Wow, Chattanooga is really growing up! Now we have all the same problems that big, 'classy' cities like Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles have.

September 23, 2011 at 9:45 a.m.

I agree with the SGT. Homeless people are pawns here. this smells like a setup.

And I hope tnvolssuckbad ends up homeless, so he can eat his words.

September 23, 2011 at 9:51 a.m.

Hey TFP, why is an intern writing this article? Do you still fear the Mayor?

And why does the Mayor's lacky, Richard Beeland, not have an estimate of the building’s value. Isn't it's value $775,000?

September 23, 2011 at 10:24 a.m.
nucanuck said...

More background:

The adjacent property, formerly owned by the Chattanooga Gas Company and also over the the same toxic dump site, was offered to the City for free because of the high-level contamination, but then Mayor Gene Roberts refused the gift because of the well known toxicity. The then owner was trapped, as owner the property, and had to continue paying property tax and also began a long term toxic clean-up through drilling down,cycling water and filtering. This process can take many decades, with no guaranteed results.

Littlefield had to know about the toxic history when he authorized city money ($750,000) to be paid to his cronie campaign contributor for a worthless or possibly negative worth piece of property.

This was IN YOUR FACE corruption that will continue to cost City taxpayers long after Mayor Littlefield is gone.

September 23, 2011 at 10:56 a.m.
skyboxer said...

Look folks. I am no fan of our current mayor. But to suggest that Mayor Littlefield would orchestrate the purchase of a grossly overpriced property on behalf of the city to repay a campaign contributor who gave his campaign a couple of thousand dollars is patently absurd. Moreover, you fail to take in to account the fact that Mayor Littlefield cannot simply make municipal purchases on behalf of the city without appropriate oversight. There can be no "conspiracy of one." I further note that no review of the due diligence process, the nuts and bolts if you will, outlining the individual steps taken within city government and all the people involved in the process of purchase approval — has ever been detailed by anyone in the press. Additionally, in what I've seen published by some there has been an attempt to cast doubt on Mayor Littlefield's character by seeking to link him to Mr. Thompson and the Tennessee parole and pardons scandal that occurred under the aegis of the the late Governor Ray Blanton. Are you kidding me? That is beyond ridiculous.

I do support the opinion held by many that the purchase of that land was a very poor (Littlefield) idea and that the city of Chattanooga almost certainly paid far, far too much for it. What I'm really interested in, however, in the financing mechanism that was used to facilitate that purchase, along with the appraisal that must have been performed in order to justify the price paid. Who appraised it? Where is a copy of that appraisal? What comps were used?

My final comment is to say that I think it has been a spectacularly stupid idea for the Mayor to push installation a huge homeless complex in the middle of a burgeoning downtown. It's not that I don't care about these people as I most certainly do. Its just that this is the WRONG PLACE for this type development. Such a development should be in an outlier area where the health of our inner city -- which we are all trying to improve -- will not be compromised by the problems many of these type individuals bring with them wherever they go. It's just common sense. Right?

September 23, 2011 at 12:23 p.m.
skyboxer said...

I think a full blown independent audit is likely in order and long overdue.

September 23, 2011 at 3:11 p.m.
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