published Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Sidewalks are hot topic for Chattanooga City Council

Chattanooga City Hall
Chattanooga City Hall
Meghan Brown

The bickering began where the sidewalks end.

When Chattanooga's Transportation Department asked the City Council to approve an increase to pave new sidewalks on the south side of Glass Street, a half-million dollar project, other council members asked when their turn would come.

"I have a list, if you need some extra sidewalks," Councilman Chris Anderson told the department official.

Others chimed in: "So can we get District 1 added?" asked Councilman Chip Henderson.

But the discussion was cut off by Chairman Yusuf Hakeem, whose district is supposed to get the sidewalks. He began to whisper away from his microphone to the council. When asked what he meant, he spoke up: "We're in need of these and if you decide not to approve ... what goes around comes around."

No one opposed the expenditure when it came time to vote later.

The squabbling was about a $1.9 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for Chattanooga's community development program. That's money that goes toward projects to improve low-income neighborhoods and fund projects like installing sidewalks.

The $530,000 to pave sidewalks on Glass Street is coming from those funds, a project approved by the last City Council in March.

After the meeting, Henderson said he asked about the funding because he is researching what projects the grant could support in his district in the coming year, such as work on low-income housing and improved lighting.

"It's kind of like everybody at the table reaching for the biscuits," he said with a laugh.

Also Tuesday, dozens of residents showed up to oppose an expansion in their Hixson subdivision.

But the confrontation with James Pratt was cut short when the developer announced he was going to withdraw his proposal.

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission had approved Pratt's plan to build townhouses and condos at the Amber Brook Gardens subdivision, but several residents said the decision was against the community's bylaws. Pratt told the council he needed to do more research before going forward.

The other half of the room was filled by more than two dozen Temple Baptist Church members who showed up to oppose same-sex benefits to city employees, a proposal that Councilman Chris Anderson hasn't yet introduced. Anderson told the Times Free Press he intended to make the proposal this month.

"I do as a pastor believe this is a moral issue and that [the] lifestyle of homosexuality is sinful," said Temple Baptist Church Pastor Shad Smith.

Another 10 people, wearing T-shirts asking for equality, showed up to support the city extending health benefits for same-sex couples.

"We've come to stand with people supporting equal work," Keely Gillard told council members. "Those people deserve to be able to go home and provide for their families."

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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