Reporters Notebook: Commission defers vote on donation

Reporters Notebook: Commission defers vote on donation

November 1st, 2009 by Cliff Hightower and Matt Wilson in Blogsmetrochatt

Hamilton County commissioners were all set to vote Thursday on accepting a $5.9 million building from Life Care Centers of America, but decided to hold off a week because a guarantee title wasn't available.

As commissioners were about to vote, County Mayor Claude Ramsey chimed in to say the guarantee title "has not come to us yet."

"If you pass this today, it would be dependent upon that guarantee title being in place before we accept it," he said.

Commissioner John Allen Brooks urged the commission to wait.

"We've just gone through a problem with another piece of property where they didn't know exactly what we had, and we're now in a lawsuit because of it," he said.

Tom Poteet is suing the county over restrictions it put on the old Signal Mountain Middle School property, where he plans to build an athletic club.

Commissioners agreed to hold off on accepting the gift until Wednesday.


Barry Bennett, executive director of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, told council members Tuesday during committee hearings that the central business district could get smaller in the future.

It would be "a more centralized business district," Mr. Bennett said.

Mr. Bennett made his comments after Councilwoman Sally Robinson proposed the business district needs to get larger to include Memorial Auditorium. Council members want to look at changing state law to allow the sale of alcohol at the venue.

To do so, it would have to be within the business district because a church is nearby, officials said.

But Mr. Bennett said a new zoning law called the Urban General Commercial zone would allow that type of usage. He said planning officials want to shrink the business district and use the Urban General Commercial zoning more frequently.


City Councilwoman Deborah Scott questioned Tuesday during committee meetings a brownfield grant that would help clean up the Ohls Avenue glass field site and the Anchor Glass office building site.

The city is entering into an agreement to pay $59,565, plus $18,000 in contingencies, to clean up the area.

Mrs. Scott asked if a grant was paying for the work. City officials said they had received two grants totaling $400,000 for brownfield sites.

"I'm OK with that," Mrs. Scott said.

Councilman Manny Rico had an immediate response.

"You better be," he said, laughing. "That's my district."

As discussions continued, Mrs. Scott shot her own jab at Mr. Rico.

"It's not your bailiwick," she said.

Some council members looked perplexed, and Mr. Rico said, "that's what I thought she said."

Councilwoman Carol Berz shot back.

"They don't use those words in St. Elmo," she said, smiling.

Bailiwick is a term meaning a particular area of interest or authority.

commission confusion

It took the County Commission a little longer than usual Thursday to conduct a vote as members named their choices for judicial commissioners, also called magistrates.

"We're going to vote on our chief magistrate, and then our other three magistrates individually, on a roll call," said Commissioner Larry Henry, chairman of the commission's Security and Corrections Committee.

The commission then voted to re-elect Chief Magistrate Larry Ables. After that, each commissioner called out the name of a magistrate he wanted to elect, with six saying Bob Davis' name and three saying Jennifer Lloyd's.

Commissioner Richard Casavant then asked if voting for Ms. Lloyd once precluded him from voting for her again.

That led to some grumbling on the dais.

Mr. Henry then said he wanted to have a roll call on each applicant.

County Attorney Rheubin Taylor then suggested having each commissioner call out the three names he would like to nominate. That's how they voted.

commission gets third employee

Despite some back-and-forth among commissioners about whether the County Commission office needed a third employee, Chairman Curtis Adams announced Thursday he had filled the position.

Mr. Adams said he had hired Beverly McCurdy, who had been an employee in the sheriff's office, to fill the position.

"I think that she's uniquely qualified to do our job," Mr. Adams said.