IN OTHER BUSINESS
Commissioners voted to give about 244 acres in Enterprise South Industrial Park to the Industrial Development Board of the city of Chattanooga to be held for Volkswagen. The county originally agreed to provide 1,300 acres to Volkswagen, but the auto manufacturer ceded some of its previous allotment to allow the city and county to recruit Amazon. Thursday's vote restores to Volkswagen its total minimum acreage.
Though Hamilton County Commissioner Fred Skillern admits he's been a frequent critic of Chattanooga's leadership, on Thursday he signaled his full support for Mayor Ron Littlefield's effort to combat crime downtown.
His statement came after nine people were shot Christmas Eve outside Club Fathom, an outreach ministry of Mosaic church on Market Street.
"I guess me being Fred, I don't, have not and don't get to say what I'm going to say very often, but I'm in total agreement with the mayor of Chattanooga about this situation that's been in the headlines in the paper about the incident that happened in downtown Chattanooga," he said. "I know I might have been critical at times, but this time I'm 100 percent supportive."
City officials are seeking an injunction against the club. A hearing on the city's request will be held this morning in Hamilton County Circuit Court.
County Mayor Jim Coppinger said the city and county have been working together to be proactive toward crime rather than reactive during the past few months. Coppinger said the county is prepared to provide additional resources to the city to aid in its crime prevention efforts.
Coppinger, Littlefield, Police Chief Bobby Dodd, Attorney General Bill Cox, Sheriff Jim Hammond, City Councilman Peter Murphy, Commissioner Mitch McClure and others are on a task force addressing youth violence and gangs. The group has been meeting since early 2011 and will meet again next month.
"It's not a city of Chattanooga issue only, it is a Hamilton County issue," Coppinger said. "It does impact our ability to create jobs. All of us need to understand a lot of our success is the result of having a vibrant downtown."
The shootings outside Club Fathom were gang-related, police said, though the church's leader denies that claim.
Skillern said the county must spend millions through the local tourism and convention authorities combating the perception that Chattanooga is a dangerous place.
"Millions of dollars flow through this commission to that board every year through our hotel taxes," Skillern said. "One headline like we had last week, it takes millions of dollars to overcome that in advertising."
Commissioner Warren Mackey said he's concerned about the impact of such crime on other businesses and on people willing to invest in downtown condominiums and housing. He's also worried about safety, he said.
Commissioner Jim Fields said after the meeting that he's been told by business recruitment officials that "one of the issues people are concerned about is the violence in Chattanooga."
Coppinger said he's also worried about the youth involved.
"I don't think any of us want to see these young people that are being shot, who are involved in crimes, we don't want to give up on them," he said. "We want them to be productive citizens."