Chattanooga City Council approves gang study

Chattanooga City Council approves gang study

February 22nd, 2012 by Cliff Hightower in News

Former Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield

Former Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

The city will take a further look at gangs in Chattanooga.

City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday night to approve paying up to $75,000 to the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies to do a gang assessment.

But Councilwoman Deborah Scott raised questions early about why the study ended up costing the same amount the city administration asked for two months ago.

"So, it was just coincidence that you asked for that amount earlier and it ended up being that?" Scott asked city administrators.

Dan Johnson, chief of staff for Mayor Ron Littlefield, responded the study actually was going to cost $69,834 and the rest would be for contingency in case the Ochs Center needed additional funding. He said he did not think the city's recommendation played a role in how much the Ochs Center decided to charge for the project.

"I don't think it was a guiding light," he said.

Mayor Ron Littlefield first proposed funding the study two months ago with money set up to fund a business minority program. The council balked at giving the mayor the money and instead split the money between the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

City officials said the money now will come from the city's emergency contingency funds.

Scott and Councilman Andraé McGary voted against the gang study resolution.

Councilman Peter Murphy said he thought the council needed to approve the funds because federal money is on the line.

"If we don't do it, there's a whole lot of money that won't come our way," he said.

Kenneth Chilton, president and CEO of the Ochs Center, said the study would be completed by August. The center is working with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

A second group of current Chattanooga police sergeants, calling themselves Leadership Center for Criminal Justice, also placed a bid for more than $50,000.

Chilton said the Ochs Center bid came at $69,000 because of the amount of manpower that will be devoted to the project. He said most of the staff will be working on it.

"We're also pushing to get this done in a short period of time," he said.