Improvements are in the works for city's Youth and Family Development centers

Nick Denise of Praters Athletic Flooring buffs the parquet floor at the Tyner/East Brainerd Recreation Center on Monday, Apr. 11, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Chattanooga's Youth and Family Development centers are on track to receive a mixture of security cameras, improved lighting and gym floor renovations.

Charged with providing Chattanooga youth with educational, recreational, career development, leadership and social service opportunities, the Youth and Family department makes use of funding from federal, state and local sources.

In a recent City Council strategic planning session, administrative finance officials discussed a program to roll out 360-degree rotating cameras and lighting upgrades for 15 of Youth and Family's 17 centers over a two-year period. Two centers will undergo security camera installations in conjunction with a similar program piloted by the city's housing authority.

The Carver Center, located on Orchard Knob Avenue, will be the first of six or seven centers to receive cameras in the first year of the program, said the city's Deputy Chief Operating Officer David Carmody.

Installation of the cameras "should happen relatively quickly," said Carmody, citing the need to test camera positions and visibility.

"It's critical that facial and other details are identifiable," he said. "Otherwise, they are useless."

The cameras and lighting upgrades will require about $100,000, said Carmody.

However, a lot of preparatory work needed to be done before the first camera could be installed, officials said.

"One of the first things we saw when we began this project was that we needed better network connectivity throughout our system of YFD centers," said the city's Chief Operating Officer Maura Sullivan.

The comprehensive network upgrades cost about $150,000 for the 15 sites and included hardware, wireless equipment, cabling and installation, said Sullivan. The upgrades were necessary to fully utilize and integrate the cameras within the city system, she said.

"The network infrastructure was the biggest piece, because it's really expensive, it's really intensive," said Carmody.

Sullivan said the cameras are intended to contribute to the security of the communities surrounding the facilities.

"We've been following their progress and working with them and hope to use a lot of their learning as we continue this installation process," she said. "The cameras are not just static, they are connected throughout our system. We need to connect them to police [and] we need to be able to get to the [recorded] information in case of a crime."

Meanwhile, the gymnasium floors at the Shepherd, Tyner, Eastdale and Carver centers are in the midst of a $180,137 makeover project awarded to Praters Athletic Flooring of Chattanooga.

"Having been born and raised in Chattanooga, it is very thrilling to have the opportunity to work with the city to identify the needs of recreation centers and improve them," said John Prater, president of the flooring company.

Praters Athletic Flooring has changed the way basketball courts look across the world and it was a pleasure to put that experience to work for Chattanooga, said Prater, citing the company's involvement with multiple championship events over the last five to 10 years, including the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The project calls for the Shepherd Center to receive a new gym floor, while the Tyner Center's wooden floor only needed refinishing, said Prater.

The gyms at the Carver and Eastdale centers will receive a cushioned synthetic floor that has the appearance of a maple court, he said.

"The synthetic floors have multiple uses and can take more abuse than a wood floor," said Prater. "They are a good fit for elementary gyms and recreation centers."

Gym floor makeovers for Shepherd and Tyner are currently underway. Carver and Eastdale are scheduled to receive new flooring in May.

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or