Hamilton County taxpayers will pass $1 million along to the city of East Ridge to help pay for infrastructure related to the much-awaited Bass Pro Shop at the state's southern Interstate 75 gateway.
According to a resolution passed Wednesday, the county will pay $500,000 to widen Camp Jordan Parkway from two lanes to five from the interstate to the end of the proposed development. Another $500,000 will go toward changing the traffic pattern at Exit 1.
Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert and the city's council came to the county nearly a year ago with the Bass Pro plan.
"There were several different options that we looked at, and frankly, we wanted to do what made the most sense for East Ridge. We wanted to partner with them. It's obviously a great economic development opportunity in East Ridge, but also in Hamilton County," Coppinger said.
State Rep. Marc Gravitt, who is also East Ridge's vice mayor, said county taxpayers will not be sorry for spending the money.
Through property and sales taxes to the schools, the county will see a quick return on its investment, he said.
"The $1 million total for both phases — I don't think it will take the county long to make their contribution back," Gravitt said.
East Ridge now has about $4.6 million invested in the project, of which $4 million went to the developer building surrounding retail space, Chattanooga developer John Healy.
The city went into its reserve funds in June to pay the bill.
County Commissioner Tim Boyd, who represents East Ridge and parts of Chattanooga and Brainerd on the commission, said the deal is a win-win.
"There's going to be tremendous benefits to the entire county as far as the increased property taxes. Aside from this $1 million, there's no incentive that's getting passed on to the developer," Boyd said. "In the next three years, you are looking at 400 to 500 jobs added to that area."
Boyd is happy about the road project, but another state project approved Wednesday raised his eyebrows.
The commission approved a resolution to pay ASA Engineering and Consulting nearly $350,000 for engineering inspections for road improvements at two intersections: Ooltewah-Ringgold and Standifer Gap roads, and at Ooltewah-Ringgold and East Brainerd roads.
Federal dollars are paying for 80 percent of the work at the Standifer Gap intersection and 100 percent of the work at East Brainerd. But Boyd still says the engineering fees are "astronomical."
Calling the sum a "huge red flag," Boyd said East Brainerd Elementary was built in 18-24 months for $26 million. That project required structural steel inspections along with other technical items, and engineering fees were about $150,000, Boyd said.
"So when you are talking about a $1.5 million project over nine months and the engineering fees are $350,000, come on," he said.
Hamilton County Public Works Administrator Todd Leamon told the commission the prices were steep because Tennessee Department of Transportation rules required a full-time inspector on site.
Commissioners have no authority to change TDOT rules or contracts for engineering work on TDOT projects.
Despite voiced concerns from the commissioners, the measure passed unanimously.
Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@times freepress.com, @glbrogdoniv on Twitter or at 423-757-6481.