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Hamilton County Commission
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Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd

Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd, with the help of most of his colleagues, has given $50,000 to East Ridge to build restrooms at athletic facilities it acquired from the school system last month.

Over the winter, Hamilton County Schools and East Ridge hammered out an agreement to deed East Ridge High School's stadium, track and tennis courts over to the city. The county commission sidestepped a school board request to ratify the agreement, saying it had no material interest in the matter.

School board member David Testerman, who represents East Ridge, has described the deal as a "win-win situation for everybody," because Hamilton County Schools could not maintain the facilities with existing funding.

East Ridge High School's stadium was one of several school stadiums demolished a year ago. Since then, the school board has paid for bleachers for one side of the field.

On Wednesday, commissioners voted 8-1 to let Boyd use his district's discretionary money on the project, with Commissioner Greg Martin casting the only "no" vote.

"It's not that I'm against the project, I'm against the process," Martin said before the vote, questioning why county taxpayer money should go to East Ridge when it took over the site only a month ago.

"I feel like this is a worthy cause for the taxpayers — and the general public for that matter — to put these restrooms at the previously demolished stadium," Boyd said.

He then walked Martin through the technical aspects of drawing on special project money budgeted to each commission district in past years.

"Once again, Mr. Boyd's trying to talk down to me, like I don't know what I'm talking about," Martin said of Boyd's explanation. "I don't need that and I don't appreciate that."

Last week, the pair engaged in a more substantial discussion when they reviewed the matters coming up for a vote in this week's meeting.

"If [East Ridge] took it over, why didn't they take it over with a plan to fix that?" Martin asked Boyd at that time.

Boyd said it came down to a commitment he made a couple of years ago to the East Ridge High School Alumni Association.

"If the alumni association raised $150,000, I would match it with county discretionary funds to assist in the reconstruction of the public restrooms," Boyd said, noting he had given other funds to East Ridge, including money for recycling garbage cans. "It's not unusual for the county to participate in the improvements of parks and recreational facilities around the county."

Mayor Jim Coppinger questioned the giving of county tax dollars to municipalities that have their own tax bases to meet their needs.

"In this situation, we'd like to get some discretionary money for our [county] parks," Coppinger said. "I don't doubt that they [East Ridge] need it, because we need it too."

The mayor also made it clear that discretionary money is not a commissioner's money, but Hamilton County taxpayers' money.

"Nobody's writing personal checks to East Ridge," Coppinger said. "It's so easy to be a philanthropist with somebody else's dollars."

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or pleach@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @pleach_tfp.

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