published Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Council tackles toughening curfew laws


by Cliff Hightower
Audio clip

City Council meeting - 04/05/2011

Councilwoman lashes back at county

Councilwoman Deborah Scott said Tuesday during the council’s meeting that comments over the last week by Hamilton County officials have demeaned the city.

“It is self-serving statements meant to humiliate city taxpayers,” Scott said.

The comments come a week after the County Commission approved a resolution saying it wanted to extend the 45-year-old sales tax agreement. City officials have said the county has been sending letters to agencies saying their funding could be in jeopardy if the agreement runs out.

Scott told council members Tuesday that was not true. She called for a 10 a.m. Tuesday budget, finance and personnel committee meeting to talk about the issue. She said she would also ask a resolution to be drafted for the council to either approve, deny or table a motion to continue the sales-tax agreement.

If the agreement expires, the city is set to receive $10.5 million in sales tax revenue this year.

UTC stepping into Engel Stadium

The Chattanooga City Council unanimously approved an interim agreement Tuesday night for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to take over Engel Stadium.

Dr. Richard Brown, the school’s vice chancellor for finance and operations, said it is the next step until the university can own the old ballfield.

“We think we can own this outright in 90 days,” he said.

He told council members the deed was on its way to be vetted at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Brown said the interim agreement allows the university to do work and maintenance on the stadium. He said ultimately the university wants to renovate the field and stadium, perhaps put a museum in it and build a soccer field nearby.

The city boarded up the ballfield last week because of dilapidated conditions.

Alexis Moore, a senior at Brainerd High School, stood in front of the Chattanooga City Council with several of her classmates directly behind her. She told the council that children were not allowed on the streets from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday to Thursday.

Children could play an hour longer on Friday and Saturday nights. But something needs to be done, she said.

“We are asking the curfew to be earlier if the violence continues,” Moore said.

The City Council spent almost an hour Tuesday talking about toughening the city’s curfew and enforcing it during its legal and legislative committee meeting. City Attorney Mike McMahan told council members the last time the ordinance had been updated was 1986. The council also talked about how to attack truancy.

Mayor Ron Littlefield said now that the city has a juvenile detention center, officers have a place to take children when they are found on the streets unattended. But he said the center, at the former police precinct next to the South Chattanooga Recreation Center, should not be looked at as a jail.

It is the first step for authorities to talk to children and find out more about them, he said. The center will have activities such as video games to keep the children from getting bored.

“We’re not punishing these people,” he said. “It’s not going to be a Hilton, but it’s not going to be a prison either.”

Councilwoman Pam Ladd said she felt one part of the curfew law that needs strengthening deals with parents or guardians. She said parents or guardians should be held more liable and pay a $50 fine for not supervising their children.

“I think they need to be brought into court and pay a fine every time,” she said.

But Councilman Andraé McGary countered their should also be alternatives to fines, such as doing community service.

Councilman Peter Murphy, chairman of the committee, said there would be more talk concerning curfew laws in the future. He stressed the children going to the new juvenile center are not going there to be penned up.

It will work as a screening and intervention center to see if social service agencies need to help.

“This isn’t supposed to be a warehousing facility,” Murphy said.

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