Chattanooga Councilwoman Deborah Scott spent about 45 minutes last week presenting a slide show about the city-county sales tax agreement on the day it expired.
Along with it, she delivered a few quips about how the city and county have been portrayed in trying — or not trying — to work out a new agreement. The city let the tax-sharing agreement lapse, to the county’s dismay.
One slide showed a picture of a leisure suit from the 1970s.
“The sales tax agreement should go the way of the leisure suit,” she said. “It just doesn’t fit anymore.”
Another slide showed a spitball coming out of a straw.
“A spitball fight is pretty much what the city and county have had over the sales tax issue,” she said.
She rounded out the show with a picture of two bulls locked in combat.
“This is a picture of Mayor [Ron] Littlefield and Mayor [Jim] Coppinger discussing the sales tax agreement,” she said.
Optimists honor Kimsey
The Optimist Club of Chattanooga recently honored Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Mark Kimsey as part of its “Respect for Law” program.
“As a community, we are deeply indebted to those who choose a career of service in law enforcement,” said Carolyn Tucker, president of the Scenic Chattanooga Optimist Club, in a news release. “These men and women serve as the frontline of protection for all of us, and we are proud to honor Sergeant Mark Kimsey of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.”
Gary Behler, chairman of the club’s Respect for Law Program, said Kimsey’s “work in accident investigation and reconstruction is a most difficult and demanding job, which he performs with true professionalism.”
Kimsey has worked at the sheriff’s office since 1988.
The club’s Respect for Law Program was initiated in 1965 to recognize local law enforcement officers for their service.
Traffic system grant gets nod
The City Council voted 9-0 Tuesday to spend $13.7 million in federal dollars to install an integrated traffic system throughout the city to help traffic flow problems.
City Traffic Engineer John Van Winkle told council members that the system will help integrate downtown traffic lights. Most lights will be linked to a main circuit board where operators can monitor and change lights at any time. In case of accidents, operators can divert traffic to other routes and post detour information on electronic signs.
Council members wanted to know who will pay for the system.
“How much is city revenue sources?” Councilwoman Deborah Scott asked.
“None of it,” Van Winkle responded.
He said the system will be installed in phases over several years.
Emergency brush contract OK’d
The council also approved two emergency contracts to help clear brush and debris left by the April 27 tornadoes.
The contracts are with True North Emergency Management LLC for $300,000 and Debris Removal Collection LLC for $750,000.
Tony Boyd, assistant director for citywide services, said more than 50,000 cubic yards of debris have been picked up, but more than 220,000 cubic yards remain.
He estimated it would take public works crews 16 weeks to clear the mess. Hiring emergency crews will mean the clearing can be done much more quickly, he said.
Board sidesteps open meetings
When Hamilton County Board of Education members voted to buy out Superintendent Jim Scales’ contract Thursday, they spent much of the meeting grilling their attorney, Scott Bennett, about how the buyout talks even started.
“The board didn’t authorize this request,” said board member George Ricks. “I can’t recall voting for this.”
Scales announced the buyout agreement May 10 and said board members initiated the talks in February.
Bennett said he was told by then-Chairman Everett Fairchild to initiate talks. After Fairchild’s call, Bennett said, board member Mike Evatt gave him the same direction.
He then called every board member except Jeffrey Wilson and Ricks to inform them of the negotiations.
“That was entirely in keeping with the practices and policies here in Hamilton County,” Bennett said. “For the board to have voted on this, and then have the superintendent say that he was not interested in a buyout, would have been potentially damaging to his authority as a leader.”
The one-on-one consultations also skirted Tennessee open meetings laws, which bar board members from talking about official business or lobbying for votes outside a called meeting.
Board members on Thursday appointed longtime Deputy Superintendent Rick Smith as an interim replacement. He takes over June 10, the day Scales steps down.
Ramsey takes pass on sales tax
Though Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield told the Hamilton County Commission and then-County Mayor Claude Ramsey about the expiration of the sales tax agreement at last year’s budget hearings, it’s unclear if Ramsey did anything about it.
The end of the agreement is causing current County Mayor Jim Coppinger to consider drastic funding cuts to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department. The county stands to lose $10.5 million in revenue.
The expiration date of May 23 had been in place for years. While attending the official opening of the VW plant Wednesday, Ramsey was asked why the agreement wasn’t renewed before he left in January to join Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration.
Ramsey declined to answer the question, saying he’s no longer in county government.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol announced it will set up sobriety checkpoints in Hamilton County on June 10. The checkpoints are contingent upon manpower and weather, according to a released statement.
Compiled by staff writers Cliff Hightower, Dan Whisenhunt, Mike Pare and Adam Crisp.