published Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Update: Chattanooga City Council gives OK for Mayor Berke to negotiate purchase of Tubman complex

The Chattanooga Housing Authority's Harriet Tubman complex in East Chattanooga sits vacant.
The Chattanooga Housing Authority's Harriet Tubman complex in East Chattanooga sits vacant.
Photo by C. B. Schmelter.

The City Council voted tonight to give Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke the green light to start negotiating to purchase the former Harriet Tubman housing complex.

The vote was 8 to 1 with Councilman Ken Smith casting the dissenting vote.

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Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke unexpectedly accelerated a plan to buy the derelict Harriet Tubman complex, with a sudden substitution this morning.

Berke’s staff changed the language in a resolution that would have authorized the city to write a letter of intent, adding language that would allow officials to immediately open negotiations with the Chattanooga Housing Authority.

Randy Durham, former head of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors, said the small change makes a big legal difference.

“If you present a written offer you’ve got a deal your bound by it,” Durham said. “A letter of intent has no binding authority."

The surprise change came on the heels of a statement Monday by Berke’s spokeswoman Lacie Stone, who said the mayor’s intention was simply to get the process moving.

The request comes weeks before the council will even vote on the budget, which contains the proposal to buy the Harriet Tubman housing for $1 million.

Chief of Staff Travis McDonough said the change in the resolution language was meant to avoid confusion but doesn't speed up the process to purchase the complex.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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