published Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

City Council OKs Chattanooga street ordinance

IN OTHER COUNCIL BUSINESS

The City Council also unanimously voted to approve a $1.2 million contract to Construction Consultants Inc. for construction on the Hixson Youth and Family Development Center. The council approved Affinity Environmental Group Inc. to remove the asbestos from the center for a contract not to exceed $42,620.

A citywide initiative to build more sidewalks and bicycle lanes that is part of Mayor Andy Berke's plan to expand access to public transportation squeaked by the City Council on Tuesday night.

The council voted 5-3 to approve the first reading of the complete streets ordinance. Those opposed said the law was premature in expanding the meaning of city streets without giving specific details or estimates on how much the initiative will cost.

"I'm not for passing a law and reading it later," said Councilman Ken Smith, who voted no.

Last week, Mayor Andy Berke praised the ordinance written by his newly created Transportation Department at a standing-room-only meeting to update the public on the future of public transportation in the Scenic City. Among the plans, Berke said complete streets would be a component to the overall vision for the city.

Councilman Larry Grohn and Councilman Yusuf Hakeem cast the two other dissenting votes.

Hakeem, who last week threatened to try to defund Transportation Director Blythe Bailey's position, said he thought the complete streets ordinance would only improve downtown. But Bailey told the council the ordinance would look at streets across the city to see where to make them easily accessible to anyone.

Before voting no, Hakeem said he sees this ordinance as separate from his issues with Bailey.

Two weeks ago, Bailey questioned whether Hakeem's proposal to funnel money into a private taxi company violated the city's purchasing policy. The email was in response to Hakeem's invitation for Bailey to attend a meeting with Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority, the City Council and Millennium Taxi cab owner Tim Duckett to talk about a proposal to partner with Millennium Taxi Cab.

Other council members distanced themselves from Hakeem's quarrel with Bailey. Councilman Jerry Mitchell canceled a scheduled Human Resources meeting called to discuss Bailey's situation publicly.

City officials weren't the only ones concerned about the ordinance.

Teresa Groves, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Greater Chattanooga, questioned why her organization hasn't been included in any discussion on the ordinance to see what kind of impact the proposal might have on the industry.

"We all realize we are coming out of troubled economic times and we, like you, would be disappointed to encounter negative unintended consequences for our city," Groves said.

After the City Council vote, Bailey said he had plans to meet with the association and get officials' input on writing the guidelines for what type of streets will be required to include all types of public access. Bailey estimates this step will take about six months.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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