The city of Chattanooga will eat the costs for a real estate transaction that took place a decade ago, forking over up to $412,000 to purchase property for a new city park.
City Council members were forced to vote on the late item added to the agenda Tuesday afternoon, which authorized Director of General Services Dan Thornton to spend the funds in compliance with a mandate issued by the state.
In 2003, the city sold the former Ridgedale Recreation Center, which had been acquired with state and federal funds, to McCallie School for a $200,000. The property had been appraised at $240,000 and was not replaced with an additional park or rec center after being sold to McCallie.
Thornton told council members Tuesday evening that because the Ridgedale property had originally been acquired using funds administered by the state, a replacement park or facility should have been created. The increase to $412,000 was to reflect rising property values, despite a recent county appraisal of the property that listed the parcel at approximately $350,000.
"They typically undervalue," Thornton said.
Before voting to unanimously approve the resolution, several council members offered questions to Thornton.
Councilwoman Carol Berz asked Thornton if the city had any way to prevent a similar situation from arising again.
"Do we have any protection against this?" Berz asked.
"Your best protection is to hire people who know what they're doing," Thornton replied.
Although Thornton did not mention any names during the meeting Tuesday evening, both former city property manager Harvey Webb and Parks and Recreation Director Jerry Mitchell would have been involved in the transaction of the center to McCallie in 2003. Both men served in the administration of former Mayor Bob Corker.
Mitchell is a candidate in the upcoming election for the District 2 City Council seat.
Following the meeting, Thornton said he did not know where the future park or rec facility would be located. Thornton said his department would begin focusing on locales around the city that fit criteria under the mandate, preferably a site similar to the 2.86-acre center.
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