The video of the meeting is available at the link HERE. Go to the 33:15 mark to see this particular portion of the meeting.
There was a motion at our last council meeting to take the office space away from the Mayor and give it to the council as a whole. The council currently has office space available to utilize next to the Mayor’s office, but it sits empty. There is no functional or operational need to take away the Mayor’s office. This motion on the Mayor’s way out of office after 40 years of service is in extreme poor taste. We should be celebrating this Mayor’s accomplishments during this time as opposed to belittling his position. Those are my thoughts, but I encourage you to watch the video yourself and make your own judgement.
Serving on the council and having the opportunity to be mentored by Mayor Barger is one of my best and most enduring arguments I have for why I am qualified to be our next Mayor. Learning from a man who has seen our city through so many struggles, successes, and ultimately the beautiful community we are today has been such an honor. The last few years I have served on the council have been a time of great change for our city, and I have learned a great deal in my time as Councilman/Vice-Mayor. In serving as Vice-Mayor, I have had the opportunity to chair council meetings on the occasions the Mayor was unable to attend. This has given me first hand experience in managing debate on a number of topics. There was a very large learning curve when I first came onto our council, and the Mayor and other council members were helpful in explaining not only the city’s current position, but also some of the history in how we came to be where we are. Learning about all the different pots of money and how it can and cannot be spent was very eye opening. The structure and flow of resources in our local government is much more complex than I had thought before serving. I am a stronger and more prepared candidate because of the time I have spent serving on our city’s council, and I will be ready on day one to fulfill the duties of the office.
Another qualification I wanted to highlight is my time as a teacher in the community. I teach, coach, and help lead our FCA program at Ringgold Middle school, a school in the heart of the City of Ringgold. Interacting with many of our city’s youth and their parents through the years has given me the opportunity to have my finger on the pulse of what it’s like living in Ringgold from families across the economic spectrum. I can see our need for quality recreation and mentoring for our at-risk youth. Teaching has given me the opportunity to better understand the values and aspirations of our city’s residents and, in particular, our next generation.
As I move to the accomplishments section of this post, I want to make the point that while I brought many of these issues to the council for consideration, I alone cannot enact any of these changes. The council requires a majority vote, and in every one of these instances I had some help. First of all, I wanted to give our citizens a better opportunity to be informed about what was happening at city hall. Before I ran for council, the city police showed up at my door one day to break up my daughter’s birthday party in order to comply with a parking ordinance that had been passed by the city council specifically for my neighborhood just a week or two prior. When I went and addressed the council about why we had not been informed, I was told that I should have been coming to the meetings in order to know what was going on. To me, that wasn’t good enough. The motion I was able to get passed during my time on the council was having our meetings posted online so they can be watched both live and on demand. You can click a specific agenda item that interests you, or you have an expertise in, and see just that part of our meeting. I have already had some valuable feedback from citizens who are watching those videos. The link is HERE if you would like to see the progress we’re making in this area. I have also systematically “friended” every voter on our voter registration list on Facebook in order to keep people informed. Sending out our agendas ahead of time, updating on current/potential projects, and informing generally about city business are just some of the things I’ve been able to do effectively using social media. We’ve also begun sending out a quarterly newsletter to each residence in order to inform and keep our citizens up to date.
There are many other things I am proud of this council for accomplishing, but I just wanted to mention a few briefly. We have added wifi to our downtown area in order to serve our citizens and benefit our businesses. The first block has been wired from the Historic Depot to the old Ringgold Price Drug building and more is soon to come. This is something I have been able to accomplish during my time on the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB). We have also added wifi at the Ringgold Pool and our recreation fields behind the pool. Also,regarding our recreation fields, we finally have a plan in place that we are moving forward with. That plan is HERE. When I came on the council, we had a plan in place that was unworkable and extremely cost prohibitive. We are steadily making our recreation field area more and more like a park. I hope to rename the park soon to something other than “Ringgold Recreation Complex”. It just doesn’t have a nice ring to it. I am curious what some of you think a good name would be.
In the future, I want to protect our downtown area against modernization. I love the quaint feel of the old buildings, depot, and hometown stores. We have an opportunity to move the digital sign out of our downtown and give it even more visibility at the corner of Highway 41 and Alabama Highway by 1st Tn Bank. This would protect the historic feel of our downtown while making even better use of this valuable resource. Our business growth corridors need to be developed through areas like Alabama Highway (Hwy 151) where the new college is coming, Ooltewah Ringgold Road, and Highway 41 toward Tunnel Hill and toward Graysville. I would like to find creative services for the community that have great cost to benefit ratios such as the dog park idea I wrote about HERE. The city has opportunities to extend our nature trail along the creek and make what is already a staple of this community something that is truly special. Our tax rate in the city needs to remain low so our citizens can enjoy more of their own money and continue to invest in our community through patronizing our businesses.
The office of Mayor has been something I considered pursuing in the last two years of my current term as my service turned into something that has become part of who I am. The last few years as a husband, father, teacher, and councilman have been the most rewarding time of my life. I believe through my experience I can be a Mayor who will honor our community and help guide it into the next generation with respect and vision. I have the temperament, confidence, and passion to make our city proud of it’s next Mayor. The experiences of my life have led me to this crossroad, and becoming our Mayor would be an honor that I would work every day of my life to fulfill with integrity.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
UPDATE: Paul has been declared ineligible to run for the office of Ringgold mayor.
Paul Lee and I have never met.This is in no way an attack on his character. However, the evidence strongly suggests he doesn’t live in the city, which is a requirement to run for the office of Mayor in the City of Ringgold. Click the link HERE for the city code which spells out the 12 month residency requirement. Many people have approached me over the course of the last two weeks about the fact that he lives at a county residence outside the city (in what I’ve heard is an exceptionally large home) and has for quite some time. One of my jobs is to protect the citizens of Ringgold from being hoodwinked, so I did some research in public record. First, I was curious about the address he used in my neighborhood (Bluff View) in order to qualify, so I went to the tax assessor web page to look up info on who owned the house. On August 7th, 2015 the house was transferred to Paul for $0 as a gift from a family member. The link to the transfer is HERE (sale info at bottom of page). Next I went by the Registrar’s office to see when he registered to vote in the city. On August 11th, 2015 he changed his driver’s license address to my neighborhood and registered to vote in the city at that time.
Mayor Barger had also been approached by many people about his residency and wanted to challenge Paul’s candidacy formally. Collectively the Mayor, myself, and the two other candidates for Mayor have filed a challenge at City Hall on the grounds he does not meet the requirements (specifically Sec 2.11 of city code linked above) to run for Mayor. At this point, there will be a public hearing at City Hall in which Paul will have to defend his candidacy in order to have his name on the ballot. He would have an opportunity to appeal to a higher court, so the process would need to be expedited in order to have closure before ballots are made.
In such a small city, the election can be easily swayed. We deserve to have a fair election. He may or may not have a shot at winning, but if he gets even one vote, it could change the outcome of the election and make it illegitimate. When Mayor Barger won his seat, he was only 3 votes ahead of his closest rival. I was only nine votes away from 4th place when I ran for council, which would have knocked me out of having the honor to serve. As I don’t know Paul, I have nothing against him personally, but I do believe in playing by the rules. I’ll post updates along the way to keep you informed.
This is our new master plan for the fields behind our pool. The paths shown encircling the area are going to be concreted. There’s much more room for soccer because of it’s growth. Earl and Darnell have done a fantastic job growing our community’s soccer program and they’re bringing families into the community to eat, play, and shop. This plan basically doubles the size we currently provide for soccer. The area by Emberson Drive is going to be a wounded warriors playground for everyone, but especially the disabled in and around our community. Disabled kids who want to play will have a place, and disabled parents can actually go on the playground and play with their kids. A splash pad is beside the pool that will come in the future. We’ve also added a lot of parking along Emberson, by the soccer fields, and by our new canoe launch. We’re excited to finally be moving forward with a plan. Grading and drainage work is slated to begin this Fall to ready the fields and pathways.
There are many reasons for this need, but first and foremost it is a good thing for the dogs in our community. Dog owners know that pets are a part of the family, and they need a place to run and play in Ringgold. Having a healthy social life and exercise is the most effective way of having a happy dog that is well adjusted. We have many responsible dog owners who take their dogs for walks and ensure they get exercise, but in order to get quality interaction with other dogs, we have to leave our community. There may be no cheaper cost to benefit ratio for our community than a dog park. We actually already have a park area that is ready to go with no building of fences necessary.
Behind our Ringgold pool, we have a ball field that is perfectly set up to accommodate a dog park. The fence is up, and there is an unleashing double fence already in place in the form of bullpens. The re-purposing of these ball fields would be a wonderful addition to our community that so many families would enjoy.
We would have a great deal of interest and traffic brought to our downtown area if we could bring this change about. Not only citizens within the city, but also visitors from surrounding communities would come in and utilize our park. That is good for our local businesses in the downtown area and our community’s tax base.
Some on the council have expressed nostalgia for the ball park use of our recreation fields, but there has been almost no baseball on the one remaining ball field since I’ve been on the council (4 years). I share in that nostalgia as I used to play on those fields as a kid. It has just been so many years since the fields have been used for any kind of baseball/softball. My cross country kids run through the nature trail daily, and I regularly go there with my daughters. I can’t remember the last time I saw it being used for baseball. With newer ball fields at Seabolt, Jack Mattox, and surrounding schools (Ringgold Middle is adding one soon), we don’t have as big of a need for ball fields. Aggressive marketing may not even keep that lone ball field busy. One field certainly can’t accommodate tournaments. Soccer currently uses it for their younger age groups, but with an anticipated expansion for their fields in our recreation master plan, they will not be affected by this change.
Help is needed in making this change happen. If you are a dog owner in the city, or you are just interested in our city moving forward in a positive direction, please contact your council members. I put it on the agenda for our August 24th meeting, but could not garner enough votes to make it happen. Without the voice of people in the community, this may not get done.
Ringgold is on the verge of predominantly using well water for our city’s water needs. We’ve drilled a test well on Poplar Springs Road, and the early indications of water quality and sustainability all look very promising. There are 3 areas in particular in which this is a big deal for our city.
First of all, the amount of chemicals we have to put into the water will be significantly reduced. The water we currently treat from the creek at our water plant takes a very large amount of chemicals in order to make it potable. We are responsible and safe in treating that water, but with the amount of chemicals being so significantly reduced, there is much less room for error. The water in the well will need some chlorine, fluoride, and treatment to make it softer, but much less than we are currently using.
Secondly, the cost of utilizing well water is greatly reduced compared to what it takes to currently treat the creek water, however there will be initial costs involved in order to connect the well source to our current system. Laying the amount of pipe needed will be a fairly high cost, but that will pay for itself over the next few years. The money is already within our budget in the form of our SPLOST money. The 2014 SPLOST estimates say we will accumulate about 2.5 million dollars over the time we collect that tax, and that money is already earmarked just for this type of endeavor. The aquifer we’ve tapped into pumps over 500 gallons per minute, which more than accommodates the city’s current water usage. By also keeping our city’s water plant online at the creek, we will ultimately be in a position to sell water to surrounding areas, whereas we have had to buy water at times in the past.
One of the biggest benefits I am hoping for is improving the taste of our water. I’ve payed attention to various public water sources since I’ve been elected, and it seems that our city has about average taste when it comes to our water. Periodically, as I have been going door to door campaigning, people tell me they don’t like the taste of our city water. I’ve lived here all my life, and perhaps I can’t tell that it doesn’t taste good because I’ve become so accustomed to the taste. Improved quality and taste is something I think would be wonderful for our city.