[Hpn] Mayor says cost of project at Farmer's Market will be 'min imal'

William Charles Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Thu, 31 Aug 2006 04:04:36 -0400

Revised homeless plan

Thursday, August 31, 2006


Mayor says cost of project at Farmer's Market will be 'minimal'

By Herman Wang and Ian Berry
Staff Writers

As contractors with the city of Chattanooga began testing soil samples at 
the former Farmer's Market site Wednesday, Mayor Ron Littlefield said he 
will not spend general fund dollars on a proposed homeless services campus 
there and has no plans for a building.
Instead, he envisions the Union Gospel Mission, the Chattanooga Rescue 
Mission and the Interfaith Hospitality Network moving to the Farmer's Market 
site and allowing the Community Kitchen just across the street to expand its 
facilities, he said. The Chattanooga Housing Authority and Chattanooga 
Neighborhood Enterprise also could have offices on the property, Mr. 
Littlefield told the Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial board.
"There are buildings there that, with very little cost, could be renovated 
into offices for the various agencies," he said. "We can make the land 
available to them at a very desirable price. ... We're not talking about 
investing a lot more money here. The agencies, we'll help them raise money. 
We might even give them a little money. No decision's been made on that 
The mayor previously had unveiled an architectural rendering of a proposed 
building there, but he said Wednesday it was just a conceptual drawing.
"It was a concept for the way things could be," he said. "I'm not talking 
about building. The cost to us is minimal if the agencies already out there 
utilize the space."
Merri Mai Williamson, an M.L. King neighborhood resident who has been a 
leading opponent of the mayor's proposal, said that while moving the Rescue 
Mission out of that neighborhood would benefit residents, a consolidated 
services complex still presents problems.
"Having large concentrations in one location only multiplies the number of 
individuals that would be unconfined and in our neighborhood, and they would 
certainly be a magnet for predators," Ms. Williamson said in an e-mail 

Environmental work starts
Crews began environmental testing at the site Wednesday, less than 24 hours 
after the city received approval from the Tennessee Department of 
Environment and Conservation.
Doye Cox, an engineer with Barge, Waggoner, Sumner & Cannon, said there is 
foundry sand and likely coal tar underneath the property, which once 
included a city-owned landfill. Past tests also revealed a chemical related 
to dry-cleaning and petroleum-based pollutants.
The whole process should take about six to eight weeks, Mr. Cox said.
"We don't expect anything exotic," he said. "It's the type of thing you 
might find at any excavation at an industrial park."
Mr. Cox's firm is handling the cleanup for the city, with oversight from 
Crews will insert tubes into 60 test pits to detect volatile vapors. If 
significant vapors are detected, the next step would be to create a plan for 
vapor "extraction" and a barrier to prevent the pollutants from harming work 
crews or whoever ends up at the site, said Troy Keith, an environmental 
field office manager in TDEC's Chattanooga office.
"We can make it safe for its next intended use, and it should not involve 
any major expense or effort, based on what we've seen and heard," Mr. Keith 
Blueprint questions
Ms. Williamson and her supporters have drafted a petition with more than 
1,000 signatures, including that of City Councilman Leamon Pierce, 
protesting the complex.
They have said a consolidated services center does not follow the Blueprint 
to End Chronic Homelessness in the Chattanooga Region in 10 Years, a 
document drafted by city officials, homeless advocates and service agencies 
in 2003.
"It is no longer just me and a handful of my neighbors, and the petition is 
the proof," Ms. Williamson said.
The mayor said his proposal is part of the Blueprint. While critics of the 
mayor's plan have said it does not address permanent supportive housing 
solutions, Mr. Littlefield said a consolidated services campus is a way to 
start homeless people on the path to solvency and independence.
"I absolutely subscribe to the idea we need to get homeless (people) into 
permanent housing as soon as possible, but you need some structure to do 
 it," he said. "You have to have an intake point and a processing system."
Marcia Wicken, a spokeswoman for the Community Kitchen, said the agency 
supports any efforts to provide homeless respite care, 24-hour shelter and a 
day center for adults. She declined to endorse or oppose the mayor's 
proposal until more details emerge.
"We don't care if we're the ones that do it or if someone else does it, just 
that it gets done," she said.

"Our stance on (the mayor's proposal) right now is, until we hear of 
specific plans, we are here to serve the people that we have been sent here 
to serve."

E-mail Herman Wang at hwang@timesfreepress.com

E-mail Ian Berry at iberry@timesfreepress.com

Union Gospel Mission
Provides shelter for adult males and a Bible-based recovery program
Chattanooga Rescue Mission
Operates shelters for men and women, meals and counseling
Interfaith Hospitality Network
Offers shelter for homeless families with children in area churches