Chief: officers to park take-home cars Thursday, if lots ready - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Chief: officers to park take-home cars Thursday, if lots ready

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By Gordon Boyd
Eyewitness News Reporter

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- One week after Chattanooga began charging police officers 'commuting fees' to keep driving their squad cars home, contractors are playing 'beat the clock' to prepare two lots for the 260 officers who've decided to park rather than pay.

"I've emailed them to be ready to park by Thursday," Chief Bobby Dodd says.

Officers have their doubts.

"Last week, the Mayor's office implied that it was gong to be fenced, wired, secured, videoed, powered and raised in three days," says Sgt. Craig Joel, of the Police Benevolent Association, "We aren't idiots. The citizens of Chattanooga aren't idiots."

The Littlefield Administration is spending more than $20,000 to secure parking in the 1800 block of Main Street, and to convert 'Onion Bottom', a brownfield stretch of asphalt at the edge of the old Farmer's Market off of 11th Street.

The Administration estimates that charging officers who live within city limits 20 cents a mile, and officers outside 30 cents a mile, will defray $580,000 of the estimated $1.5 million yearly cost of the 'take-home' program.

Officials blame last week's snowstorms from delaying completion past the target date, January 13.

Several City Council members greeting such claims with skepticism at their Agenda Session Tuesday.

"Did we not know, way before the last two weeks, that we would need these lots fenced," City Council member Peter Murphy (9th District) asked General Services Director Paul Page.

"We did not know how many officers would opt out," Page replied. "This work was a rush job, through the Emergency Fund."

As such, General Services hired contractors without competitive bidding. 

"Had we gone through that, it could have taken two months," Page says.

'Onion Bottom' will get a chain-link fence eight feet high. Officers will need a key card to gain access through an electronically-controlled gate. Surveillance cameras will monitor the lot's 144 spaces.

Page would not say who would monitor the cameras.

As of Tuesday night, Chattanooga Police had not determined which officers would park in which lot, Chief Dodd said.

"How are they going to store millions of dollars in equipment," Sgt. Joel asks.

"The weapons and stuff, we'll take with us," Chief Dodd says, "The computers are assigned to the officers, not the vehicle, so they'll either be secured or taken with as the officers leave each vehicle."

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