Hundreds of calls to Patten Towers costs taxpayers thousands - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Hundreds of calls to Patten Towers costs taxpayers thousands

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- After 241 residents were displaced from Patten Towers, Channel 3 decided to take a closer look at the challenges surrounding maintaining the building and providing care for those who live there.

The Chattanooga Fire Department is called to Patten Towers multiple times throughout the year, for a variety of calls. Each response comes at a cost to the taxpayers.

Information obtained by the Times Free Press shows it is an expense of $530 for the captain, lieutenant and senior firefighters. So far in 2013, firefighters have responded to more than 60 accident alarms, almost 30 emergency medical calls and one stalled elevator. The total cost comes to more than $48,000.

Both firefighters and mental health professionals say considering the population at Patten Towers, excess calls are bound to happen.

It is a much different scene at Patten Towers on Thursday, compared to Wednesday. The building is blocked off. No one can get in. City officials say there are several factors playing into Patten Towers being a drain on city resources.

A sign posted in the entrance of Patten Towers says it is closed off due to "unresolved fire violations and failure to comply with orders."

Bruce Garner with Chattanooga fire says with an older building like Patten, certain issues are expected.

"You can't change the physical structure of the building. The stairwells are more narrow than they need to be. It's just an old building and it's tough to get around in," says Garner.

But Garner says the excess number of calls made to the building is taxing on the department and your wallet. At the same time, he says the majority of the residents living there have special physical and mental needs.

"The chief officers, we often talk with the rank and file firefighters, and we have to remind each other, you have to guard against complacency," he says.

"It's very important they all have a right to life just like anyone else, to live as independently as they possibly can," says Susan Greene.

Susan Greene is a regional housing facilitator for the AIM Center in Chattanooga. As a part of its services, it helps place individuals with mental illness in independent living. She says while special care is needed for population groups like the one at Patten, she too is surprised by the number of calls.

"That's surprising to me that there's that many emergency calls there because their support staff should be available to them," says Greene.

We reached out to the Director of Community Relations for PK Management, which runs Patten Towers, with no response. In the meantime, residents like Cheryl Burton are frustrated.

"Everybody's irritated because their medications are here and we can't get in. Their personal items (are in there)," says Burton.

Members of PK Management headquarters are flying down to Chattanooga Friday. They will be addressing any issues with the building and residents and where they go from here.

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