2017
02.25

Thursday night at 6:30, Commissioner Whitfield held his first public meeting since January 29th.

During the business meeting, Whitfield abandoned county efforts to seize private land to finish the Lookout Mountain walking trail, adopted a rule temporarily blocking fracking, and banned “tiny houses” from being built or brought into the county for at least six months.

He also dropped insurance benefits for part-time county employees and raised rates at the garbage dump.

Saying (accurately) the county has no money to finish building or maintain the old Durham Railroad bed walking trail on Lookout Mountain, Whitfield agreed to drop an eminent domain lawsuit against landowners whose small tracts kept the project from completion.

Building the trail was a bad idea to begin with, driven by Bebe Heiskell’s loyalty to a family with control of acreage along the road. But abandoning the project now may cost the county more money than Whitfield saves by not finishing it.

All state grant money involved in building the trail will likely have to be returned, to the tune of a half million dollars – and the EPD fines racked up will still have to be paid. (Whitfield in his meeting gave unclear answers about the grants, and claimed he had no knowledge of the EPD fines associated with the trail.)

There’s no good way to finish OR abandon the trail – but it has to be asked, did Shannon Whitfield make the decision to give it up on what’s best for the county as a whole, or was it based on repaying landowner Jill Wyse who was one of his strongest backers during the election?

Whitfield seemed unprepared to answer many questions, and responded to several by saying he would have to check into matters further – despite having already made decisions about them.

Whitfield’s lack of knowledge and experience with the landfill was highlighted during the meeting. He justified a 300% rate increase there by saying it should help the dump make money instead of operating at a loss – but couldn’t defend his decision when challenged by a Tennessee garbage hauler who said the county will actually lose more money at the dump by driving away business.

Whitfield’s six-month ban on tiny homes and container houses comes down to taxation. The county has no rules and guidelines for them and doesn’t want any built until they can figure out how to make money off the buildings coming in. (Not exactly the libertarian approach to local government some had hoped for.)

He left further details on that subject to the planing and zoning board which will meet every 3rd Tuesday at 7 in the Civic Center. Hopefully THAT body will work out some light restrictions that allow property owners to use their land as they see fit without harming the property values of their neighbors.

Days before the meeting, Whitfield vaguely said he’s already cut $700,000 off the county’s budget since taking office and hopes to save $2 million for the full year. How that will be done is not yet determined.

He’s banking on new companies coming into the industrial park (good luck with that one) and has “met with” the CEO of Erlanger to discuss the county’s ongoing lawsuit over Hutcheson debt – but did not settle the expensive legal battle Walker County has no hope of winning.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Unrelated to Whitfield’s tiny house ban, but coming from the same thought process, LaFayette’s council has taken a brave stand against unsightly rooftop solar power cells.

Nearly two years ago, in April 2015, LaFayette imposed a “temporary” ban on installation of solar cells anywhere inside the city. Installation was put on hold so the council could study the issue – studies that apparently took the same length of time as earning a college Associates degree.

That ban was lifted a week ago, replaced with rules technically allowing solar panels on houses, but only if they can’t be seen from the street. That makes them non-viable for buildings with southern or western roof surfaces facing the roadway.

    WQCH Radio, 02/17/17: “THE CITY OF LAFAYETTE HAD A MORATORIUM ON INSTALLING SOLAR PANELS, BUT THAT HAS ENDED WITH THE ADOPTION LAST [Monday] OF A NEW ZONING ORDINANCE.
    “IT ESSENTIALLY FORBIDS PLACEMENT OF SOLAR PANELS ON ROOFS OR IN YARDS WHERE THEY ARE VISIBLE FROM THE STREET, A NOD TO AESTHETICS. WITH THE NEW ORDINANCE APPROVED, HOME OWNERS AND BUSINESSES IN THE CITY OF LAFAYETTE MAY NOW APPLY FOR PERMITS TO INSTALL SOLAR PANELS.
    “THERE IS ONE MORE BRIDGE TO CROSS FOR THE CITY: NEXT, THEY WILL HAVE TO ADOPT NEW RULES FOR PURCHASING EXCESS POWER FROM SOLAR-EQUIPPED CUSTOMERS, AND WILL HAVE TO DETERMINE HOW TO PAY FOR AND INSTALL THE TWO-WAY METERS THAT WILL BE REQUIRED.”

And the city still has no plan for buying excess power back from those panels, which is the main financial draw for those who put them in.

(If you have a solar panel on the street side of your house, would it still be “visible” if you just pile the trash in your yard high enough so nobody can see it?)   Tiny Facebook

Big changes for Walker County School Board.

Board member Charles Wilson, who was elected in 2014 without an opponent, has resigned from the board without explanation. His term would have lasted through 2018.

    WQCH Radio, 02/23/17: “CHARLES WILSON, A MEMBER OF THE WALKER COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, RECENTLY SUBMITTED HIS RESIGNATION FROM THE BOARD AS OF FEBRUARY 14th. WILSON, WHO REPRESENTED DISTRICT TWO, GAVE NO REASON FOR HIS DEPARTURE IN HIS LETTER OF RESIGNATION.
    “DALE WILSON, SCHOOL BOARD CHAIRMAN, SAID THE BOARD HAS 45 DAYS FROM THAT DATE TO APPOINT A NEW BOARD MEMBER FROM DISTRICT TWO, TO FILL THE TERM WHICH EXPIRES IN 2018.

Charles Wilson’s replacement will also join the school board without an opponent, as he or she will be appointed by the board’s remaining four members – two of whom (Dale Wilson and Karen Stoker) are related by marriage.

Maybe Dale Wilson has another in-law or cousin they can put on the board and make it a 3/5ths family affair.   Tiny Facebook

Read More >>

Print Friendly

2017
02.21

Over the weekend Walker County lost four people in two separate traffic accidents. Two of those killed were children.

Saturday evening around 5:00 a minivan heading west on Highway 136 near Cantrell Road – approaching Taylor’s Ridge from Villanow – left the roadway and slammed into two substantial trees. (This is within a half mile of where a car and manure truck wrecked in early January.)

Killed immediately were 51-year-old Christopher Adam Rowles and 5-year-old Blake Hunt. First responders removed 10-year-old Brandon Hunt from the wreckage and sped him to Erlanger, but despite best efforts of doctors there he was declared dead early Monday morning.

Reports say Rowles, who was engaged to the boys’ mother, was heading to a hardware store in LaFayette when the accident occurred.

Of the three, only Brandon was buckled into his seat.

Investigators say the Chevrolet minivan Rowles was piloting contained a number of empty or open beer containers, and one report said a cooler full of open beer was seen at the crash site. DUI is strongly suspected as a cause of the accident, but that won’t be determined until tests come back from the state crime lab.

The community sends its thoughts and prayers towards the mother of the boys who perished, their surviving family members, and fellow students/staff at Naomi Elementary where Blake and Brandon Hunt attended school.

(Naomi will be giving its ice cream profits this week to the Hunt family to help with funeral expenses, and will accept donations for them at the front desk. 100% of what you give this way will get to them.)   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

A day earlier, Derek Kash Hancock died after an accident on LaFayette bypass in front of the post office.

Hancock was killed when another vehicle pulled out onto the 27 bypass from Grant Street. His Suzuki landed upside down in the ditch. Hancock was taken to the hospital via LifeForce from the Civic Center, but did not survive his injuries.

The driver of the other SUV, Marsha Renee Harris, has been charged with failure to yield and vehicular homicide.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

State Senator Jeff Mullis has never adequately represented his constituents, and over the years has played a role in making Georgia government less transparent while raking in truckloads of campaign donations and free dinners from out-of-state companies.

Last week Mullis’ political career hit a new low when he bullied a citizen with a camera, using ten police officers to keep the man from recording what was supposed to be an open meeting in the state capitol.

Jeff Mullis is a disgrace both to the district he’s from and the state as a whole. The time for him to be forcibly retired from politics has long since arrived.   Tiny Facebook

Read More >>

Print Friendly

2017
02.17

A couple more yutes caught up in drugs. Not simply using, but (allegedly) smuggling.

    WQCH Radio, 02/13/17: “THE DRUG TASK FORCE CHARGED TWO PEOPLE WITH TRAFFICKING METHAMPHETAMINE IN THE LAFAYETTE AREA, [last] MONDAY.

    “WARRANTS WERE SERVED ON 26 YEAR OLD TAYLOR STEVEN BYRD AT A HIGHWAY 136 WEST ADDRESS. WHEN AGENTS KNOCKED ON THE BACK DOOR, A 4-THOUSAND DOLLAR BAG OF METH WAS TOSSED OUT OF A WINDOW. MORE DRUGS WERE FLUSHED, AND PACKAGING AND SCALES WERE FOUND INSIDE.
    “ALSO ARRESTED WAS 22 YEAR OLD JOCELYN BREANNE ANDERSON. ALONG WITH BYRD, SHE WAS CHARGED WITH TRAFFICKING METH.”

Both suspects appear to be parents, which is a shame for their children.   Tiny Facebook

Walker County Sheriff’s Office seeks information about a cattle mutilation in Kensington late Sunday night.

Initial reports on this crime made it sound like animal abuse, calves tortured to death. But further details indicate it may have been more of a theft: both were shot (probably first), and one of the animals was butchered with the best cuts of meat taken away.

But what remained behind was left in a horror-show pile of entrails and severed limbs.

    “Someone shot two calves on a farm, sawed off their legs, ripped out their guts and pulled off their shoulders this week, leaving the rest of their bodies for the owners to find.”

If you have any knowledge of what happened or who might have been involved, contact the SO at 706-638-1909.   Tiny Facebook

LaFayette has finalized buying the old after hours clinic from Hutcheson.

A new “Convenient Care” clinic run by Memorial Hospital is expected to open in the facility by summer.

    WQCH Radio, 02/14/17: “CHI MEMORIAL HAS SIGNED A LEASE TO OPERATE THE CLINIC FOR A SEVEN YEAR TERM, WHICH WILL PROVIDE THE [LaFayette] DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY WITH A POSITIVE CASH FLOW IN PAYING BACK THE PURCHASE LOAN. THE BANK OF LAFAYETTE ARRANGED THE FINANCING.
    “..PROFESSIONAL PARK ASSOCIATES, LOCATED ACROSS THE STREET, WILL EXPAND ITS SERVICES AND WILL MOVE SOME PROVIDERS INTO THE NEW SPACE, INCREASING ACCESSIBILITY TO MEDICAL CARE IN THE LAFAYETTE AREA.
    “THE NEW OPERATION WILL BE KNOWN AS CHI MEMORIAL CONVENIENT CARE, AND IT WILL BE OPEN SIX DAYS A WEEK, WITH ACCESS TO AN ON-CALL PROVIDER AFTER CLINIC HOURS.”

Total cost of the purchase, which includes 34 acres of prime land along Hwy 136? $250,000.   Tiny Facebook

Read More >>

Print Friendly

2017
02.13

Another house fire death in a winter filled with them.

Saturday night 52-year-old Timothy Allen Brown died inside an abandoned home at 748 Highland Avenue in Summerville.

Investigators say Brown, described as “a vagrant” (read:homeless), broke into the house to sleep. They think the fire that took his life was started by one of his own candles.

The death occurred less than half a mile from a homeless shelter.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

LaFayette native Lance Ledbetter won’t be bringing another Grammy award home to Atlanta.

His latest historical album was beaten to the trophy yesterday by a set of Bob Dylan bootlegs. (Losing a five-album race to 1960’s Bob Dylan is certainly nothing to be ashamed of.)

Ledbetter DID win the honor in 2008 and has been nominated for it several other times, as a result of his work to preserve obscure recordings through Dust-to-Digital.   Tiny Facebook

    “Lance and April Ledbetter are perhaps the most important preservers of folk music in the modern world, and they do it all from the basement of their little brick house.”

Saturday evening the Mega Star Mart on Highway 151 towards Ringgold was the scene of a hostage situation.

Per a law enforcement source the suspect in this case, who had a knife, was essentially holding himself hostage.

The situation was resolved with minimal bloodshed, considering.   Tiny Facebook

Read More >>

Print Friendly

2017
02.11

Human remains found on Lookout Mountain last week have been identified as 23-year-old Bradley Powell of Chattanooga.

Powell was last seen on December 7th and reported missing on December 9. At the time, authorities searched for him in the Suck Creek Road area of Hamilton County with no results.

The cause of his death has not been made public and/or has not yet been determined by investigators.

Officers initially said the remains found on February 3rd in a shallow grave near 157 and Nickajack Rd. had been there for three or four months.   Tiny Facebook

Commissioner Whitfield’s public meeting originally set for this Thursday was canceled due to “a scheduling conflict.” The next meeting will be February 23rd – nearly a month after the last meeting on 1/26.

So far Whitfield has scheduled four bi-monthly county business meetings, canceled one, and held a special one mid-afternoon on short notice.

Whitfield’s people and/or PR handler Joe Legge are doing a decent job of announcing meetings on social media, and video from the meetings is being shared online – but only edited clips, not full-length. Both should be made available for full transparency.

Better than we had but still have a long way to go.

Despite the county having a better social media presence (and a paid social media handler) nobody’s gotten around to answering this question, after almost two weeks.   Tiny Facebook

Another house fire in LaFayette has been deemed arson.

Fire inspectors say a blaze that heavily damaged 306 South Flora Street Wednesday was set intentionally.

The state is offering a reward for $10,000 leading to the arrest and conviction of someone responsible.   Tiny Facebook

Read More >>

Print Friendly