2015
09.04

Commissioner Heiskell has found a new way to cook the books and f— up Walker County’s future finances even more than she has already – all to further her building plans and avoid raising taxes before next May’s election.

This time the county will be getting a $17.5 million payment from its own Development Authority. The Development Authority will then sell $17.5 million in bonds, and take control of the Civic Center, Ag Center, and Mountain Cove Farms – which will be used for collateral on the bond sale.

The money will pay back the $10 million loan Bebe took out earlier this year and finish massive-overbudget construction on the Audia plant project, which was cited in the latest audit as being a primary reason the county is out of money.

Per this notice (which also ran in this Wednesday’s print Messenger) the county will do all that, then add a 1 mil per year property tax to fund the Development Authority. That debt will be the county’s responsibility, but none of it will show up on the county’s financial records since WCDA is treated as a separate entity for accounting and under state law development authorities are exempt from open records requirements.

Heiskell verified all the notice says in her UCTV show on Wednesday, in the clip above. No worries though: “In ten years we’ll be doing pretty well” she says.

If this goes through (and there’s not much that can stop it) your taxes will go up NEXT year, but probably not much this year – and in return, Bebe has further mortgaged the future of Walker County for more debt and the potential loss of three sizable properties obtained with SPLOST money, two of which actually serve the public.

The Development Authority held closed, secret meetings on this deal earlier in the week and approved this deal on Commissioner Heiskell’s instructions. Now it’s up to a judge to finalize, after a public hearing on September 15th.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Latest on the Hutcheson bankruptcy battle.   Tiny Facebook

Bi-Lo LaFayette Exterior

Two Bi-Lo’s past Chattanooga are now Food City stores. Remaining stores in the area will be converted by October 15th, but company says some won’t be remodeled yet and a few might not be remodeled at all, depending on lease situations. (Their stories keep shifting, which is a bad sign.)

LaFayette Bi-Lo will close on October 5th and reopen on the 8th at 8 AM as a Food City.

Until Food City opens gas stations in the area, “points” earned in the stores (after conversion) can be redeemed for discounts on groceries, which sounds like a better option than fuel points anyway.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Nobody new signed up to run for LaFayette City Council by the Wednesday deadline, so there will be no change in LaFayette’s government for the next two years.

Congratulations to Chris Davis, Judy Meeks, and Wayne Swanson on their election non-victories.

The only issue on the ballot in this part of the county in November will be renewing a sales tax for the school system – an issue LU will address shortly.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

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2015
09.04

What happened Wednesday at the Hutcheson hearing in Rome?

There are now only two arguments: should the hospital be foreclosed on now, as a whole, by Erlanger, to cover its debts to them, or should it remain open for a while to be sold off a piece at a time to pay some of its debts to other companies?

Rainy Hutcheson

The first option is the one Erlanger wants, the second is what Regions Bank, other creditors, Hutcheson’s leaders who got the hospital into its current shape, and Walker County want to see done.

A courtroom account from a local who drove down and witnessed:

    “There were attorneys respresenting various creditors including Regions Bank. All of them want Hutcheson to continue in Chapter 11 so the hospital can be sold. The hearing went for 5 hours with a couple of small breaks. Below are highlights:
    “The patient ombudsman stated patient census at Hutcheson this past Tuesday was 7 inpatients and 1 in ICU. She stated concerns over equipment malfunctions such as MRI and CT machines. She also noted shortages in supplies in the lab which hampered staff’s ability to serve the patients. She also said there were morale issues, especially related to employee health claims not being paid. She stated staff was execptional but the hospital facilities and equipment were antiquated.
    “Dr Lori Emerson, the Medical Director of the Lab testified of supply shortages and equipment malfunction like the analyzer, which tells staff if someone’s white or red blood counts are high/low. She also testified the new administrative director of the lab has no background in that role and the hospital has a self audit of the lab coming up and this person has no compliance training to do this. The new director was promoted from the hospital’s blood bank where he still serves as supervisor. Dr. Emerson stated he was a great person and does good work in the blood bank but is out of place in the lab. Riveting testimony and very credible.
    “Dr. Ashburn, the Medical Director of Hutcheson testified that the staff was great and he was not aware of any equipment shortages or supply shortages. When pressed by the attorney representing the trustee, Dr. Ashburn indicate that between his private practice in pulmonology and the hospital, he would make appoximately 600K this year. And he testified he has not missed a paycheck from the hosptial.
    Farrell Hayes“Farrell Hayes, the CEO of Hutcheson also testified. He went over various financials of the hospital and other issues. He was challenged as to why he had not taken action soon to help the hospital – his answers were not very direct. He did state he makes $280,000 and he has not missed a paycheck.
    “Two things from the judge – he said he had heard of a lot of problems about the hosptial but none of the attorneys on either side has suggested how creditors get paid. The other – he wants the hospital sold – in his words ‘if the dirt is worth more than the buildings, just sell the dirt.'”

Per the Times Free Press, Hutcheson’s CEO (remember, he’s still getting paid) thinks the hospital should stay in bankruptcy for another eight months while they wait on a buyer, because letting Erlanger take over will cost 700 jobs (they don’t have 700 employees left) and harm the hospital’s remaining patients, who wouldn’t half fill a small school bus.

He insists they have a buyer, lots of buyers, buyers lined up to buy the hospital whole.

Hutcheson’s “unsecured creditors” who are second on the list to get paid after Erlanger IF there’s a foreclosure think this mess needs to drag on forever as they each get paid tiny bits of everything Hutcheson sells off. They want another trustee brought in and more layers of supervision to complicate things further, all of which costs more money.

Meanwhile Hutcheson is adding about a million a month to its debts, and every day it stays open grows that pile.

$1.3 million in debt in just three weeks.

So yeah lets keep the place running like that for ANOTHER year, why not? As long as the CEO and the top administrators (and the lawyers) keep getting paid.

Hutcheson - Where Babies CAME From

Hutcheson will eventually close down either way, but the decision a judge makes will make the difference between Hutcheson’s current properties and services being split up among many different owners as debt keeps growing and conditions worsen, or kept together and changed to another owner all at once now.

Patient care is deteriorating badly, employees are suffering, and debt is piling up fast. The best option is to put Hutcheson out of its misery now and hand the whole thing over, whole, to Erlanger before the situation (and county-backed debts) get worse.

All sides are back in a Rome courtroom again today to further argue these points.

FRIDAY UPDATE:

Today CEO Hayes, again being paid his full salary for every week Hutcheson scrapes along in business, testified in Rome that the hospital has a buyer ready to take over within a week.

Based on THAT testimony, the bankruptcy trustee decided to drop his argument that the hospital should lose bankruptcy protection. The judge never ruled either way because the matter he was ruling on has been dropped.

If no buyer surfaces in a week, will Hayes go to jail for perjury? Will this whole process start over again?

Either way, patients and employees continue to suffer – and the taxpayers’ bill keeps growing. Hutcheson continues to drag along, dangerous, dying, and in debt.

Meanwhile, another judge has ruled the hospital may sell its walk-in clinic to Dade County for $200,000 less than the land it sits on is worth. That deal will soon be done and Memorial will take over the Trenton facility.

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2015
09.01

Friday the city posted notices on doors at Pear Pine Trailer Park, telling residents the property is being condemned and they have thirty days to relocate. That’s after five weeks of no running water at the park due to the absentee owner’s unpaid bills.

Pear Pine Trailer Park / Jessie Dr

LaFayette has been criticized for doing nothing to help residents, but there’s little the city can legally do other than encourage them to move on.

Meanwhile residents say they’ve been given a single case of bottled water from a concerned neighbor, and haven’t heard a word from any churches or charities since their situation hit the news a month ago.

We’ve got churches all over town raising money to go on “mission trips” to Florida but in five weeks they’ve gotten exactly one visit from one woman handing out bottled water, on her own.

Where’s your church? Where’s your preacher? Heck, where are YOU? (And, for what it’s worth, where are we?)   Tiny Facebook

Hutcheson Lobby / WDEF TV 12

More problems at Hutcheson exposed: Hospital owes $1.8 million for unpaid employee insurance, $450k in unpaid employee payroll taxes, and another $1.8 million to non-employee doctors.

Employees have been sacrificed to the illusion of things being financially sound; hospital has skipped paying bills and then claimed to be profitable.

Patient safety is also at risk: a blood analyzer doesn’t work correctly, x-ray films aren’t read promptly, and the hospital’s MRI machine only functions some of the time.

Hutcheson will go before a judge on Wednesday to argue they’re back on track. Hopefully the judge will see reality and let creditors take over so the hospital can be run properly.

So many fear a shutdown would mean no hospital. Keep in mind, in most scenarios, Hutcheson closing would only mean Hutcheson, Inc. shutting down. There will most likely still be a hospital on Crescent Circle run by SOMEBODY and that hospital will have employees and patients – all better off than they are now under HMC.   Tiny Facebook

Jonathon Lee StoneJonathon Lee Stone of a Rossville address was arrested Wednesday for child molestation. He was allegedly caught in the act by a parent (or neighbor?) and then chased the woman around while wearing a gun.

He’s accused of having one underage girl in bed with him and another nearby. So far his charges are four counts of aggravated child molestation, two counts of incest, cruelty to children, aggravated assault, and influencing witnesses.

Stone remains today in the Catoosa County jail.   Tiny Facebook

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2015
08.30

Thursday afternoon Hutcheson employees were called into a meeting and told the hospital’s Women’s Center will be closing again next week.

Friday the hospital confirmed that closure is set for 7 PM Monday and added its Walk-In/Urgent Care/After Hours clinic in LaFayette will also close, on Tuesday. (Sources say a similar facility in Dade County will soon be operated by Memorial Hospital.)

Hutcheson Titanic Sinking

This is a last ditch, last-minute effort to convince a judge there’s an actual plan to save Hutcheson, otherwise he’ll remove their bankruptcy protection and let Erlanger foreclose on the property for its $60-plus million in debt.

(Changing directions continually, opening and closing the same unit multiple times in a handful of years, and making major decisions at the drop of a hat based on trying to appear competent. That’s the Hutcheson plan, as it has been for years.)

Meanwhile, Erlanger could use Hutcheson to absorb some of its overflow: “With the census climbing at the Erlanger Health System, hospital officials are scrambling to find available hospital beds.”

Hutcheson should have been sold to Erlanger to begin with, back when the Chattanooga hospital was offering to buy. Now years of damage have been done to Hutcheson’s reputation, employees have left after being been mistreated and lied to, and the facility is worth less than what it owes. We’ll get nothing from it now, and still have debt – but the faster the place changes hands, the faster we can get back on track.

Hopefully the judge will see reality and shut them down so that can begin promptly.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

More setbacks in city plans to rehab South Chattanooga Street. Project will still be done (eventually?) but without help from state money, putting a squeeze on other lower-priority projects.

    WQCH Radio, 08/25/15: “THE CITY OF LAFAYETTE WAS NOT AWARDED A HALF-MILLION DOLLAR COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT BLOCK GRANT: MONEY THEY INTENDED TO USE ON WATER LINE IMPROVEMENTS UNDERNEATH CHATTANOOGA STREET.

South Chattanooga Street Pavement

    “..LAFAYETTE CITY MANAGER DAVID HAMILTON SAID THE NEWS IS A BIG DISAPPOINTMENT. ‘THE LOCAL FIRE DEPARTMENT HAD HUNDREDS OF HOURS INVESTED IN DOING COMMUNITY SURVEYS DOOR-TO-DOOR AS PART OF THE GRANT APPLICATION’, HE SAID. ‘WE REALLY FELT LIKE WE HAD A STRONG APPLICATION’.
    “CHATTANOOGA STREET IS THE LARGEST PROJECT UNDER THE CURRENT SPLOST PROGRAM, AND THE IMPROVEMENTS WILL BE DONE USING THAT FUNDING SOURCE. HOWEVER, HAMILTON SAID THAT WILL CUT SPLOST FUNDING SHORT FOR OTHER PROJECTS, SUCH AS IMPROVEMENTS AT THE OLD LAFAYETTE HIGH FOOTBALL STADIUM AND A PROPOSED BOAT LAUNCH RAMP FOR QUEEN CITY LAKE.
    “HAMILTON SAID A PAVING COMMITTEE MEETING WILL BE CALLED BEFORE THE NEXT CITY COUNCIL MEETING AND THAT GROUP WILL MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS ON HOW TO PROCEED. THE CITY HAD ALREADY DECIDED THAT PAVING OF CHATTANOOGA STREET WILL BE DELAYED UNTIL NEXT YEAR WHILE WORK IS DONE ON UTILITIES AND CULVERTS UNDERNEATH THE ROAD.”

This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if LaFayette had gotten a bigger slice of the SPLOST money. Most of it went to Bebe to blow on garbage, and LaFayette is left deciding between paving one road or rehabbing a rec. facility.   Tiny Facebook

Stabbing reported “near Shop-Rite” last week was another drunken incident at the Railroad Park involving Darin Henderson, who basically lives there now.

Caboose Park Walking Trail Bridge

He and his ol’ lady (who also apparently lives in the park) got into an alcohol-enhanced conflict and blood was shed. He decided not to press charges.

If they break up, who gets custody of the caboose?

(Henderson has made it to LU three times in about six weeks: July 25, August 16, and now.)   Tiny Facebook

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2015
08.27

LU EXCLUSIVE: Walker County has now abandoned plans to sell its ambulance service to broke-as-heck Hutcheson and puts the service out for bids, as legally required to begin with.

Randy Camp Ambulance Service Memo / Ambulance Put Out for Bids

Companies interested in buying the ambulance service whole and providing EMS care for Walker have to submit a bid by September 20th 10th.

In other words: “Looks like nobody bid. Guess we have to raise taxes by 300% to keep this service going.”

(Is it legal to do bids like this on short notice? It was definitely illegal to not bid it out under the first plan, but can you bid a project this big with, what, two weeks notice?)

Emergency Services insiders say the ambulance service actually breaks even. Bebe said the same thing in 2010, it makes enough to cover what it costs. So your guess is as good as ours what the real point of this is.   Tiny Facebook

LaFayette fire responders and an ambulance were called out to Roper around 9 Tuesday night for an employee accident.

Roper Loading Dock

A Roper worker was transported to Erlanger with a suspected skull fracture. After examination, doctors decided Donna Howard suffered no broken bones, and she was released with only stitches and bruises.

    Ms. Howard commented about the accident on LU Facebook: “A rack fell off another rack and knocked me to the floor. I was never unconscious, but I do have 9 staples in my head. My left hand is swollen and bruised. I have scrapes and bruises down the right side of my body.. But thank God, I am gonna be fine. Moving a little slower but still moving. Thanks for all your kind words and concern. May God bless you all!!”   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

During Monday night’s Walker GOP meeting at the library, County Development Authority director Larry The Liar Brooks was asked how much debt the county currently has.

Brooks said the county only owes $10 million.

Larry Brooks at Phillips Bros Machine

Reverend Brooks’ response was not greeted warmly by those in attendance who can actually think and read. A few cries of “bullshit” rang out, and appropriately so.

The county’s own financial reports from 2014, which were signed by an auditor, the county CPA, AND the Commissioner, say we had over $47 million in debt on October 1 of last year – and things have gotten much worse (by at least $10 million) in the 11 months since.

How can you tell when Larry Brooks is lying? When he’s breathing.

You can’t trust Bebe or the people she surrounds herself with.   Tiny Facebook

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