2017
04.12

Monday afternoon officers from the US Marshal Service, assisted by deputies from the Chattooga and Walker sheriff offices, descended on a home on Halls Valley Rd. near the Walker/Chattooga line.

They were seeking to capture a fugitive wanted in Catoosa: Thomas Zane Campbell, age 31.

Mr. Campbell was wanted in Catoosa for “possession of a firearm by a convicted felon” – and firearm he apparently did possess. He allegedly produced himself in front of the house with a gun in hand and was shot by one or more officers on the scene.

He was LifeForced to Chattanooga “in critical condition” with no updates on his status released as yet. No officers were harmed in the shooting.

Initial reports said Campbell was shot by an unidentified Chattooga deputy, but those reports were retracted; currently there’s no official word of what officer fired shots or what department the shooter represented. One report said multiple officers on the scene fired.

As required by protocol in an officer-involved shooting, the GBI is investigating.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Commissioner Whitfield’s planning commission gets one step closer to permanent rules cracking down on “tiny homes.”

    WQCH Radio, 04/01/17: “THE WALKER COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION HAS FINISHED A DRAFT ORDINANCE TO ALLOW ‘TINY HOUSES’ TO BE BUILT HERE.
    “THE MICRO-HOMES WERE DISALLOWED RECENTLY BY COUNTY COMMISSIONER SHANNON WHITFIELD, UNTIL NEW REGULATIONS COULD BE WRITTEN.

    “THE PLANNING COMMISSION STATES THAT ‘TINY HOUSES’ SHOULD BE NO BIGGER THAN 500 SQUARE FEET, HAVE A PERMANENT FOUNDATION WITH AN ELECTRIC METER AND SEWER OR SEPTIC SYSTEM, AND THAT THEY WILL BE ‘GROUPED TOGETHER’ IN SPECIFIC ZONES WITHIN WALKER COUNTY.
    “THE NEW ORDINANCE REQUIRES A NUMBER OF PUBLIC HEARINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSIONER WILL ACCEPT OR REJECT THE NEW RULES.”

The really concerning part here is “THAT THEY WILL BE ‘GROUPED TOGETHER’ IN SPECIFIC ZONES WITHIN WALKER COUNTY”

That means most of us will be prohibited from building or bringing in a house this size. If you live anywhere near the Commissioner or anyone on the planning board, you can give up on your dream of having a tiny house.

Sounds like they plan to segregate them all into parts of the county where few people want to live anyway.   Tiny Facebook

Battlefield murder case comes to an end.

Robert Martin Brooks and Jennifer Allison DeMott, both of NY State, have taken plea deals in their pending murder trial.

Brooks and DeMott will spend 20 and 10 years in prison, respectively, for the killing of Duane Hollenbeck.

59-year-old Hollenbeck’s remains were found near Chickamauga Battlefield in December 2015. Prosecutors say all three went on a trip to the south to buy drugs for resale, and the younger two got tired along the way of dealing with Mr. Hollenbeck and his disabilities.   Tiny Facebook

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2017
04.09

Zaris Neal of LaFayette has been indicted for an alleged shooting in Lyerly.

    WQCH Radio, 04/04/17: “A LAFAYETTE MAN WAS INDICTED BY THE CHATTOOGA COUNTY GRAND JURY MONDAY, FOR A SHOOTING THAT TOOK PLACE IN LYERLY.
    “22 YEAR OLD ZARIS KANTRAIL NEAL AND ANOTHER SUSPECT ARE CHARGED WITH THE SHOOTING OF JUSTIN CLAY CARROLL IN JANUARY. CARROLL WAS TREATED FOR A GUNSHOT WOUND TO THE SHOULDER.
    “NEAL IS CHARGED WITH AGGRAVATED ASSAULT AND GANG-RELATED OFFENSES. AFTER ELUDING POLICE FOR WEEKS, HE WAS PICKED UP BY THE WALKER COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT.
    “INVESTIGATORS SAY THE SHOOTING INVOLVED ACTIVITY BETWEEN RIVAL GANGS.”

Mr. Neal famously insulted various news outlets (including LU) on social media while hiding from the cops in January, and then snagged a selfie of himself in the back of a patrol car thanks to sloppy Walker County deputies.

(Who’s “F&##”ed NOW, buddy?)   Tiny Facebook

The ridiculous 55MPH school zone speed limit in front of Saddle Ridge school will soon be a thing of the past.

After some fourteen? wrecks in three years, GDOT, Walker County Schools, and the Commissioner’s Office have finally moved to lower the speed on that stretch of Highway 27 to 45 during school rush hours.

Not the red light many have asked for, and 45 is still pretty fast – but it’s something. (When the change is made later this year will the Sheriff’s Office actually enforce it?)   Tiny Facebook

Jeff Long, who left his position as Walker County roads supervisor Wednesday, won’t publicly comment about his decision to leave.

Commissioner Whitfield says he didn’t push Long out and had no issue with the man; meanwhile a Fort O. councilor suggests Long is coming back to be that community’s recreation and roads supervisor, a job he held for two decades before Bebe Heiskell hired him in 2015.

Long remains a Catoosa County Commissioner.

The county has posted his former job.   Tiny Facebook

Two vehicles were involved in a “head on collision” on Hwy 151 at Jones Road in the Wood Station area, around 4 PM Saturday.

LifeForce was called in for occupants of one vehicle involved. Facebook commenters said children were inside at least one of the vehicles, and the accident may have been caused by someone standing in the road.   Tiny Facebook

After years of neglect and dodging questions about the property, Walker County School Board announces future plans for the old high school campus in the heart of LaFayette.

The facility, most of which dates back to the 60’s, will become office space for the schools’ central office. The Board will eventually relocate there from its current long-time home on Duke Street.

    WQCH Radio, 03/31/17: “THE WALKER COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEM IS ADVANCING WITH A PLAN TO RELOCATE THE CENTRAL OFFICE AND BUS BARN, ACCORDING TO A RECENT REPORT TO THE BOARD BY SUPERINTENDENT DAMON RAINES.
    “PRELIMINARY WORK AND PLANNING HAVE STARTED TO MOVE THE SCHOOL SYSTEM’S CENTRAL OFFICE TO THE OLD LAFAYETTE HIGH SCHOOL ON NORTH CHEROKEE STREET, WHILE THE BUS BARN WILL BE LOCATED AT THE ADVANCING EDUCATION CENTER – THE OLD ORBURN SCHOOL AT CHICKAMAUGA.
    “ARCHITECTS AND ENGINEERS HAVE BEEN ON-SITE TO GATHER INFORMATION AND ANALYZE THE BUILDINGS, ACCORDING TO THE SUPERINTENDENT.
    “NO WORD YET ON WHAT THE SCHOOL SYSTEM HAS PLANNED FOR THE CURRENT CENTRAL OFFICE BUILDING, LOCATED NEXT TO THE COURTHOUSE IN DOWNTOWN LAFAYETTE.”

LaFayette High opened on that hill in the 20’s and was over the years expanded multiple times. All of the original buildings were torn down after expansion in the 60’s, but some of what’s there is older than the front buildings built in that era.

LHS moved to a new campus on Round Pond during Christmas 1997 where it is today. Since the high school moved, the former high school has been used as a temporary building for North LaFayette (around 2000) while that school was being rebuilt and then served for years as the “6th grade academy” for overcrowded LaFayette Middle. After LMS was expanded and Saddle Ridge opened, the school was closed again and has mostly sat empty.

Portions of the campus not used for those schools have been allowed to deteriorate considerably, and one of the buildings was badly damaged by fire. The long building next to Food City was used a few years ago for police training and was damaged quite a bit inside by those activities.

Some of what still stands will likely be torn down due to damage/decay and because the board doesn’t need that much space. They’re probably looking to use the main front building visible from Cherokee Street.

The school system maintenance/purchasing office has used the old vocational building since LHS closed and probably will remain there.   Tiny Facebook

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2017
04.03

Mike Culberson is the only Walker Schools principal who wasn’t rehired for next fall, but that doesn’t mean all the other schools will avoid leadership changes over the summer.

Someone, likely a principal from a lower school, will have to step up and fill the empty principal’s office at LaFayette High. The school system is taking applications internally, and will probably end up with a current elementary or middle school leader taking over LHS. (That person’s job will then also have to be filled.)

Ridgeland’s Assistant Principal is retiring, so that job is also open – meaning the system has to find a head principal for one high school and an assistant for another by the beginning of July.

The only candidate LU has heard about potentially going to LHS is current Gilbert principal Matt Harris [photo, left], but there will certainly be others interested and applying for the job.

Who would you like to see (or maybe NOT see) promoted to head Rambler? Or should the school system give preference to an outsider?   Tiny Facebook

Long-time Walker County CERT director Mary Perry has lost her battle with cancer.

Ms. Perry passed away Saturday, age 55.

Her services will be held Tuesday evening at Wilson’s in Chickamauga.

CERT is the “Community Emergency Response Team” – volunteers trained to assist county officials in emergency situations. The director of that group has always been a volunteer; Mary Perry’s replacement (likely a firefighter or emergency management employee) will be chosen by Fire Chief and EMA director Blake Hodge.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Chattooga’s Jay Shropshire recently participated in The “2017 American Family Insurance High School Slam Dunk Championship.” The competition was filmed some time back but aired Sunday (recorded) on CBS/Channel 12.

Shropshire reportedly scored a 32 in both rounds, but did not come out on top.

Here’s his “monster dunk” from the contest.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

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2017
04.01

Walker County School Board still hasn’t officially said WHY Mike Culberson was let go, but here’s a public report on one of his ethical problems – one that was bad enough by itself to cost him the principal’s office.

Culberson wrote his own comments into e-mails he forwarded from school employees, pretending that his thoughts were the thoughts of others. An effort to tear down another school employee he didn’t get along with – and also build himself up.

Next fall she’ll still have her job, and he won’t.

This is one of the “ethics violations” LU mentioned last week. We heard from school staff that Mr. Culberson was sending e-mails pretending to be other school employees, and that was the major reason the board and Superintendent Raines decided to let him go.

We didn’t feel comfortable being specific with it since the story we got wasn’t quite fleshed out, but it was referenced in LU’s Culberson posts.

This isn’t something criminal, it didn’t involve students, but it was unethical and violated school policies. This would be enough to get you fired on the spot in any kind of private sector office. The School Board has instead opted to let Culberson finish out the school year – while carefully monitored.   Tiny Facebook

A large number of Walker County homes will soon be getting higher water and sewer bills.

This week Commissioner Whitfield and the Water Authority board voted to increase base rates for water and sewer service by a considerable amount. The increase will impact more than 10,000 homes on county water and 3,500+ on county sewer.

The Commissioner says this is necessary to do water line maintenance neglected under his predecessor, who frequently used Water Authority funds to pay for her own projects.

However, they’re not yet sure exactly how much the repairs and upgrades will end up costing.

This will not impact your bill if you’re using City of LaFayette, Tennessee American, or Walker County RURAL water. Those entities may end up having to raise rates later on since some of them buy water from the Water & Sewer Authority but it’s unclear if any wholesale rates will be changed.   Tiny Facebook

This last week was the end of Georgia’s 2017 legislative session. As the General Assembly began to wrap up (and actually do work), the Capitol building (Senate side) was invaded by a literal rat.

(The sizable rodent was given a free steak dinner by a Georgia Power lobbyist and enjoyed nine free UGA football games before a state employee realized he wasn’t a Republican incumbent State Senator and proceeded to stomp him flat.)

As the clock ticked down, the State Senate narrowly passed a House bill (HB 280) allowing older college students with weapons permits to carry guns on campus for self defense.

Senator Mullis, who signed off on the bill last year before Governor Deal vetoed it, didn’t take a position this year – the only state senator who didn’t cast a vote on the hot-topic legislation. Rep. Steve Tarvin voted “NO” on the bill’s final version, while Rep. John Deffenbaugh voted in support.

A similar bill was passed last year but vetoed by Governor Deal. He will have the same option this year but insiders expect him to agree to the 2017 version.

A bill adding more illnesses to Georgia’s list of what can be treated with medical cannabis oil has been approved by both sides of the state legislature.

An earlier version reducing the amount of THC allowed in the oil was rejected.

Rep. Tarvin and Senator Mullis both voted yes for the final version (SB 16) while Rep. Deffenbaugh did not vote. To become law this only has to be signed by Gov. Deal, but his position on the change is unknown.

Now that the session has ended, LU will pick through some of the debris and paperwork and share about other measures the legislature pushed through during the last few weeks – including one directly impacting Walker County government.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

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2017
03.26

After six years as principal, Mike Culberson will not be returning to LaFayette High School next fall.

His departure will clearly happen, however the reasons FOR that departure have been made clear as mud by the school board, school superintendent, and Culberson himself. That leaves many of his students, and quite a few parents, suspicious and upset.

Culberson Protest at LHS.

LHS students protesting on the football field earlier today, over the reported firing/removal of Principal Culberson.

Expect to see more of the same tonight at the school system office on Duke Street. The School Board will be meeting there at 6 tonight.

School officials still officially deny Culberson was dismissed; if he WAS fired or pushed out there's no clear theory yet as to why.

Posted by The LaFayette Underground on Monday, March 20, 2017

News broke Sunday, in an e-mail from the Walker County Educators Association, that Culberson had been “fired” on Friday. That e-mail sent to teachers blamed Culberson’s apparent termination on a disagreement he had with the Superintendent over grading standards.

The school board on Monday denied that Culberson had lost his job, said he was still employed at LHS, and nothing was changing in school leadership for the remainder of the school year. But Culberson wasn’t in his office, and unconvinced students staged a walkout and protest on his behalf.

Students and parents also flooded the school board’s Monday night meeting to show support for Culberson and ask for answers about his firing – or (depending on who you ask) his NOT firing.

The school board, despite the huge crowd, immediately went into a closed door meeting and ignored the public for an hour. Afterwards they came out and voted on one item – a list of administrator and principal contracts for the next school year. On that list was only one contract not being renewed: Mike Culberson’s.

After the meeting Superintendent Raines spoke and said the meeting was only about next year’s contracts, Mike Culberson is still employed for the current year, and “should” be at LHS the rest of the year. Raines added that Culberson asked him to respect his privacy, and nothing happening has any link to standards based grading issues.

Raines said the board can’t discuss employee matters with the public and blamed Jim Barrett’s board access lawsuit for refusing community input in the meeting. The Superintendent spoke to the gathered crowd (mostly media and LHS students) like a bunch of 5th graders, and thanked everyone for their interest and support.

None of that did much to clarify what was happening. Students, parents, and many school staffers remained confused and conflicted over Culberson’s status. (The principal himself didn’t participate in the school board meeting and refused to speak about his situation to media citing advice from an attorney.)

Mr. Culberson DID return to work on Tuesday, and was present at the school through the week making announcements and greeting students. But his school e-mail account stopped working (at least temporarily) and personal items were removed from his desk and office. Karen Hughes, a former principal recently working on projects in the central office, was sent to LHS where some observed her acting as a “babysitter” for principal Culberson.

So what DID happen?

Sources within Walker County Schools say Mike Culberson actually chose himself to have the School Board drop his contract for next year. His other option, from Superintendent Raines, was being investigated and probably fired for multiple ethics violations the board was concerned over.

He may have claimed initially that he was cut for a disagreement with the superintendent, but has during the last week backed down from that story. Those who were lined up to back him legally (the state and local teacher organizations) a weekend ago have gone silent in the days since the news of his dismissal first broke.

There are a dozen rumors going around as to what Culberson’s ethical violations might be, some more credible than others. (None, at this point, LU feels fully confident in sharing as the full truth.) Whatever the allegations are, they were apparently substantial enough that he opted to lose his current job instead of being investigated and risking public embarrassment and potentially the loss of his entire future career in another school district.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Sad news from Foster Blvd Saturday afternoon.

A 14-year-old boy driving a two-seat off-road vehicle similar to a gator was badly injured in an accident.

The boy, reportedly not wearing a seatbelt or helmet, rolled the vehicle on a steep hill.

No word yet how, or who, the victim is – but his injuries were bad enough to call in LifeForce. The helicopter landed in the middle of the shut-down bypass and carried him off to care.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Tuesday night Northwest Georgia was hit hard by a fast moving storm. The bad weather only lasted about an hour, but strong winds knocked out power for tens of thousands across the region. Hail larger than a dime did damage to vehicles and metal roofs in Rossville and Chattanooga.

Goodwill in LaFayette was battered but not broken, opening the next day as customers stepped around the thrift store’s downed signage. Most schools in Walker and surrounding counties opened several hours late so bus drivers would have better visibility.

Downed trees and debris were cleaned up as linemen restored power, with most impacted properties back on the grid by Thursday morning.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

If you’re hoping for “tiny house” rules in Walker that make sense, and give landowners freedom to do what they want, don’t hold your breath.

Members of the zoning board making up rules to regulate small houses, as instructed by Commissioner Whitfield in his six-month ban, say the structures will be segregated; zoned together into select parts of the county because they don’t want them next door to THEIR homes.

The county zoning director compares homes under 500 square feet to sheds, trailers, and shanties without toilets – while Whitfield himself says tiny homes are “ugly.”

    “And in Walker County, permitting staff employee Kristy Parker said, some people are living in storage units and calling them homes.”

So ban THAT instead of banning legitimate tiny houses. Require them to have bathrooms, plumbing, and electric put in to code. Don’t blanket ban them based on square footage.

Go look around the county and tell us how many FULL SIZE houses are dangerous abandoned eyesores that nobody pays taxes on.

Commissioner Whitfield needs to realize not everyone can afford to live in a half-million-dollar house in downtown Chickamauga as HE does.   Tiny Facebook

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