2016
08.23

Some good news on the property tax front: Walker County Schools is lowering its property tax rate to make up for higher property appraisals, while keeping its budget steady.

Walker County Schools Administration

If your property assessment is higher this year, your school tax will remain about the same. If you’re one of the lucky few whose assessment held the same or went down, you’ll pay less. To the schools, anyway.

    WQCH Radio, 08/20/16: “NO PROPERTY TAX INCREASE THIS YEAR FROM THE WALKER COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEM, IN FACT, THEY PLAN TO ROLL-BACK THE MILLAGE RATE.
    “FINANCE DIRECTOR PHYLLIS COPELAND SAID THE TAX MILLAGE RATE WILL BE DROPPING FROM 17.4 LAST YEAR, TO 16.6 MILLS. HOWEVER, THE LOWER MILLAGE RATE WILL RAISE NEARLY THE SAME REVENUE FOR SCHOOLS. THE DIFFERENCE IS THE REASSESSMENT OF PROPERTIES IN WALKER COUNTY.
    “THE STATE-MANDATED REASSESSMENT HAS RAISED THE OVERALL VALUE OF PROPERTIES, COUNTY-WIDE. THAT VALUE IS KNOWN AS ‘THE DIGEST’. WITH A HIGHER DIGEST VALUE, A SMALLER MILLAGE RATE CAN RAISE A SIMILAR TOTAL FOR THE SCHOOLS.
    “THE TOTAL SCHOOL BUDGET FOR THE COMING YEAR IS 93.8 MILLION DOLLARS, INCLUDING A RESERVE. LOCAL PROPERTY TAXES WILL PAY ABOUT 29-PERCENT OF THAT TOTAL.
    “THE SCHOOL BOARD WILL MEET ON SEPTEMBER 1st TO APPROVE THE PROPOSED TAX MILLAGE RATE, AND TAX BILLS SHOULD BE MAILED IN OCTOBER.”

Lookout Mountain is contemplating a 5% tax cut, which will still bring that city in more revenue after the property reappraisals. Rossville, by contrast, announced plans last week to raise its citizen’s property taxes even higher than the reappraisals – on top of quietly increasing sewer fees not long ago.

No word yet from Commissioner Heiskell or the LaFayette Council what their portions of the tax bill will do; up, down, or neutral. We should find out before the end of the month what they (and Chickamauga) intend to do.   Tiny Facebook

Hutcheson Attorney Stuart James

In a carefully-worded press release, Walker County claimed it’s only been billed $65,000 in legal fees associated with the Hutcheson/Erlanger case.

    “Attorney Stuart James, saying it was ‘a step in being totally transparent with the public,’ said his firm of James, James and Joyner of Chattanooga has billed Walker County $62,419 for services in the Hutcheson Hospital litigation, while Jenkins and Bowen, based in Cartersville, has received a $10,000 retainer for their services. To date, the firm has billed less than $2500 against the retainer.”

BILLED is the key word here. The release is misleading because it says how much the county’s been “billed” not what it owes, or will be billed, or has paid overall. (The Chattanooga paper asked the county for copies of those bills and was told no bills exist.)

With multiple high-end lawyers involved for a year or more now, this case is costing us way, way more than $65,000 – a bill that grows larger every day, along with debts owed to Erlanger.   Tiny Facebook

In response to the news of Walker County spending $65,000+ on legal bills for Hutcheson, Shannon Whitfield said he doesn’t know if he’d settle the lawsuit from Erlanger or not.

Team Whitfield Hug

So he thinks there’s some possible merit to the case? Hutcheson and the county took a multi-million-dollar loan from Erlanger, promised to pay it back, and then didn’t. Every day the case drags on makes it cost more.

Perry Lamb, by contrast, said the weak desperate case is exactly that, and he’d work to settle it in a way that does the least damage to taxpayers.

Is Shannon Whitfield an idiot, or does he actually not know what he’ll do with the case until his unnamed advisors tell him what he thinks?

Not taking a position on Hutcheson’s lawsuit DID give Whitfield opportunity to attack his opponent, who works for Erlanger (also formerly Hutcheson) and HAS taken a clear position on the legal battle.

Whitfield Facebook / Lamb and Erlanger

Lamb has spent over $6,000 out of his own pocket for his campaign, and says he has taken in maybe a thousand from people he works with at Erlanger – co-workers who know him, not hospital administrators.

Shannon Whitfield has spent $0 out of his own pocket for his campaign and has taken in thousands from all manner of business interests that will want to do business with Walker after he takes office.

Ironic that Whitfield criticizes Lamb for being one of 5,000+ people who work at Erlanger, somehow that’s a conflict, when he’s the CFO of the county’s fuel vendor, which belongs to his father – and he’s admitted he plans to keep doing business with himself after taking office.   Tiny Facebook

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2016
08.19

The November election is 80 days away and the campaign is heating up.

Perry Lamb Billboard

(Whatever you do, don’t vote for another candidate who put all her billboards in the wrong county.)

A few months ago, candidate Shannon Whitfield was considered a shoe-in to replace Bebe Heiskell, but now he’s losing support and voter confidence due to piles of unanswered questions, like the one below, on social media and elsewhere.

Shannon Whitfield Tax Question Unanswered

Whitfield gives prompt answers to Facebookers commenting about how great he is, but when somebody asks a serious question like this one, there’s nothing. No answer, or a vague non-response about getting more information. (Hardly the first example of his indifference shared here.)

For a candidate running on transparency, Shannon’s not very transparent or forthcoming.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

A year or so ago, Commissioner Heiskell justified the million-dollar purchase of the old Covenant Bank building in Rock Spring by saying the tax office in LaFayette, former Kitchens Clinic, was in too bad a shape to occupy and wasn’t repairable.

Tax Office / Kitchens Clinic Satellite Photo

Now that she’s moved the tax office into that remodeled bank, she’s going to… repair the old clinic and move county workers in there because of ANOTHER county facility she hasn’t maintained.

    WQCH Radio, 08/16/16: “WALKER COUNTY MAY HAVE TO ‘TAKE BACK’ IT’S OFFER OF DONATING THE FORMER TAX OFFICE BUILDING TO THE CITY OF LAFAYETTE. COMMISSIONER BEBE HEISKELL SAID FRIDAY, THAT THE COUNTY MAY NEED TO USE THE BUILDING FOR AN OFFICE SWAP.
    “SHE SAID EXTENSIVE STRUCTURAL TERMITE DAMAGE HAS BEEN FOUND IN COURTHOUSE ANNEX-2, WHICH HOUSES THE EXTENSION SERVICE AND MAGISTRATE COURT – AND THAT THE JUVENILE COURT HAS OUTGROWN IT’S QUARTERS IN THE MAIN COURTHOUSE.
    “ONE SOLUTION BEING CONSIDERED IS TO GUT AND REBUILD THE INTERIOR OF THE FORMER CLINIC BUILDING ON SOUTH MAIN, WHICH USED TO HOUSE THE TAX OFFICE. IT WAS CLOSED DUE TO A HEALTH THREAT FROM RECURRING MOLD INSIDE, AND EMPLOYEES WERE MOVED TO THE FORMER STEARN’S BANK BUILDING AT ROCK SPRING.
    “HEISKELL SAID THE COUNTY MIGHT RE-CONSTRUCT THE BUILDING’S INTERIOR TO HOUSE THE JUVENILE COURT, MAGISTRATE COURT AND THE EXTENSION OFFICE. ‘ALL THOSE OFFICES HAVE LOOKED AT THE SPACE AND APPROVED A MOVE, SHOULD WE GO THAT DIRECTION’ HEISKELL SAID.”

Seems the mold wasn’t too bad to clean up afterall.

It’s suggested this is Heiskell’s public response to Shannon Whitfield’s private commitments to county employees that he’ll build new offices for them if they support his campaign.

Neither Whitfield nor Heiskell has said what money they’ll do any of this with, since the county’s got eighty something million in debt to pay off and a few thousand miles of bad roads and bridges to repair before anything else should be done.   Tiny Facebook

Walker Co Animal Shelter

Walker County Animal Shelter is going under quarantine for the next two weeks because of a parvo outbreak. That means no animals in or out of the facility for most of August.

    Friends of Walker County Animal Shelter Facebook, 08/16/16: “Due to a Parvo outbreak at Walker County Animal Shelter the shelter will be quarantined for 2 weeks. This means nothing in and nothing out during those two weeks. But what about all the dogs that are in the shelter now? Well that’s when our Angels showed up! Today we have been clearing out the shelter with Angels Among Us Pet Rescue! Their whole team of volunteers showed up with loads of transporters and helped us get every dog out that isn’t on a stray hold. 47 dogs!”

(How do they keep the 47 moved dogs from spreading parvo to those facilities?)

The same thing happened in 2012 and 2013. The shelter shut down for weeks due to what later turned out to be parvo.   Tiny Facebook

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2016
08.16

Monday evening two homes in Walker County, one inside LaFayette and one in Noble, were destroyed by fire.

Henderson St House Fire / August 15 2016

City fire crews were dispatched to Henderson Street in West LaFayette around 5 PM to battle a blaze inside a home. The house looks like a complete loss, but fire fighters did rescue a litter of puppies from the basement of the home.

A second blaze was called in at 9:20 on Wheeler Road in Noble. That home, which was unoccupied, also appears to be a complete loss.

There’s no obvious connection between the two properties other than them both burning down on the same day.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Updated reports about the major drug ring raid in Rossville last Thursday verify the drugs involved are prescription pills.

Apostol Clean & Detail Shop

Involved suspects allegedly purchased narcotics in bulk and distributed them locally. There are also rumors of guns involved, and federal agencies are thought to have joined the investigation, along with local officers in the Drug Task Force.

As reported previously, arrested suspects include Cindy Boatwright Apostol, Theodore H Apostol Jr, and Theodore H Apostol III, along with Joshua Hayes, Krysten Hayes, and Johnny Boatwright, Sr.   Tiny Facebook

More details on Catoosa church child molestation case.

Anthony Ray StanleyAnthony Ray Stanley is a registered sex offender in Whitfield County but was employed to do construction at Dogwood Christian Academy / Dogwood Baptist in Tunnel Hill, in Catoosa. That’s where he allegedly kissed, questioned, and touched two girls under the age of ten last week.

A church leader admits he knew Stanley was a convicted child molester but hired him to work at the private school around children anyway, believing he had changed. The two met through a prison ministry.

Giving a convicted child molester, even one honestly trying to reform and stay on the right path, a job working with children was a bad idea all around – something equivalent of giving a convicted drug addict a job in a pharmacy or a convicted embezzler a job in a bank.

As a result, two girls’ lives are changed for the worse and Mr. Stanley is likely going back to prison for a long, long time.   Tiny Facebook

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2016
08.12

How do leading Commissioner candidates Perry Lamb and Shannon Whitfield feel about sole commissioner goverment?

Will they push for the changed form of government voters demand, or will these challengers be satisfied to leave the current broken system in place if they’re elected?

For years, those in charge insisted that Walker County’s citizens preferred sole commissioner government.

In May that old myth was proven wrong. 75% of Walker County voters said they want a change, or at least a chance to change, to a board instead of a sole leader.

That vote wasn’t binding, and no change will be made unless those in power recognize the vote and push to adopt a board of commissioners. Legislators are free to ignore that vote entirely or delay it until 2020 or 2050 or 4050 while pretending to act.

The next sole commissioner, whoever it is, will have much influence over that process – so it matters where they stand on the issue.

They can push legislators to act, push them to delay, or do nothing at all. And when we DO finally begin to change to a board, the commissioner at the time will have influence over how that plays out and how the new board is structured.

After watching this, which of these men do you think seems most likely to actually fight for the change we need?   Tiny Facebook

Walker County is getting yet another Dollar General.

Woodstation Dollar General Rezoning

This one will open on 151 by County Line Road at the Walker/Catoosa line, across from Pit Stop. The new store will belong to David and Patricia Phillips of Boaz, Alabama.   Tiny Facebook

Did you get your tax assessment letter yet?

County Tax Assessor Inspection Notice

Many report home values shooting up by 50% or more in the assessment, and others say their home values actually dropped a tick. (If you feel the assessment of your property is wrong, you have 45 days to appeal.)

The letter is NOT your tax bill – it’s just a notice of what the county thinks your property is worth, the taxable value. The tax amount included in the letter is based on last year’s tax milage, or the amount the property value is multiplied by.

Commissioner Heiskell still hasn’t set her portion of the taxes yet for this year – that multiplier.

(Bebe said Thursday she’s not to blame for the letters you’ve gotten, because she doesn’t appraise houses – and claims the assessor’s office hasn’t done anything in 12 years. Why does that department have a budget if it doesn’t do anything?)

Because so many properties are now appraised higher, the county will make more money from property taxes even at the same tax rate as last year. Don’t be shocked if Bebe lowers the rate a tenth of a percent as the election nears and claims to have cut your taxes even while most in the county will get a higher bill to pay and the county rakes in more than it did in 2015.   Tiny Facebook

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2016
08.09

Walker County’s government doesn’t have enough extra money to buy a nice lunch, but the Sheriff’s Office, along with Commissioner Heiskell and the Development Authority, intend to set up a new sheriff office near Ridgeland.

Ridgeland Business Park

Months ago a group of concerned Rossville residents got together, seeking to work on their community and cut back crime. That’s good. They unfortunately invited Steve Wilson and Bruce Coker, who are partially responsible for the unchecked crime in their community, to those meetings – and suddenly the whole effort turned into a push to build Bruce Coker a new office.

Coker found a location for the office, in Ridgeland Business Park off Wilson Road, and arranged for the county to use it rent free. (WQCH reports rent will only be free for the first year.)

Coker With SFL CashUtilities, and the costs of remodeling and furnishing the satellite sheriff office, will still have to be taken care of; initial plans called for community fundraising to cover those costs, with known thief Bruce Coker handling the money.

Latching onto the plan and claiming it as her own, Commissioner Heiskell said on UCTV she’d pay for remodeling out of some previously unknown county fund, so Coker’s fundraising wouldn’t be needed after all.

Commissioner candidate Shannon Whitfield tried to top Heiskell, saying he’ll fund ANOTHER unneeded satellite office in Rock Spring once HE takes office, with God knows what money – launching an election year competition between Heiskell and Whitfield to see who can commit the most tax dollars into unneeded satellite sheriff offices we don’t have officers to staff. (Maybe they’ll build all those empty offices adjacent to Bebe’s expensive empty community centers.)

The stated goal of all this is to solve crime in that part of the county, but there won’t be any new officers to throw at the problem – and pulling deputies out of their cars and into an office seems like the opposite of what’s needed.

What IS needed to fix the north end crime problem (besides better leadership in law enforcement) is more officers on patrol. Spending tax funds we don’t have on a building, that could go instead to pay an extra deputy, makes no sense.

That’s our Walker County.   Tiny Facebook

Here’s Bebe’s latest election ad.

This is how she chooses to waste her pile of campaign cash.

Let’s Keep Bebe… ..in a cell.   Tiny Facebook

More reasons for LU to remain anonymous…

Facebook Threat - Firing Squad - August 6 2016

(The threat was prompted by a recent LU Facebook post about an arrest, taken verbatim from WQCH and police reports.)

    “When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.” -George R.R. Martin, A Clash of Kings   Tiny Facebook

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