2014
11.26

Happy Thanksgiving!
LU will be on break the remainder of this week; Updates will return next Tuesday.

Sunday night around 11:30 LaFayette fire crews responded to a house fire on Fortune Street in Linwood.

Linwood House Fire / November 23

The blaze turned out to be a kitchen accident. A mom cooking late at night was distracted at a neighbor’s house, then returned to her own rental home an hour later to find smoke and flame.

(Who cooks dinner at 10:30 at night for five kids?)   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Freddie WootenFriday night 73-year-old Freddie Wooten of Dade County disappeared. He was last seen driving on Lula Lake Rd. heading to pick up a relative, but never arrived at his destination.

Sunday evening a vehicle matching the description of Wooten’s minivan was found in a swimming pool off Brow Rd. in Chattooga County, and a body found inside was later identified as the missing septuagenarian.

No foul play is suspected in the disappearance and death, but an autopsy will confirm how he died. Family members suggest the man may have suffered a stroke earlier in the week, contributing to the accident.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Harris BlackwoodHarris Blackwood, director of the Georgia Office of Highway Safety, was recently ordered to take “sensitivity training” after making inappropriate sexual comments to various employees on multiple occasions.

Department insiders say Blackwood isn’t just inappropriate, he’s incompetent. And one local who’s worked with him before describes the man to LU as a “bumbling idiot.”

Blackwood is a former newspaper editor (and current op-ed writer) who was appointed to run the OHS office after helping with Gov. Deal’s 2010 election campaign. Despite his recent behavior problems, Deal’s office says he still has the governor’s full support.

Politicians appointing former newspaper reporters, who took their sides, to well-paid positions they’re not qualified for. Are we talking about Nathan Deal or Bebe Heiskell?

This loser is to state government what Larry Brooks is to the county.   Tiny Facebook

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2014
11.22

As reported, Wednesday night one of Hutcheson’s many boards voted to put the hospital in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Unfortunately the purpose of that move isn’t to fix the hospital’s problems or protect taxpayers from being held responsible for millions in debt – it’s only intended to delay and complicate Erlanger’s efforts to foreclose.

Hutcheson Medical Exterior

Bankruptcy does nothing get Walker or Catoosa out of trouble; both counties will be left owing over $20 million each in hospital debt regardless of Hutcheson staying open or closing. A bankruptcy filing only prolongs the inevitable and protects current Hutcheson administrators’ jobs (for now) while the place continues to burn down financially.

The bankruptcy filing highlights again how complex the hospital is structured, with multiple boards all in charge and none of them accountable to the taxpayer. The filing also shows Hutcheson’s priorities over the last few years: An included list of creditors shows lots of lawyers and bill collectors owed money by the failing medical center, and very little owed to suppliers of medical services or equipment.

During the final court-ordered public hearing for Hutcheson, in Dade earlier this week, the CEO asked people to pray for the hospital, continued pretending a foreclosure would be a bad thing, and said they’ve added MORE BOARDS to the hospital’s existing half-dozen boards to “fix” what’s broken.

What’s needed to fix what’s broken at Hutcheson is a complete clean sweep of management. The only way to GET that soon is to allow foreclosure to move forward so a new owner can restructure the hospital – the very thing current leaders are spending time and money to block.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

OSHA has cited Nissin Brake for multiple serious safety violations. If not corrected, safety issues could cost the company $53,000 – and could cost employees dying, or at least being seriously injured.

Nissin Brake Rock Spring

Specific problems cited include removing safety guards and lock-outs so machinery doesn’t run while being serviced, poor employee training, and not providing employees with proper safety equipment.   Tiny Facebook

Walker County has been given a fake award by the state for landing the Audia Plastics warehouse deal in Noble.

Bebe & Nathan Deal / Deal of the Year Award

Other counties that won the same award landed deals bringing hundreds of new jobs into their communities, but Walker County and Audia have yet to nail down ANY kind of job numbers for the $24-million SPLOST project.

Other examples of the award: Bryan County got mid-size community award for a deal bringing in 180 jobs. Douglas County got an award for a deal guaranteeing work for 550 by 2019. So how many jobs do WE get for the $24 million SPLOST project?

UPDATE: After LU again called out the county, and state, for not releasing job figures related to the Audia Plastics development deal, some numbers were sent out to the media.

Per WQCH, the finished factory on a former farm in Noble (projected to cost the county $24 million plus tax breaks) will employ 150.

    WQCH Radio, 11/20/14: “WHAT HAD BEEN HELD AS A RATHER ‘CLOSELY GUARDED SECRET’ WAS REVEALED AT AN AWARDS CEREMONY MONDAY: AUDIA INTERNATIONAL WILL EMPLOY AROUND 150 WORKERS WHEN PRODUCTION BEGINS NEXT YEAR. THOSE EMPLOYEES WILL EARN A HIGHER-THAN-AVERAGE WAGE FOR THIS AREA, ACCORDING TO STATE OFFICIALS.
    “THE NEW AUDIA PLANT SIZE HAS ALREADY BEEN DOUBLED SINCE THE PROJECT BEGAN. IT WILL COVER OVER 280-THOUSAND SQUARE FEET, WITH 54-MILLION DOLLARS INVESTED IN THE PROJECT. AUDIA IS AN INTERNATIONAL SUPPLIER TO THE PLASTICS INDUSTRY. THE WALKER COUNTY PLANT IS SLATED TO OPEN IN THE THIRD QUARTER OF 2015.”

If true, that’s good news. But it’s hard to believe, considering Audia’s largest existing sites around the globe employ less than 100 people each.

They originally said the place would open this fall, then next spring. By the time this is said and done it’ll be projected to open after the 2016 elections and this will be the current commissioner’s main campaign effort.

Also, higher than the average wage isn’t necessarily a lot. $8 an hour would probably top what a lot of people make in Walker County. Don’t hold your breath on this until you actually see people hired, working, and being paid.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

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2014
11.18

Rock Creek Environmental Damage November 14 2014

A follow-up report from Times Free Press refutes every single thing Commissioner Heiskell told WQCH news last week, regarding the county’s pending environmental fines.

    “EPD officials, meanwhile, say Heiskell is lying.”

This is the second time in a month Chattanooga reporters have caught Heiskell in an outright bold-face lie. Liar, liar, tacky wig on fire.

But since we have a Sole Commissioner form of government, she can still move right on ahead with her plans.. What’s anybody going to do about it?   Tiny Facebook

Sam & Theresa ParkerFormer LPD officer Sam Parker’s murder conviction appeal has been rejected by the Georgia Supreme Court.

Parker, as we all know, killed his 911 dispatcher wife Theresa after years of abusing her (and two previous wives) in 2007. The law enforcement community stood behind Sam, because of his status as police, ignoring drunken, irresponsible, abusive behavior for years until Theresa disappeared and his guilt was overwhelming.

Parker was initially convicted in 2009 even though his presumably dead’s wife had not been found. A year later her remains were discovered on a creek bank near Sam’s childhood home in Chattooga County. He’s still in prison, she’s still dead, and neither of those will change any time soon.   Tiny Facebook

A quiet Sunday night in Walker County was disrupted by two accidents that backed up traffic for miles in LaFayette and Naomi.

Hwy 136/151 Wreck November 16

At the intersection of highways 151 and 136 in Naomi, at the base of Taylor’s Ridge, a Chevrolet Cavalier crossed the center line and struck an oncoming chicken truck. The car’s driver was injured, and traffic disrupted for over an hour.

Another accident around the same time near First Volunteer Bank on North Main / North 27 involved a pedestrian struck by a car. Man hit, who was jaywalking, sustained minor injuries. Driver was cited for not having insurance.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

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2014
11.15

This week Commissioner Heiskell finally responded to news reports about the county’s pending fines for environmental damage on Lookout Mountain.

Like A Bebe In the Wind

In essence, she claimed (via a statement on WQCH) that the county will not be ordered to pay fines, has been given permission to ignore EPD deadlines for repairing the damage done, and everything was ginned up for political reasons.

    WQCH Radio, 11/13/14: “REACHED FOR COMMENT BY WQCH NEWS ON TUESDAY, COMMISSIONER BEBE HEISKELL SAID THOSE STATEMENTS ARE ‘NOT TRUE’.

    “..WHAT THEY DIDN’T KNOW WHEN THAT STORY WAS WRITTEN, IS THAT EPD AND WALKER COUNTY OFFICIALS MET AT THE SITE LAST MONTH TO CHECK PROGRESS ON THE APPROVED PLAN. COMMISSIONER HEISKELL SAID AT THAT MEETING, EPD DIRECTOR JUD TURNER TOLD THEM HIS AGENCY WOULD ‘IGNORE THE DEADLINE’ THAT WOULD HAVE TRIGGERED THE THOUSAND-DOLLAR-PER-DAY FINE.

    “WORK IS PROGRESSING ON THE CONCRETE ABUTMENTS FOR A PEDESTRIAN AND BIKE TRAIL BRIDGE THAT WILL SOON COMPLETE THE PROJECT. THE BRIDGE HAS ALREADY BEEN BUILT AND IS READY TO SET IN PLACE, ACCORDING TO SOURCES WITHIN WALKER COUNTY GOVERNMENT.

    “‘HE GAVE US 60 DAYS FROM THAT MEETING IN OCTOBER’, HEISKELL SAID. ‘NO FINE IS PAYABLE AND IT’S NOT TRUE THAT FINES ARE INCREASING AT A THOUSAND-DOLLARS-PER-DAY’, SHE SAID.

    “‘BURT LANGLEY WITH EPD DID TELL US THAT IF THE PROJECT IS DELAYED, THE AGENCY MAY FINE THE CONTRACTOR – NOT WALKER COUNTY.’ HEISKELL SAID. ‘IF THE WEATHER DELAYS THE CONTRACTOR, WE WILL ASK FOR AN EXTENSION’.

    “THE DELAY IN THE PROJECT IS LARGELY BECAUSE THE FORMER EPD ENGINEER ON THE ORDER, RETIRED. ‘THE NEW ENGINEER HAD SOME DIFFERENT IDEAS AS TO WHAT NEEDED TO BE DONE’, SHE SAID.

    “‘THE TRAIL BRIDGE WILL BE FINISHED… AND WE’LL DO WHAT’S NEEDED TO SATISFY THE EPD’, HEISKELL SAID. SHE ADDED: ‘WE WORK WITH THEM ON SO MANY DIFFERENT PROJECTS, WE CAN’T AFFORD TO HAVE THEM UNHAPPY WITH WALKER COUNTY’.”

This doesn’t match what was reported, at all. So either Channel 3 and the Times Free Press are lying, or she is. Who’s your money on?   Tiny Facebook

During Monday night’s business meeting, LaFayette Council reintroduced a cut-rate Golf Course membership fee for college students. Now students can join the course for $600 a year, versus the $300 annual fee for high schoolers and the $900 charge for adults under age 62.

Article neglects mention city employees – including council members and the mayor – can play free.

Joan GoodmanDuring the meeting city leaders also held a moment of silence in recognition of Joan Goodman, a 35-year LPD veteran who passed away last month.

Ms. Goodman started with the police department in 1977 as a dispatcher (back when LaFayette did its own dispatching) and eventually became a receptionist for the merged Department of Public Safety. She was for many years the only woman working for LaFayette PD.

Goodman retired in August 2012 and lost an eleven-year battle with cancer on October 9th of this year.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

During a court-ordered public meeting Tuesday, Catoosa residents showed support for keeping Hutcheson open – but many asked the same things LU has asked for years: what’s the plan to keep the hospital alive?

Tri-County Hospital (Hutcheson) In 1954

Another public meeting was held at 7 Thursday night in the Walker Civic Center, and again hospital leaders played on the crowd’s emotions to DEMAND Erlanger not foreclose, but refused to disclose any kind of plan that might keep the hospital financially sound in the future.

Hutcheson leaders have been consistent in several things: denying their own responsibility for the hospital’s sorry condition, blaming Erlanger for problems that go back for a decade or more, and trying to convince the community a FOREclosure would mean CLOSURE of the hospital. That’s not going to happen.

The hospital’s leaders WANT everyone to assume foreclosure equals a shutdown and massive job cuts, when the primary change would actually be new ownership and leadership – meaning the idiots who have burned the place to the ground would be replaced. They’re using fear to make YOU stop that from happening even though it would be a better outcome than letting the hospital continue to bleed out under its current administrators.   Tiny Facebook

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2014
11.13

Monday night LaFayette City Council voted to post signs banning large trucks from West Villanow Street, due to trucks damaging signs and curbs on the narrow renovated downtown square.

Stuck Truck on Downtown Square 12-16-13

LPD chief Clift advised against the plan, saying rules aren’t enforceable and hurt businesses. Councilman Bradford was the idea’s primary promoter, insisting trucks should be banned because of the cost of replacing damaged signage.

Council voted in favor of the signs 5-0 and asked Clift to put together a map for trucks to bypass town – which is what businesses will also do if their trucks can’t get through.

Ben BradfordThe problem comes from all that work done downtown several years ago, which started under a different mayor, different city manager, and mostly different council.. People were concerned then about how narrow the streets were being made, how hard the corners would be to turn, and how many downtown parking spaces were being lost. Leaders mostly ignored those complaints – now we pay the price.

(Since the council voted 5-0 to keep 18-wheelers off West Villanow, can we assume all five of them will volunteer to carry items from parked trucks on the square down West Villanow to Shop-Rite, Freds, and Dari-Dip when deliveries arrive?)

We redo the downtown sidewalks every five years, so when the next rehab project starts in 2016 the city can rip out all the expensive work done last time and put the square back to how it was in 2010.

Also in the meeting: a discussion of speeders on Fortune St. in Linwood, bonds for LaFayette Housing Authority, and other matters of regular business.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Walker County faces tens of thousands of dollars in fines (growing by $1k a day) for environmental damage done on Lookout Mountain as part of a doomed walking trail project. The environmental issues were discovered over a year ago, and fines began accumulating on September 11 of this year – a total of $53,000 as-of today.

Lookout Mountain Walking Trail / Durham Railroad Bed

The project, which has taken several years and already cost taxpayers thousands of employee work hours, is supposed to convert the old Durham Railroad bed (which was abandoned over sixty years ago) into a walking and biking trail. Portions of the trail crosses private property without landowner consent and may never be open. Most of the rest runs along the Lula Lake Land Trust, controlled by the Commissioner’s friends in the Davenport Family who stand to benefit from the access road.

The article refers to (but doesn’t share) an old e-mail sent from County Attorney Don Oliver to Senator Mullis, complaining about the impact fines might have on the Commissioner’s 2012 reelection campaign. (LU shared that e-mail two years ago here.) Notice they were worried about the political impact for Bebe and Jeff Mullis more than the fines themselves, which come out of YOUR pocket.

Mullis intervened in 2012 to give the county more time, but EPD rules were ignored for two more years, until September when the fines were ordered. Those fines can still be avoided IF environmental repairs are completed in December, but no work to clean up the mess is currently being done.

Channel 3 called Commissioner Heiskell to ask her about the county’s fines and why no cleanup work is ongoing, but she didn’t answer or return “multiple phone calls” from their reporter.

Now he knows how WE feel.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Sad news from Trion..

    WQCH Radio, 11/11/14: “FAULTY SPACE HEATER STARTED A HOUSE FIRE IN TRION, THAT KILLED TWO FAMILY MEMBERS MONDAY MORNING.
    “STATE INSURANCE AND FIRE COMMISSIONER RALPH HUDGENS SAID THE FIRE HAS BEEN RULED ‘ACCIDENTAL’.
    “THE DEAD WERE IDENTIFIED AS 22 YEAR OLD CHRISTIAN PRUITT AND 50 YEAR OLD FLADIO CORNEJO LOPEZ. LOPEZ WAS PRUITT’S UNCLE.

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