2016
05.12

David Lee Townsend IIDavid Lee Townsend II is wanted for stabbing a LaFayette man Monday night on Daugherty St.

According to LPD, the stabbing started on Sunday with an incident involving a woman inside a Ringgold restaurant. Townsend, who lives on Hwy 151 in Walker Couny, is described as being part of a Chattanooga gang.

Locals say Townsend, a onetime employe of Euclid Chemical, has been seen in the past hanging out on Daughtery and Thompson in West LaFayette near where the stabbing occurred. Since he spends time in the area and the victim knew his first name, it seems probable the two had been acquainted before Monday.

Townsend was, per one source, seen going into the Kangaroo on West Main late Monday night – hours after his status as a wanted man was announced on social media.   Tiny Facebook

Old LaFayette High School vandalized, again, by wandering juveniles.

    WQCH Radio, 05/10/16: “LAFAYETTE POLICE HAVE ARRESTED FOUR JUVENILES IN CONNECTION WITH VANDALISM AT THE OLD LAFAYETTE HIGH SCHOOL ON NORTH CHEROKEE STREET.

Old LHS School Building

    “POLICE ANSWERED AN ALARM AT THE OLD SCHOOL ON SUNDAY AFTERNOON AND FOUND A WINDOW THAT HAD BEEN BROKEN. SHORTLY AFTER, FOUR KIDS WERE SPOTTED ON THE ROOF OF THE BUILDING. TWO OF THEM WERE CAUGHT, AND TWO OTHERS ESCAPED. THEY WERE LOCATED ABOUT AN HOUR LATER IN WOODS OFF NORTH MAIN STREET. PROFANE GRAFFITI WAS FOUND THROUGHOUT THE BUILDING, ACCORDING TO THE POLICE REPORT.
    “THE JUVENILE BOYS RANGE IN AGE FROM 11 TO 16, AND POLICE CAPTAIN STACEY MEEKS SAID ONE OF THE FOUR WAS CHARGED BACK IN MARCH, WITH A VENDING MACHINE BREAK-IN AT A NORTH MAIN STREET LAUNDROMAT.
    “ALL FOUR WERE CHARGED WITH FELONY INTERFERENCE WITH GOVERNMENT PROPERTY AND MISDEMEANOR CRIMINAL TRESPASS.”

Juvenile justice in the region continues to be a bad joke; if the kids who knocked off the vending machine at Suds n Shine back in March had been dealt with, one of them wouldn’t have been arrested on the roof of the old high school last weekend.

But they’re hardly the first bunch of youths who’ve broken in there and done damage. Not the first time we’ve had kids on the roof, either.

Meanwhile, LaFayette is still waiting on the school board to come up with a coherent plan for this property other than let it continue falling apart and become a bigger eyesore in the middle of the city. LHS moved out in December 1997, and classes were last held in the building when LMS Sixth Grade Academy closed three years ago next week.

Maybe they’re hoping somebody burns it down?   Tiny Facebook

Welcome Cornerstone Medical Center.

Cornerstone Medical Center

Employee sources inside what used to be Hutcheson say ApolloMD’s buyout deal for the bankrupt hospital property, pending since December, was finalized last night.

Today the hospital on Crescent Circle in Fort Oglethorpe was formally renamed Cornerstone – in honor of the Cornerstone Club that funded construction of Tri-County hospital six decades ago.

With this deal complete, the operations of Cornerstone Medical and ApolloMD in Fort Oglethorpe will be a completely separate matter from the wind-down debt operations of Hutcheson, Inc. its subsidiaries, affiliates, and the Hospital Authority of Dade, Walker, and Catoosa.   Tiny Facebook

Sole Commissioner Change / Vote Yes Sign

When you go vote (early, this Saturday, or on May 24th), vote YES for the ballot measure regarding sole commissioner.

The results of that vote are unfortunately non-binding and easily ignored. Someday when the Powers That Be feel like it, they might put this on a ballot that counts.

Vote yes, so when Steve Tarvin ignores the results and doesn’t make a change, we can vote NO to him in 2020.   Tiny Facebook

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2016
05.09

Jerry Lee Pruitt

Jerry Lee Pruitt of Rock Spring arrested for rape in Tennessee.

Chattanooga investigators say 57-year-old Pruitt raped a woman in 1999. He faces five counts of rape and one of burglary for allegedly breaking into her home.   Tiny Facebook

Candidate Whitfield gets his probable regime off to an ethical start with two unpaid late filing fees from the state ethics committee.

Shannon Whitfield Ethics Fines

None of Whitfield’s opponents (including Commissioner Heiskell) have been fined, so far, for filing campaign reports late.

His approach to ethical behavior and nose-thumbing-attitude to those who ask for campaign information is beginning to resemble the woman he hopes to replace.   Tiny Facebook

Jonathan West went to jail a week ago Saturday after the 17-year-old Sonic employee crashed a friend’s car into the front of Food City.

Food City Wreck / Shayne Kibodeaux Wilson

The unnamed friend, who was also in the car and injured in the crash, says West raced across the parking lot after leaving Sonic and lost control.   Tiny Facebook

Perry Lamb Signature Campaign

Volunteers for Commissioner candidate Perry Lamb spent much of the weekend at Walmart collecting signature necessary to qualify lamb for the election.

At the end of the day Sunday, they had collected 200-something of the 2,000 signatures needed by late June to get their independent candidate on the November ballot.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

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2016
05.08

Exciting news for railfans and local history buffs.

TAG Railroad Engine 80 / TN Valley Railroad Museum /  RailPictures.net

Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum and Norfolk-Southern Railway have fully restored one of the engines that ran on the Tennessee-Alabama-Georgia Railroad (TAG) back in the day.

The TAG route went from Alton Park in Chattanooga through Flintstone, to Kensington, through Pigeon Mountain, within a few miles of LaFayette, down to Menlo, then on to Gadsden Alabama – and that’s where this locomotive could be seen every day for nearly two decades.

Alton Park, Chattanooga, where TAG RR's main yard and offices were located. The Alton Park yard was consolidated into Southern's Debutts Yard on the other side of Chattanooga after TAG sold out.

Alton Park, Chattanooga, where TAG RR’s main yard and offices were located. The Alton Park yard was consolidated into Southern’s Debutts Yard on the other side of Chattanooga after the TAG sold out.

After the TAG was bought out by Southern Railroad in the 70’s this engine, the 80, was moved to general service all over the country under the Southern, then Norfolk-Southern lines, renumbered as engine 2879.

The 80 / 2879 carried a nameplate honoring John B. Chambliss, a Chattanooga lawyer who saved the railroad from bankruptcy in the 20’s and served as its CEO for the next half century. That name was painted over just a few years before the engine was retired, about ten years ago.

TAG Engine 80 Stored at TN Valley Railroad Museum Before Restoration

TAG Engine 80 Stored at Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum Before Restoration

After retirement from Norfolk-Southern the engine was bought at an auction by the railroad museum. It was stored there for years, then mechanically restored at NS’s engine shop and cosmetically restored by the museum.

Tennessee-Alabama-Georgia RR rails were closed between Kensington and Gadsden in 1981. Parts of the remaining line between Flintstone and Kensington (leased to another railroad by then) were washed out during the 2009 floods, and with Dow-Reichhold shut down there was no longer any business reason to keep it open – it was officially abandoned south of the state line in December 2009.

Now we’ve got the TAG engine back, but there’s sadly no longer a TAG rail line to put it on.   Tiny Facebook

LU has been working on a multi-page post about the history of Walker County railroads. The piece has been in development since 2009, but is unfortunately far from done. This is a tiny, tiny bit of the research included in that long article that might very well never be complete.

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2016
05.07

Saturday evening’s Republican debate in Rock Spring was very lightly attended by the community.

April 30 GOP Debate - Lanny Thomas & Jeff Mullis

Senator Mullis and his opponent Lanny Thomas both spoke, as did Commissioner candidate Shannon Whitfield. Independent Commissioner candidate Perry Lamb was also in the crowd at the Agricultural Center, along with some past candidates for the office and Walker Republican Party leaders.

Mike Peardon was conspicuously absent, a situation reflected in the headline of every mainstream report about the debate.

Peardon explained his non-attendance afterwards, saying he chose not to participate because of Republican Party leaders who are actively campaigning against him. He also said that he made the party chairman, Matthew Williamson, aware that he was likely not going to participate on the Wednesday before the debate. Williamson did not notify media that Peardon would be absent, and when asked about Peardon’s absence during the debate told reporters to go ask the candidate.

That led to stories about the debate focusing on Peardon’s “unexplained absence” instead of reporting on what was actually said during the meeting.

April 30 GOP Debate - Shannon Whitfield

Peardon’s concerns about the party are understandable; party leaders are giving money and actively campaigning for his opponent, Shannon Whitfield, even as both are engaged in a campaign to become the Republican nominee to replace Bebe Heiskell. However, he should still participate in community events – not to endorse the party, but to communicate with the citizens and voters.

Peardon HAS participated in an LU Q&A interview, which Mr. Whitfield has snubbed. The results of that interview, and highlights from the event he didn’t attend, will be shared here soon.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Dewayne Ray BurnsDewayne Ray Burns, Chattanooga suspect who escaped from police after crashing his car in Chickamauga Battlefield last Friday, has been arrested in Mobile Alabama.

The 6’5 suspect was able to hide from local police and make it across Alabama before being found by US Marshals. He’s being brought back to Fort Oglethorpe to be charged there, then presumably will go back to Chattanooga to face charges for additional crimes.

The GBI is conducting an investigation of Fort Oglethorpe officers who fired shots at Burns during the initial chase, as required any time there’s a police shooting. Apparently none of the shots fired struck the suspect.

The incident began with domestic violence in Chattanooga.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Many employees of Walker County Schools hesitate to speak up or speak out, because they’re afraid of the consequences.

Walker County Schools HQ

That’s one concern brought up by Saddle Ridge teacher Jim Barrett, head of the Walker County Association of Educators, at a School Board candidate event in late April.

The school board and superintendent deny it, but that culture of intimidation and fear has existed within the school system for decades.   Tiny Facebook

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2016
04.29

Chickamauga Battlefield was shut down until 10 this morning as Fort Oglethorpe police and GBI officers searched for a man who fled on foot after a high speed chase.

Chickamauga Battlefield Manhunt

The suspect, Dewayne Ray Burns, crashed his vehicle inside the park. So far he’s not been located, and authorities say he could be armed and dangerous.   Tiny Facebook

What’s the latest at Audia?

Audia Plant Front

The plastics company has begun limited production, but after several years and tens of millions of tax dollars spent ($13.5 million as of October 1, to be exact) it won’t be running full-bore until the end of the year, at least. And the number of jobs being created still fluctuates with every report.

    WQCH Radio, 04/19/16: “THE PRESIDENT OF AUDIA INTERNATIONAL WAS IN WALKER COUNTY LAST WEEK [two weeks ago, TOURING THE COMPANY’S RECENTLY COMPLETED PLANT IN THE BUSINESS PARK AT NOBLE. HE WAS INSPECTING NEW PLASTICS PRODUCTION MACHINES THAT HAVE JUST BEEN BROUGHT ON-LINE.
    “DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY DIRECTOR LARRY BROOKS SAID THE COMPANY IS RAMPING-UP TO FULL PRODUCTION BY THE END OF THIS YEAR. WORK IS BEING COMPLETED NOW ON A TRUCK SCALE, IN ADDITION TO THE ALREADY COMPLETE RAIL-CAR SCALE AT THE SITE. BROOKS SAID ‘THOSE TWO AMENITIES WILL BE ATTRACTIVE TO FUTURE PROSPECTS SEEKING TO LOCATE IN THE BUSINESS PARK.'”

When this mill was first proposed, it was going to be 10,000 jobs, then 1,000 jobs. Later the figures were revised to 200, then 100+. Last we heard they were hiring 60. Now Bebe’s said herself they’ve hired fifty:

    Times Free Press, 04/24/16: “The county issued the bonds to build the industrial park in the Noble community. The industrial park helped bring in plastics manufacturer Audia International, which Heiskell said now employs about 50 people at $17-$20 per hour.”

Employees say Heiskell’s quoted pay rate is a little high, but even if she’s accurate the plant will have to operate for nearly eight years before it will pay out to workers what the county has put into it. ($17 an hour x 40 hours a week x 50 weeks per year = $34,000. Fifty jobs making $34,000 a year will bring home that $13.5 million in 7.9 years. Presumably most of the jobs are on the low end of the pay scale.)

What about other companies that are supposed to be setting up in the industrial park soon? Looks like a no-go, once again.

    WQCH Radio, 03/26/16: “UNCERTAINTY IN VOLKSWAGEN’S FUTURE HAS ‘PUT THE BRAKES’ ON A PLANNED ANNOUNCEMENT FROM ‘PROJECT LUNA’, ACCORDING TO [Larry] BROOKS. HE HEARD FROM THE PROSPECT, A VOLKSWAGEN PARTS SUPPLIER, WHO IS INTERESTED IN LOCATING A NEW PLANT IN THE WALKER COUNTY, LAST WEEK. THEY SAID THEY ARE NOW WAITING FOR ‘UNCERTAINTIES’ AT VOLKSWAGEN-CHATTANOOGA, TO CLEAR UP. THEY HAD NARROWED THEIR LOCATION SEARCH TO CHATTANOOGA AND WALKER COUNTY’S BUSINESS PARK AT NOBLE.”

Economic development fail.   Tiny Facebook

The victim in Monday’s awful wreck in front of Bojangles has been identified as Miranda Beth Sumner.

Miranda Sumner

Sumner is alive, at last update listed in critical condition at Erlanger.

Walmart Wreck / April 25 2016

Police say the 26-year-old failed to stop her Scion and ran into a newspaper delivery truck stopped for a red light at the intersection of 27 and 136.   Tiny Facebook

Walker County officers arrested a Ringgold couple yesterday after a routine traffic stop on 2A.

Ronnie & Trina Moore

Per reports, Ronnie Lynn Moore and his wife Trina Denise Moore were stopped for speeding. Officers found them $14,000 in cash and meth valued at $100 grand inside their vehicle.

Plus: Walker County arrests, April 18-24.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

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