2016
09.03

Commissioner Bebe says she vaguely intends to cut the county’s tax rate by “almost a mil,” in light of recent tax reappraisals that increased the county’s property values (on paper) by $57 million.

Bebe Heiskell Pirate Christmas Tree Outfit

State law says if the county’s tax digest – the value of all assessed properties – goes up, the county (or city or whatever else) has to either lower its tax milage rate (the “mil”) so it doesn’t make more money than the year before, or have the required tax increase meetings – even if the tax rate stays the same.

Heiskell hasn’t said exactly what the new tax rate will be, but it’s likely that she’s just following the law here. Her assessors went out, said your house is worth more, then she lowers the multiplier that says how much of that value you have to pay.

Bebe NOPEThe tax rate will be no lower than last year, and last year was higher than the previous year, and that year higher than the year before – and some people whose properties were assessed much higher will still pay more taxes.

Heiskell raised taxes the last two years more than she’s cutting them this year, and the county remains tens of millions in debt. She did the same thing right before the vote in 2012: raised taxes one year, then cut them a small amount the next year so she could brag about being fiscally responsible.

Bebe lowering taxes a small fraction this year after raising them a significant amount the last two in a row is like somebody stealing your car and being nice enough to bring the hubcaps back.

Don’t be fooled by this old election year trick.   Tiny Facebook

Erlanger Hospital has so far paid $4.1 million in lawyer’s fees as part of the overlapping lawsuits with Hutcheson and Walker County.

Walker County’s lawyer still insists he’s only billed us $65,000 during the same time – but there’s a big difference between “billed” and “will bill later.”

Hutcheson Attorney Stuart James

Lawyer Stuart James, who’s being paid with county tax dollars, has also begun taking shots at Commissioner Heiskell’s election opponents, Whitfield and Lamb, for saying what he’s being paid is a waste.

Give the man credit for one thing, he knows who’s buttering his bread.   Tiny Facebook

Another date promise for cleanup of the old Barwick mill that burned ten months ago.

The mess has been set for cleanup next month for the last eight months.

    WQCH Radio, 08/29/16: “THE OWNER OF THE FORMER BARWICK MILLS PLANT HAS SIGNED THE EPA CONSENT ORDER FOR CLEANUP, FOLLOWING LAST YEAR’S BIG FIRE.

Barwick Mill Fire Aerial Shot / Randi Butler Richardson

    “DRENNON CRUTCHFIELD SIGNED THE ORDER THIS WEEK, ACCORDING TO PROJECT MANAGER DAVID ANDREWS OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY. ANDREWS SAID THERE IS NOW AN APPROXIMATE 3-WEEK PERIOD FOR REVIEW OF THE PLAN, TO BE FOLLOWED BY AN ACTUAL START OF ACTIVITY ON THE SITE IN SEPTEMBER.
    “WATER RUNOFF FROM THE FIRE FIGHTING EFFORTS WILL BE REMOVED FROM THE SITE IN LAFAYETTE, AND ALSO FROM STORAGE AT THE FORMER ARCHER PLANT IN KENSINGTON, AND TRANSPORTED FOR TREATMENT IN THE ATLANTA AREA. THAT WILL BE FOLLOWED BY ASBESTOS ABATEMENT AND FINAL DEMOLITION OF THE BURNED PORTION OF THE MILL.
    “THE OWNER WILL PAY FOR THE CLEANUP, SO IT WILL NOT BE AT ‘TAXPAYER EXPENSE’. ANDREWS ALSO NOTED THAT IF THERE HAD BEEN AN IMMINENT THREAT TO THE PUBLIC, THE CLEANUP PROCESS WOULD HAVE BEEN EXPEDITED. THE FIRE DESTROYED ABOUT A QUARTER OF THE MILL COMPLEX IN NOVEMBER OF 2015.”

It needs to be gone, even if nothing is done with the property. However, the part of the mill that didn’t burn down will remain, so don’t expect a park or something to go in.   Tiny Facebook

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2016
08.31

Some things really are too good to be true.

What sounds like a dream job for many turned into a nightmare for a local girl in May, when her hopes of becoming a marijuana tester at Walmart turned into getting raped behind Food Lion.

Food Lion / Farmers Furniture / Highlands Shopping Center

According to police reports, a young woman showed up at the LaFayette Walmart around midnight on May 31st, expecting to be paid for smoking pot.

Kerry Steven SkinnerShe was lured to the store after hours by 22-year-old Steven Skinner, who offered her a job on Facebook. When she called him, he claimed to be a “huge” Atlanta marijuana dealer who didn’t use drugs but needed someone to quality check weed for him.

The girl involved, also 22 at the time, told LU he claimed to have gone to high school with her but has no recollection of ever meeting him in person before May. He knew quite a bit about her friends and relatives, but apparently gleaned all of that information from social media before their appointment.

Sitting in the closed Walmart parking lot, Skinner used a story of “black thug” drug dealers hiding in a car to convince the woman to ride with him to Highlands Shopping Center, the old Food Lion location, where they would have more privacy.

After arriving at the North Main Street shopping center, Skinner told the young lady he had a gun, gave her $700 (but no marijuana), and persuaded her to pose for nude photos.

They sat behind the Farmer’s Furniture and former Food Lion building for some time as Steven Skinner used threats of the “black thugs” harming the girl’s family and friends to pressure her into sex.

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2016
08.30

Saturday night Shannon Whitfield’s campaign used the Civic Center for his “Beans n Jeans” Farts n Charts fundraiser.

Whitfield Fundraiser / Farts n Charts Crowd

Based on the crowd photo, he’s rounded up the Chickamauga retiree support Bebe’s always depended on – but younger people and folks with jobs/kids seem to be scarce at these events.

Did you go to Whitfield’s $50/head fundraiser?

Farts n Charts Whitfield Slide 2   Farts n Charts Whitfield Slide 1

Whitfield won’t release his slideshows for the public or visit you at home, you have to go where he is and see his presentation. Here’s some of it, what we’ve managed to glean from his supporter’s posts.

Looks like he’s going to spend the first year of his administration setting up advisory boards full of his campaign supporters before they begin to make decisions about anything. (Why do they have to be retired?)

Funny Whitfield and leaders of the Walker Republican Party insist we wait until 2021 to get a commission, but the candidate’s main “plan” to turn the county around is handing decision-making over to people who aren’t elected at all.

Whitfield admitted on UCTV last week that his advisors will meet behind closed doors. Do we want a bunch of unelected people, chosen for their roles based on loyalty to the commissioner, making decisions for the county in meetings the community cannot attend?

That makes Bebe’s forum of government look almost democratic in comparison.

Farts n Charts Whitfield Slide 3

There’s been some criticism of Whitfield’s numbers here, they’re a bit too generalized and broad. LU takes no issue with that, generalized numbers have been used before here too – and these issues are hard to explain in a quick presentation.

The Underground complaint is he’s got more lists of problems than he has actual answers for how he’ll fix anything, even as his supporters promise that he’s got a secret list of cures for everything wrong he’ll be sharing as soon as he’s elected.   Tiny Facebook

Jeff Mullis wants a raise – nearly 20 thousand a year more from each of four counties that fund the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority.

Catoosa County Commissioners

Half of Catoosa County’s commissioners are resisting his demands, saying they don’t feel their citizens have gotten anything out of the $100k a year Mullis and NWGAJDA get from them now. They will decide in a future meeting if funding should be upped, cut, or left alone.

In Walker, the current commissioner has no problem with the redundant, purposeless entity and her chunky ally Senator, but its future funding might be slashed by either of the candidates hoping to replace her next year. (Catoosa Commissioner Jeff Long, one of two insisting NWGAJDA is a good thing, is on Bebe’s payroll as Walker County’s pothole manager.)

    “In Walker County, candidates Perry Lamb and Shannon Whitfield also say Mullis would need to convince them that the county’s investment is worthwhile. Whitfield’s campaign manager, Bobby Teems, is a JDA board member. But he said Whitfield will take a hard look at the organization.”

Whitfield will do whatever Bobby Teems tells him to do, which is all he’s done since he announced his plans to run. Teems is the one who pushed him to run in the first place.

Meanwhile Lamb tells LU he will take $103,000 currently budgeted for the Mullis Development Authority and invest it back into the county’s libraries, which are currently running with about $90,000 less than they need.

Mullis should at least be made to explain how getting an extra $20,000 a year from Walker and about the same more from Dade, Catoosa, and Chattooga will help him do any better than he’s been doing, since they don’t seem to be doing anything other than running a real estate listing Web site.   Tiny Facebook

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2016
08.28

Tuesday Federal Judge Harold L Murphy ordered Walker County to pay its $8.7 million share of Hutcheson debt owed to Erlanger hospital, plus interest. No “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts” – the debt is due.

Judge Harold Murphy / Alison Church/Daily Report

Judge Murphy rejected every aspect of Walker County’s legal argument against paying the debt, noting that Don Oliver, the hospital lawyer who set up the deal Walker County is now fighting against, is also Walker County’s own county attorney. He also ruled additional legal costs and other expenses owed to Erlanger should be settled in a jury trial if Erlanger chooses to pursue them.

At one point, Erlanger offered to settle the case with Walker minus interest owed, and would have let the county make small monthly payments over time to reduce the impact on taxpayers. The county, or specifically its sole elected leader, told Erlanger where they could shove that offer – so who could blame Erlanger now if they go for everything they’re entitled to and more?

By comparison, Catoosa made the same debt deal with Erlanger Walker made and was able to settle for $6.7 million (a $2 million discount) because they cooperated and didn’t show their asses when asked to pay up like Walker has done and continues to do.

Rainy Hutcheson

Less than 24 hours after Judge Murphy’s decision came down, Walker County threw more money away by appealing the judgment to a higher court. That means this won’t be resolved until after the election, making it someone else’s problem after Bebe leaves office and county attorney Don “LSD is my drug of choice” Oliver has eased into a hazy retirement.

Six months from now the county will STILL owe $8.7 million, plus have more legal bills to somehow cover – something lawyers Stuart James and Don Oliver, both taking us to the cleaners with this stupid case, don’t mind one bit.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

During the last week, Bebe bragged on social media about Walker County’s supposedly low tax rate – and got caught in a “mistake” when she claimed again we’re among Georgia’s least taxed.

Bebe Facebook Tax Rate Brag   Bebe Facebook Tax Rate Brag

Walker isn’t even the least taxed of its neighboring counties, much less of the state – and we get no services compared to most of Georgia’s 158 other counties. (The tax rate shown is worse when you don’t include the “rollback” she applies outside the cities. Inside the cities you pay way more. And outside the cities there’s that pesky fire fee.)

Still no word from Bebe if she intends to change the county’s tax rate after seeing new property appraisals.

Based on incomplete numbers, the Times Free Press figures Walker County property values went up by about $57 million during the recent reassessment. They estimate the county’s total tax digest – the value of taxable properties – at $1.312 billion.

If you feel your property reappraisal is too high, you have a few weeks left to appeal.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

The Ramblers opened at home Friday night against Trion.

Ramblers Football v Trion 08-26-16

Hopes for a rare football win against the Bulldogs quickly faded as LaFayette fell to 29-13 by the half. After a fast 4th quarter where neither team bothered to stop the clock, the final score at Jack King Stadium was Trion 43, LaFayette 20.

The Ramblers are 1-1, Trion is 1-0.

Next week the Ramblers have a road game at Gordon Lee.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

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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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