2014
08.14

During Monday night’s City Council meeting, Councilman Chris Davis made a motion to put liquor by the drink on a LaFayette ballot this fall. None of the other four councilors would second the plan, essentially a 1-4 vote against changing city pouring rules.

2014 LaFayette Council & Mayor

Councilman Bradford said the city needs more time after recent controversy regarding liquor at Chattanooga Street Tavern, and should wait on Walker County to solidify its own liquor rules. His thoughts were echoed by councilors Swanson and Garmany.

Also from the meeting: LaFayette has entered an agreement to rent a jet fuel truck for $8,000 a year, saying it will attract more aircraft to the city’s airport and make a small profit.

Seems like a fiscally sound idea. If it doesn’t make money they can end the lease after a year and the most we lose is $8k.

Not sure about THIS claim though: “At that time Barwick Industries was the world’s largest manufacturer of tufted carpet and the LaFayette airport was part of the company’s success. DC-3 cargo planes would land in LaFayette, be filled with rolls of carpet and then flown to Detroit for use by automobile manufacturers.”

(If that actually happened it’s no wonder Barwick eventually went bankrupt. Seems like an inefficient way to ship carpet.)

Meeting agenda [PDF] also had a scheduled appearance from someone representing Jefferson’s Restaurant, but per Councilman Davis they didn’t show up.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Yesterday was the first day back in class for Walker County students, and the first day of use for this almost pointless school zone sign. This isn’t helping.

Saddle Ridge 55 MPH School Zone Sign

Beyond the usual complaints about unannounced changes to school bus routes, everything seems to have gone smoothly.

Rock Spring Elementary principal Kandy Gilstrap was present for the first day of class, but today faces surgery for the breast cancer she’s been battling since March. After surgery Gilstrap will require chemotherapy treatment until next May.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Dustin Keith Williams of Summerfield Rd. Noble arrested last week for stealing mail from at least 100 local mailboxes. Williams’ wife lied about his whereabouts as he tried to escape through the attic; attempt was unsuccessful and he won a free trip to jail. (Wife also goes to jail for lying to police.)

Dustin Keith Williams Card Theft Suspect

Williams allegedly rifled through mail looking for credit cards or applications for credit, which he then used for shopping sprees in area stores. He’s also accused (at least by victims) of stealing Netflix discs.

LU has mentioned mail thefts several times this summer. Williams made a previous LU appearance in June after he was connected to credit cards stolen from vehicles in Rock Spring. Seems he really likes stolen cards.   Tiny Facebook

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2014
08.11

Notorious skinhead couple in LaFayette arrested last week for being major players in a large international drug smuggling ring.

Mac & Lacey Waters

Mac and Lacey Waters of Culberson Ave. charged by local drug task force, LPD, FBI, and post office inspectors for importing prescription drugs and steroids from another country (or countries) to distribute locally.

Authorities won’t say yet where the narcotics were mailed from other than “overseas.” A regional distribution network for the drugs, described as “very complex,” is still being investigated.

    WQCH Radio, 08/06/14: “ON TUESDAY, THE [drug] TASK FORCE EXECUTED SEARCH WARRANTS ON RESIDENCES, A VEHICLE AND A STORAGE UNIT IN LAFAYETTE, AND RECOVERED TENS-OF-THOUSANDS OF ILLEGAL PHARMACEUTICALS AND 125-THOUSAND DOLLARS IN CASH. WATERS AND HIS WIFE WERE EACH JAILED ON FOUR COUNTS OF TRAFFICKING SCHEDULE 4 DRUGS AND ONE COUNT OF TRAFFICKING SCHEDULE 3 DRUGS.”

The married couple live on Culberson Ave; drugs (including Xanax, Valium, and various steroids) were found in a rented storage building behind OReilly Auto Parts. That’s where the raid began with an arrest of Mr. Waters, who was driving his late-model silver Jaguar purchased several years ago despite having no visible means of support.

Mac Waters MugshotWaters already spent several years in jail for selling drugs; he was released in early 2012 and seems to have picked right up where he left off.

Mr. Waters isn’t just an alleged drug smuggler, he’s also the self-declared “pastor” of a church preaching white supremacy based on misinterpretation of the Bible.

The drugs he’s allegedly brought into our community are dangerous, however his hateful belief system (which isn’t against the law) is an equally seductive cancer. He claims church membership “way over 500″ – mostly from behind prison bars – and has followers and defenders scattered throughout the community.

Those who follow the LU Web site closely will recognize Mac Waters as a prolific comment-section lurker who’s made dozens of rambling posts advocating his Nazi skinhead gang. The “church” has a Web site and YouTube profile.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

Another blow to the local drug industry: Eric Lamar Gilbert of Ringgold Rd. LaFayette arrested Thursday in Dalton with $10,000 of meth. He led police on a chase, cutting through busy parking lots and slamming into a Whitfield Sheriff car.

Eric Gilbert Car Chase Aftermath

Gilbert was released from prison (prior drug conviction) in June. Here’s his mugshot from that booking.   Tiny Facebook

Entering August’s second week, Walker County still has no budget for the fiscal year ending September 30th. Also no budget for the next year and no decision announced about property taxes.

Big Mouth Bebe

We’re all riding in a car heading off a cliff, and the driver is asleep.

For comparison purposes: detailed coverage of Dade County meeting where a proposed tax increase was shut down. County executive kept asking for someone to put the 44% increase up for a vote, but the individual commissioners wouldn’t do it because the citizens were opposed.

Here in Walker we’ve only got one commissioner and nobody to stand against her and speak for the people. As bad as Dade is at times, they at least have enough sense not to hand their entire county government over to one unaccountable person.   Tiny Facebook  Tiny Facebook

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2014
08.06

More details from Hutcheson foreclosure lawsuit ruling were released Monday.

Hutcheson Lobby / WDEF TV 12

Contradicting earlier stories, the ruling only delays foreclosure of the hospital through August. Federal judge required Erlanger to post foreclosure notice in county papers (Dade/Walker/Catoosa) by August 31 and clarify plans to keep Hutcheson open even if property is sold.

Judge also rejected Hutcheson/Walker argument about rules prohibiting foreclosure of public hospitals; described GA law as “contradictory and vague.”

Definitely NOT the Hutcheson victory initially reported over the weekend.   Tiny Facebook

LPD needs help identifying a suspect (with no description other than “black male”) involved in a shooting at Garden Apartments around 9 last Friday night.

Garden Apartments

Good luck:

    WQCH Radio, 08/05/14: “LAFAYETTE POLICE ARE LOOKING FOR A SUSPECT IN A ‘SHOTS FIRED CALL’ AT LAFAYETTE GARDEN APARTMENTS, LAST FRIDAY NIGHT.
    “WITNESSES SAW ONE BLACK MALE CHASING ANOTHER BLACK MAN, SHOOTING A HANDGUN AS THEY RAN, AT AROUND 9 PM.
    “INVESTIGATORS SAY THE MAN WHO WAS BEING CHASED WAS LATER LOCATED AT A LOCAL RESIDENCE, BUT HE REFUSED TO GIVE POLICE ANY DETAILS ABOUT THE INCIDENT.
    “NOW, THEY HAVE ONLY A VAGUE DESCRIPTION OF THE SUSPECT’S GET-AWAY CAR AND SOME SPENT SHELL CASINGS FROM THE PATTERSON ROAD APARTMENT COMPLEX GROUNDS. THEY SUSPECT THE ARGUMENT WAS DRUG RELATED.
    “ANYONE WITH INFORMATION ON THE SHOOTER, SHOULD CONTACT POLICE.”

Would be nice if they’d share that vague description of the get-away car. It can’t possibly be more vague than the description of the suspect.   Tiny Facebook

Demolished Summerville Water Tower

Last Tuesday a Summerville landmark came crashing to the ground – another remnant of Northwest Georgia’s 20th century textile heritage sent off to scrap.   Tiny Facebook

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2014
08.04

Commissioner Heiskell is required by law to regularly meet with her constituents. She hasn’t had time to hold community meetings this year, but did manage to host this massive golf tournament fundraiser for her 2016 reelection campaign.

Bebe Heiskell Election Campaign Fundraiser Golf Tournament

Participants included employees of Republic Services, representatives of Audia International, county workers, Elliott Davenport, and other vendors/contractors or businesses that make money from the county.

They support Bebe’s reelection, and then she funnels your tax dollars into their pockets through development deals and rigged bids. That’s a benefit of having (or at least BEING) a Sole Commissioner.

Some of these people live in Walker County, quite a few don’t – but they’re all Heiskell’s true constituents, the friends and donors she supports in her decisions. Those who just live in the county, work their regular jobs, pay their taxes, and try to survive don’t get her ear unless they’re willing to cut a check.   Tiny Facebook

Friday morning a federal judge TEMPORARILY halted Erlanger’s push to foreclose on Hutcheson to reclaim $20.5 million in debt. He said the sale would set HMC back and should be postponed for now, but warned the counties of their legal obligation to tell citizens what will happen if the hospital does close.

Hutcheson Women's Center

Foreclosure is paused until the lawsuits Erlanger and Hutcheson have filed against each other conclude, which could take years.

Meanwhile Hutcheson continues to falter and Commissioner Heiskell (one-third responsible for the hospital’s leadership) lies about her knowledge of its financial problems and their impact on the county:

    WQCH Radio, 08/02/14: “COMMISSIONER BEBE HEISKELL LEARNED THIS WEEK THAT BOND RATING AGENCY STANDARD & POORS HAS DOWNGRADED WALKER COUNTY’S BOND RATING BY FOUR STEPS, TO ‘BBB-PLUS’. THE DOWNGRADE INDICATES A PERCEIVED GREATER RISK OF DEFAULT, SINCE WALKER AND CATOOSA COUNTIES GUARANTEED 10-MILLION EACH OF HUTCHESON’S DEBT. THE AGENCY BELIEVES THAT A HUTCHESON DEFAULT COULD PUT WALKER COUNTY IN A STATE OF QUOTE ‘WEAK LIQUIDITY’. THE DOWNGRADE ALSO MEANS THE COUNTY WOULD HAVE TO PAY A HIGHER RATE OF INTEREST ON FUTURE BOND ISSUES.

County Bond Downgrade - Hutcheson Debt

    “OF COURSE, IF THAT DEBT IS CALLED, WALKER COUNTY GOVERNMENT WOULD HAVE NO CHOICE OTHER THAN TO RAISE PROPERTY TAXES TO MAKE THE PAYMENTS BUT COMMISSIONER HEISKELL SAID THURSDAY THAT SHE BELIEVES THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN.”

Bebe knew about the downgrade in April. LU did a blog post on it back then, and the county called S&P a few days later to ask they no longer rate county bonds. There’s no possible way she wasn’t aware of the credit cut and the multiple reasons behind it.

Heiskell’s claims of not knowing about the S&P cut can be filed under “delusional” along with her stated expectation of the hospital’s debt never being called.   Tiny Facebook

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2014
08.01

RUMOR MILL: Chattanooga Street Tavern insiders say the restaurant is up for sale. Lovelady family is in talks with Jefferson’s Restaurants.

Tavern Salmon & Asparagus

Jefferson’s was interested in the location before the Tavern opened, but Mike Lovelady (through his position on the city DDA board) found out and decided to open his own poor imitation of a Jefferson’s in the same space.

Now that Mike’s plans to take over LaFayette have been defeated, we might actually get the restaurant that WOULD have opened two years ago if not for him.   Tiny Facebook

At 10:30 this morning representatives from Hutcheson, Erlanger, Regions Bank, Walker, Dade, and Catoosa were scheduled to be in Rome fighting over Hutcheson’s future.

Erlanger is pushing to have the hospital foreclosed next Tuesday for the $2.5 million debt it’s still owed. Regions Bank says Erlanger can’t have anything until Regions’ older loan to HMC is repaid. The counties and hospital all want the debts to go away and plan to argue that a hospital can’t be foreclosed on in Georgia.

Erlanger at Hutcheson

Chattanooga media finally covers what LU reported back in April: The Hutcheson mess has contributed to Walker County’s credit rating being cut, because Walker County is on the hook for half of Hutcheson’s $60+ million debt.

Don Oliver, ex-con lawyer for both Walker County AND Hutcheson, insists that he’s fouled up the paperwork and loans so well that neither Regions OR Erlanger will ever get a dime:

    WQCH Radio, 07/29/14: “WILL HUTCHESON MEDICAL CENTER BE ‘SOLD ON THE COURTHOUSE STEPS’, ACCORDING TO ERLANGER’S STATED PLAN? WALKER COUNTY ATTORNEY DON OLIVER, WHO HAS WORKED CLOSELY WITH HUTCHESON IN THE TROUBLED HOSPITAL’S BID TO STAY AFLOAT, SAYS ‘THAT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN’.
    “OLIVER EXPLAINED THAT HUTCHESON’S DEBT TO ERLANGER IS SUBORDINATE TO THE HOSPITAL’S DEBT TO REGIONS BANK. IN OTHER WORDS, IF THE HOSPITAL PROPERTY WERE TO BE SOLD, REGIONS WOULD HAVE ‘FIRST DIBS’ ON THE PROCEEDS.
    “HE WENT ON TO SAY THAT REGIONS CAN’T FORECLOSE ON THE HUTCHESON MAIN CAMPUS BECAUSE THEIR DEBT WAS SECURED INSTEAD WITH THE HOSPITAL’S PARKWAY PROPERTY. ERLANGER’S NOTE IS SECURED BY THE HUTCHESON MAIN CAMPUS, BUT THEIR NOTE IS NOT ‘FIRST IN LINE’ FOR REPAYMENT.
    “OLIVER ALSO SAID HE HAS BEEN TOLD THAT IF ERLANGER ATTEMPTS TO FORECLOSE, REGIONS WILL BRING SUIT AGAINST THE CHATTANOOGA HOSPITAL SINCE THEIR NOTES HAVE SUPERIOR STATUS. THE SCENARIO HAS OLIVER ‘CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC’ THAT HUTCHESON MEDICAL CENTER WILL SURVIVE AS THE TRI-COUNTY AREA’S LOCAL, INDEPENDENT HEALTHCARE PROVIDER.”

Thing is, the hospital owes $60 million to Regions and Erlanger but has maybe $25-35 million in assets. If they sold everything Hutcheson owns at market value and divided it up, neither creditor would get even half what they’re owed and the counties would end up on the hook for everything left, plus lose control in the hospital.   Tiny Facebook

Walker County Seal / Yes To Booze No To BooksCherokee Regional Library leaders have voted to slash hours at the Rossville branch in order to handle decreased funding and the community’s rejection of a proposed library tax. Hours at the LaFayette branch will increase slightly.

LaFayette and Chickamauga have raised their annual contributions to the library in recent years while Rossville’s budgeted spending on its branch has fallen. If not for a planned $10k increase in funds from the school system this fall, Rossville would close entirely.   Tiny Facebook

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