Walker County Newsletter  Issue 9
View this email in your browser
Commissioner Whitfield Sets Priorities for Year 2

2018 is shaping up to be another active year in Walker County. Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield has already established several objectives for the new year, with bringing resolution to the Erlanger issue at the top of the list.

Although there is still pending litigation, Commissioner Whitfield still holds out hope an agreement can be reached that is mutually beneficial to both parties. "You never say never, and you never give up. We still owe Erlanger $8.7 million, but we now have the Public Health Facilities and Services fee to be able to start making payments," said Commissioner Whitfield.

The debt stems from former Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell pledging taxpayer dollars to cover a loan to Erlanger in 2011, as part of an intergovernmental agreement with the Hutcheson Medical Center board.

2018 will also bring more focus to animal issues, as Walker County plans to update ordinances dealing with domestic animals. A public input session will be held to seek suggestions on whether new regulations should be considered, as well as review existing county ordinances and state laws addressing the welfare of dogs and cats. The public input session will be held on Tuesday, January 30th at 6:00 p.m. at the LaFayette-Walker County Public Library, 305 S Duke Street in LaFayette.

Creating a Comprehensive Road Improvement Plan to address transportation needs once TSPLOST funding starts rolling in, ensuring the county continues to operate under a balanced budget and moving economic development opportunities from prospects to projects are additional priorities. Commissioner Whitfield also wants to improve the county's employee benefits package to attract and retain exceptional talent.
Commissioner meeting times will change from 6:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. starting January 11, 2018. Meetings will continue to be held on the second and fourth Thursday of each month.
Walker County Pays Off $7.5 Million in Loans Early

Walker County Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield successfully repaid two Tax Anticipation Notes (TAN) before an end of year deadline, saving the county an estimated $12,194 in interest.
Walker County borrowed $4 million from the Bank of LaFayette in January and received a $4 million line of credit from First Volunteer Bank of LaFayette in June to fund the county’s daily operational expenses. The loans were necessary after the previous administration left Walker County over $70 million in debt, with very little cash on hand and over $3.5 million in past due bills on January 1st.
Commissioner Whitfield pointed out the county actually borrowed less than originally estimated. “We projected we would need $8 million to meet our obligations for 2017. After restructuring some services to manage county government more efficiently, we only had to borrow $7.5 million,” said Whitfield.
Walker County made a $1 million payment on the Bank of LaFayette TAN on November 13th and a $2 million dollar payment on December 12th. Whitfield hand delivered checks to the Bank of LaFayette and First Volunteer Bank of LaFayette on December 22nd to pay off the remainder of both loans.
A $5 million TAN from an out of town bank obtained in 2016 by former Commissioner Bebe Heiskell cost the county $258,393 in fees and interest. Whitfield affirmed, “Walker County borrowed $7.5 million in 2017 from two local financial institutions, receiving lower fees and favorable interest rates that added up to $135,133. Banking local saved the county $123,260 compared to the previous year’s TAN loan.”
Whitfield anticipates another TAN won’t be needed until summer 2018. “As we continue to make progress to return Walker County to solid financial footing, I hope to end the process of borrowing money for regular day to day operations by 2020.”
Fire Department Response Times Improve Following Realignment
Walker County residents are already experiencing an improvement in emergency services following a recent realignment of public safety resources.
Walker County increased the number of 24/7/365 fire stations from 4 to 6 on October 1st. Existing staff and equipment were relocated to enhance services in the Villanow, Cane Creek and Kensington communities.
During October, firefighters at Station 14 saved more than 13 minutes responding to calls in Villanow, while the average response time from Station 15 in Cane Creek was nearly cut in half.
Walker County Emergency Services Chief Blake Hodge said, “This is a drastic improvement in our department’s response times. Considering a fire doubles in size every minute and irreversible brain damage can occur within four to six minutes, response times are critical.”
Station 14 in Villanow posted an 8:42 mark in October, significantly improving on the previous average response time of 22:10. Station 15 in Cane Creek established a response of 6:18 last month, compared to its previous average of 12:33. “Currently, there are no ambulances stationed near Villanow. The closest is 12 miles away in LaFayette. We’re now arriving approximately ten minutes before an ambulance to provide initial patient care,” added Hodge.
Station 20, near Highway 136 and Cove Road, had not been staffed by career or volunteer firefighters prior to October 1st. Initial data shows an average response time of 9:06.
Walker County Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield pointed out, “This is all being done with less funding. The fire department’s budget was cut by $50,000 compared to what was spent in 2016. I commend Chief Hodge and his team for finding new methods to better manage taxpayer money.”
The realignment followed the successful transition of Station 2 in Flintstone in July to a 24/7/365 operation. The county’s other full-time fire stations are in Rock Spring and Chickamauga.
Walker County also added an automatic aid agreement with Whitfield County. The agreement will be rolled out in January 2018 to further strengthen response times in the Armuchee Valley.
Walker County Emergency Services (WCES) received a $500 grant this month from Tennessee American Water. The “Firefighting Support Grant” will be used to purchase new International Fire and Emergency Services Company Officer, 5th Edition training manuals.
WCES Fire Chief Blake Hodge says the manuals will assist in the training of current and future fire company officers on topics including leadership, supervision and health and safety issues. Manuals will be placed in the county’s six career fire stations, with an additional manual being kept in the training division resource library.
Christmas Adopt-A-Thon Turns Jolly
24 animals found new homes during the Walker County Animal Shelter’s “12 Hours of Christmas Adopt-A-Thon” in December. The 17 dogs and 7 cats were spayed or neutered and received a rabies vaccination before joining their new families for the holidays.
The event featured special adoption pricing to encourage potential pet owners to tour the Walker County Animal Shelter, located at  5488 North Marble Top Road near Chickamauga. Thanks in part to lower fees and a visit from Santa, the Shelter doubled its goal of adopting out at least one dog or cat every hour during the “Adopt-A-Thon.”
Still, a number of people who visited the Shelter during the "Adopt-A-Thon" were unable to make a same day commitment. Recognizing continued demand and the benefits of placing more animals into loving homes, Shelter Director David Brown agreed to extend the special adoption pricing through the end of the year.
Adoption fees are set at $30 for dogs and $15 for cats until the close of business December 30th. Regular adoption fees of $65 for dogs and $30 for cats will return when the Shelter reopens to the public on January 2nd. All animals available for adoption will be spayed or neutered and vaccinated for rabies before being released.
The Shelter is open for adoptions from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays. In observance of the holiday, the Shelter will be closed Monday, January 1st.
Coming in January - A new way to interact with your government
Copyright © 2017 Walker County Commissioner's Office, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp