Walker County Newsletter  Issue 20
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In this issue:
  • Roads, Codes and other Requests from February's Forums
  • Walker County Works to Get "Clean & Lien"
  • New Landfill Hours & Tire Amnesty Day Set
  • What Walker's New ISO Rating Means For Residents
  • Commissioner Considers Business License
  • Coats American Clean-up Update
  • Mountain Cove Farms Named Best Wedding Venue
  • Quick Hits: SirenGPS, DRIVES, Fire Ants & Meet Jack
Roads, Codes and other Requests from February's Forum

Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield held eight community forums across the county in February.  "I am very encouraged by the amount of participation we had at each event," said Commissioner Whitfield.  "It's refreshing to see so many people take an interest in their community and share their ideas to help move this county forward."

Residents who attended the forums offered their feedback on a variety of issues and opportunities, and received an update on the current state of the county.  Along with questions about taxes, economic development and garbage service, roads and codes topped the list of topics of interest among citizens.

Commissioner Whitfield provided an update on TSPLOST revenue and revealed an initial list of roads to be paved in 2019. Since the forums, a project to resurface 13 roads has been let out for bids.  The work involves more than 23 miles of new asphalt and striping along Peavine Road, East Long Hollow, Ringgold Road, Five Points Road and Five Points Spur, Osburn Road and Osburn Court, South Dicks Creek Road, South Burnt Mill Road, Dry Valley Road, West Schmitt Road, Glass Mill Road and Jones Road.

As for codes, residents at every single forum asked for more enforcement of properties with code violations.  The Vision 2030 Team has been looking at land use issues, especially those affecting property values, public nuisances, property rights and future development.  Some of their discussions have centered around updating the 2004 Public Nuisance Ordinance to address junk vehicles, garbage and other trash.  Their recommendations, coupled with the outcry from the public at the February forums, led to the "Blighted & Derelict Property Ordinance," the first ordinance approved in 2019.  You can read more about that ordinance in the following story.

For those unable to attend the community forums, but would like to see the presentation and question/answer sessions, several of the events are available to watch on the county's Youtube channel.  A few are also airing on UCTV.

Walker County Works to Get "Clean & Lien"

They’re unsafe, unsanitary and uninhabitable.  Walker County’s new “Blighted and Derelict Property Ordinance”, also known as the clean and lien initiative, aims to remove old buildings that are falling down and pose a hazard to society.  Matt Williamson, Legal & Policy Director, said "All of the structures that this ordinance applies to are unfit for habitation, so none of them are occupied, none of them are places fit for people to live.”

Here’s how enforcement of the ordinance works: 

Step 1: After a code enforcement official investigates and identifies a structure as a public nuisance, a formal complaint will be filed in Magistrate Court.  

Step 2: The property owner will then be notified and given an opportunity to answer the nuisance complaint.  

Step 3: If the judge decides to move forward with the case, the property owner will be given an opportunity to come into compliance on their own or demolish the structure on their own.

Step 4: If the owner fails to comply with the court order to repair or demolish the building over the next 270 days, the court can grant the county authority to tear it down and place a lien on the property for the expense incurred by the county.

“This ordinance strikes a delicate balance between protecting private property rights and making sure enforcement can actually happen and address long standing problems with these structures," Williamson added.  “This is going to be a slow process and we hope people will be patient as we move forward with it.”

The county plans to tackle 12 abandoned properties at a time, although some 300 dilapted structures have already been identified.

The clean and lien initiative, which targets the worst of the worst, is similar to the city of LaFayette’s Pride program and grew out of several community forums and conversations over the past several years.
New Landfill Hours Effective April 15th
Unsecured/uncovered Loads to be Fined
Tire Amnesty Day on April 27th

In an effort to improve the customer experience, the Walker County Landfill will begin opening to the public on Wednesdays, starting the week of April 15th.  The move comes as the county adjusts gate hours at the landfill to make public access times more consistent and less confusing.  Effective April 15th, gate hours will run 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday for all customers, residential and commercial.  Customers will need to be in line before 4:00 p.m. in order to receive service.

Also, beginning the week of April 15th, Walker County Police will begin issuing fines for unsecured/uncovered loads.  Georgia law (O.C.G.A. 40-6-248.1) clearly states no vehicle shall be driven or moved on any public road unless such vehicle is constructed or loaded or covered so as to prevent any of its load from dropping, escaping or shifting in such a manner as to:

(1) Create a safety hazard; or
(2) Deposit litter on public or private property while such vehicle is on a public road.
Unsecured/uncovered loads lead to littering and motor vehicle crashes.
One other important date relating to the landfill to add to your calendar is April 27th.  Commissioner Whitfield has announced the county has been successful in obtaining another grant to host a Tire Amnesty Day, which will occur on that Saturday.  Keep an eye out in next month's newsletter, and our facebook page for complete details.
What Walker County's New ISO Rating Means for Residents

Walker County maintained a 3/3Y ISO rating following a rigorous review of fire services in the unincorporated areas of the county and city of Chickamauga.
The 3/3Y classification by the Insurance Service Office will benefit homeowners and business owners.  Insurance companies use ISO ratings in their calculations to determine insurance rates in a community.
“This validates all the hard work being done by our team to improve fire service in Walker County, while reinforcing the fact that our efforts provide a financial savings too,” said Chief Blake Hodge.  “These surveys take a lot of time and effort to coordinate. It’s not easy to attain this mark.”
The ISO evaluation looked at all aspects of the fire department, including equipment, manpower, training, number of stations and response times.  ISO also evaluated area water authorities, 911 communications, public education, fire prevention efforts, code enforcement and inspections, among other areas.
Walker County received high marks for communications, water supply, fire hydrants and firefighter training. 
ISO rates communities one on a scale of 1 to 10.  A lower number means fire service in a given area is better equipped to put out a fire and save a home or business.  The ISO 3 rating, which is good for four years, places Walker County in the Top 12% in the nation for fire protection, ahead of more than 37,800 other cities and counties.
Commissioner Considers Business License

Walker County will soon join neighboring cities and counties and offer a business license for individuals and companies operating in the unincorporated areas.  Many banks and insurance companies require businesses to have a license to operate in order to receive loans and liability coverage.

The license is designed to protect consumers from fly by night operations and encourage them to seek out reputable entrepreneurs.

Obtaining a business license means a new business owner has met the regulatory requirements to operate in Walker County.  It also opens doors for small businesses, since some vendors, agencies and organizations will only work with licensed companies.

The Walker County Chamber of Commerce supports the establishment of a business license. Lacey Wilson believes not having a license hinders business.  "I talk to businesses all day, everyday. When new businesses call, one of the hurdles they face when trying to set up a storefront is being told the county doesn't have a business license.  Every book they read says the first thing they need to do is decide if they are a sole proprietor or LLC and then go get a business license."

The cost of the license, which ranges from $50 to $150, has been set low to provide a greater benefit to small businesses in the county.

When approved at the Commissioner Meeting on March 28th, the license will take effect June 1, 2019 for new businesses and January 1, 2020 for existing businesses.
Coats American Clean-up Moving Forward

Clean up continues, roughly a year after thieves caused an oil spill that prompted a hazmat response at the Coats American building on Maple Street in Rossville.

The county, which received the building as a donation for economic development in 2002, contracted with Marion Environmental to oversee disposal of hazardous or potentially hazardous materials associated with the spill.  The disposal process, which was approved by the EPA, involves two phases.

The first phase consisted of removing the transformers vandalized by the copper thieves.  Some of those transformers contained a PCB warning label, while others did not.  All of the transformers are now offsite at an EPA approved disposal facility in Alabama.  Water that was captured during the hazmat incident has also been shipped off for disposal.

During the second phase, which is getting underway, Marion Environmental will check the surface area inside the building for any residual contaminants that may or may not be there.  This will include soil samples under the concrete flooring to make sure there wasn't any seepage through the concrete into the ground.

While the remediation process remains slow, the county is committed to making sure this site is cleaned up.   

         Mountain Cove Farms Resort Named Best Wedding Venue!

Chickamauga, GA – Customer service, hospitality and communication have rejuvenated Walker County’s Mountain Cove Farms Resort.  Along with a boost in nightly stays at the cabins and Cove House, the resort has become a favorite among brides who yearn to capture a truly unique experience for the wedding of their dreams.

Voters across Catoosa, Dade, Gordon, Murray, Walker and Whitfield counties have taken notice, choosing Mountain Cove Farms Resort as the top wedding venue in the Chattanooga Times Free Press’ North Georgia Best of the Best for 2019.

“The staff at Mountain Cove Farms Resort has worked tirelessly under the leadership of Jenna Stevens to provide guests with a memorable experience over the past two years,” said Commissioner Shannon Whitfield.  “I commend our team members for their commitment to friendly, helpful service.  Without them, the resort would not be where it is today.”

“When a bride arrives at Mountain Cove Farms Resort, she’s instantly mesmerized by the natural charm of this truly special place.  They have often driven for miles searching for a hidden gem and the picturesque views here in Walker County have no rival,” said Jenna Stevens, Resort Manager.  “We have a small, strong team fully committed to achieving a successful event, while sharing a milestone with families, who in the end feel like part of our family.”

Along with weddings, Mountain Cove Farms Resort hosts the Forever Bluegrass Festival twice a year and the Mountain Cove Classic Disc Golf Tournament, among other events.  Nightly stays at the resort have also jumped 460% over the past two years, from 162 in 2016 to 908 in 2018.

Reservations can be made online at, through Expedia and Airbnb, or by calling 706-539-2683.  Mountain Cove Farms Resort is nestled in the valley between Lookout Mountain and Pigeon Mountain.

Quick Hits

Walker County has a new method for the public to receive emergency and community notifications.  The SirenGPS app sends push notifications to smartphones in a matter of seconds, keeping residents alerted to bad weather and other community concerns or interests.

If you click on the message, the system will check you off as being notified.  60 seconds alter, SirenGPS sends out text messages to those who still need to be notified.  If you don't read your text, after another 60 seconds anyone still in need of an alert will get a phone call.

Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Blake Hodge said, “We’re concentrating on trying to limit landline usage because our infrastructure can cause a delay of more than an hour if everyone in the county were to receive a phone call.  So this new delivery, with an app push notification, is going to be key to the success of this notification system.”

SirenGPS replaced the Hyper-Reach notification system. Residents are urged to download the free SirenGPS app, which is available for Apple and Android devices. Those who do not have a smartphone and wish to receive a text or phone call should contact Tina in the Commissioner’s Office at 706-638-1437 or register online at

2020 Census jobs are coming. The Census Bureau is looking to hire 100 workers in Walker County. The pay for our community is $14 an hour, plus reimbursement for work-related mileage and expenses. Apply online here:

Do you know how to successfully control fire ants? Practices that lead to mound reduction and elimination in lawns and landscapes are possible.

Current fire ant treatment methods will be discussed and demonstrated by Walker County Extension Agent Wade Hutcheson on April 9th at 2 p.m. at the LaFayette-Walker County Public Library (305 S. Duke St., LaFayette).

The class is free. Sign-up by calling the Walker County Extension Office at 706-638-2548.

Those unable to attend can download a free podcast presentation from the selection of Walker County "How Walker Works" podcasts in the Apple iTunes store.

The Walker County Tax Commissioner's Office will close at Noon on May 23rd and not reopen until 10:00 a.m. on May 28th.  The closure is necessary to install DRIVES, a new state-mandated vehicle registration and titling system.

Everyone with a birthdate in May should process their vehicle transactions on or before May 17th to avoid any issues.

This system upgrade will impact all local tag offices in Georgia, not just Walker County.

DRIVES will modernize the data input system for tags and titles, provide agencies with interconnectivity and improve the customer experience by expanding the ability for mobile, Internet and kiosk transactions.

Meet Jack!  This adorable shepherd mix was brought to the Walker County Animal Shelter nearly a year ago and continues to look forward to the day he's adopted. Commissioner Whitfield is committed to only euthanize animals when there is a health related issue or safety concern. 

Jack's ability to remain hopeful, sweet and calm during such a lengthy stay at the shelter shows how he would make an incredible companion. He loves every human he meets. He also gets along with most female dogs, although he can be a bit picky around male counterparts. 

Drop by the Walker County Animal Shelter today to meet Jack, and tell the staff you saw him featured in this newsletter and adopt Jack at a special rate! 

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Walker County Commissioner's Office · 101 S Duke Street · LaFayette, GA 30728 · USA