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Fort Oglethorpe Labor Day festivities are Sept. 4

Labor Day at The Post returns to Fort Oglethorpe's Polo Field at Barnhardt Circle. Scheduled for Labor Day on Monday, Sept. 4, the event runs 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and includes great food, arts and crafts vendors, activities for the kids and musical entertainment.

Labor Day at The Post is the city's original outdoor family festival and was started to raise money for equipment Labor the Post Volunteer Fire Department. Early on, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School graduate and hometown musician James Rogers headlined the event for many years. Then Rogers won the 1983 National Mountain Music Festival at Silver Dollar City in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and his musical career changed dramatically.

Labor Day at the Post continued until 2011, when the event took a break for a few years. It was revived in 2015 when the late Leonard Fant, a close friend of Rogers who emceed the event for years, convinced his fellow board members of the 6th Cavalry Museum to bring back this family friendly event. "Leonard loved Labor Day at The Post and would tell great stories about the music, the guests and the fun activities for the kids. The museum board accepted the responsibility of bringing the event back," said Chris McKeever, director of the 6th Cavalry Museum.

In bringing back Labor Day at The Post, the museum board was able to get Rogers to headline the event again. "I was thrilled to be part of bringing Labor Day at The Post back and see so many familiar faces in the audience. Playing for my hometown is very special to me," said Rogers.

During his career, Rogers partnered with the Dollywood Company to run Music Mansion in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee from 1993 to 1998. During this time, James Rogers and Company (as the huge production show was called) earned the title of "the number one most attended show in the Smokies." His 2,000 seat, multi-million-dollar theater received worldwide acclaim. Their performances won several awards, including the Peoples' Choice Award for "Best Show" 1997 and 1998, "Best Theater" 1996, 1997, and 1998, and "Best Entertainer" 1997 and 1998, just to name a few. You can catch this hometown legend on stage at Labor Day at The Post from 2-4 p.m.

In addition to Rogers' performance, other entertainers will grace the stage each hour. Christian music artist Aimee Garner takes the stage at 11 a.m. followed by Midnight Promise a dynamic, original three-piece group of best friends specializing in fun, high-energy acoustic rock and roll at noon. Austin Zackary, an up and coming country singer and songwriter performs at 1 p.m.

Make sure the kids get a chance to play in the Children's Zone. For a small fee, kids can enjoy bounce houses, ride the My Fun Train and take pony rides. Absoylutely Not Adventures! mobile petting zoo will bring an alpaca, miniature horse, goats, sheep, a mini zebu cow and pig for all to enjoy as well.

When you're not enjoying the entertainment, watching the kids playing or eating, browse the vendors selling handmade and homemade goods. You can find everything from home decor, art, baby items, gifts, fashion accessories, jewelry, candles, canned goods and more.

Labor Day at The Post will be held on Labor Day (Monday, Sept. 4) on Fort Oglethorpe's Polo Field at Barnhardt Circle. The event runs 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and includes great food, arts and crafts vendors, activities for the kids and musical entertainment. Vendor space is available. Spaces must be reserved in advance and are just $35 for a single 10' x 10' space and $65 for a double space. Anyone interested in vendor space can find the vendor application and payment information at Admission to the event and parking are free. For more information, call the 6th Cavalry Museum at 706-861-2860 or search Facebook for Labor Day at The Post.

County inching closer to health clinic for workers

Catoosa County got a step closer to opening a health care clinic for employees on Aug. 1, when the county's Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a service agreement with One to One Health for the management and staffing of the facility.

For months, county officials have been exploring the plan to open the employee specific clinic, and have included that plan in the new 2017-2018 budget.

"This is the next step, or the final step actually in making the employee health clinic a reality," county attorney Chad Young said. "It's a proposed service agreement between the county and One to One Health, LLC, to operate and manage the health clinic for Catoosa County."

Young says the county recently bid the work out, with One to One fitting the bill for what the county wants the clinic to be.

"We did numerous interviews with various responders, and One to One Health was really the only truly local responder that was qualified, and they're out of Chattanooga," Young explained. "They have full responsibility and expertise for staffing and managing this health clinic. They agreed to cap their monthly fee at $17,500 per month, which includes monthly management, staffing, pass through for labs, dispensary for drugs, electronic medical records, medical supplies...and it includes a clinic that would be open almost 21 and half hours per week."

As far as usage goes, county manager Jim Walker says the clinic will be open to employees and their dependents.

"It will be approximately 635 folks, almost 300 employees," Walker said. "All told, with family members and dependents on the plans, it'll be 635. That's who'll be able to use the clinic."

The clinic, located at 313 Boynton Drive in the Remco Business Center, will be open various hours Monday through Friday.

"It'll be five days per week," Walker said. "Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays from eight in the morning until

12:30 p.m., and then Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. to make sure we cover shift work so everybody will get a chance to use the clinic. This will be a huge benefit to our employees."

County Chief Financial Officer Carl Henson has budgeted $25,000 per month or $300,000 per year for the clinic. One to One's portion of the budget will take up $17,500 per month for the management fee and personnel costs.

"We're going to offer a supply of generic medicines, which are very inexpensive for maintenance like IVs, blood pressure, Gastro reflux and that sort of stuff," Walker explained. "We'll also have some blood work and labs. We don't anticipate ever going over $22,700 per month to One to One, and then we have other costs that you all have already approved; it's $1,800 per month for rent, and we don't ever anticipate our utilities going over $500."

The driving force behind the clinic is so that the county can attempt to save money over the longterm on it's insurance premiums.

"We currently pay about $5 million per year in health insurance premiums," Walker said. "We have a fantastic plan, it's one of the benefits of being an employee of the county. Our goal with this is to try stay where we are or drive our premiums down a little bit and let the clinic at least pay for itself."

Walker also says the clinic will be great for employees who are dealing with existing illnesses, and go a long way in trying to prevent other health issues.

"We have a number of employees over the past few years that have become high-risk patients where they cost us over $250,000 in treatment," Walker said. "If you go back and look at the diagnosis on these people, they were way into their illness before they ever got checked out because they didn't want to pay the $35, or didn't have the $35, or we didn't make it convenient for them to try to get medical care."

Walker said the county is also putting an emphasis on wellness by encouraging employees to stop smoking and providing education on weight control and alcohol use. "I certainly think this is a wise investment on the part of the county," Walker opined. "We're hoping for a better workforce and a healthier workforce. We've never had a clinic before...if we get into this thing and the hours don't work, we'll change them."

In the scope of things regarding cost, Henson stated that the county's health provider adjusted the premium rate last year due to the planned clinic.

"We got a two-percent reduction to our insurance premium," Henson said. "This past year, they raised it by one percent, but we're still holding that other one percent reduction."

"They wanted to raise it a lot more, but we assured them we were moving toward a clinic," Walker added. "The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step, and we've got to take it and see where it leads us. One thing you can't put a price tag on is the life of our employees."

Walker County voters to decide whether to add sales tax for transporation

Depending on the results of an upcoming special election, the cost of every purchase made in Walker County could increase by 1 percent in April 2018.

Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield has proposed having a referendum concerning a sales tax — with all proceed dedicated to road works — as a special election's sole item.

"This would have a major impact on getting

some of our highly trafficked roads repaved," the commissioner said. "Without passage, we can expect a life filled with potholes."

Whitfield said he opposed a similar statewide referendum that was rejected at the polls in the summer of 2012, but says several things now lead him to support adoption of a TSPLOST.

That earlier version of a transportation special purpose local option sales tax was adopted by only three of the state's 11 transportation regions: Region 7/Central Savannah River (August), Region 8/River Valley (Columbus) and Region 9/Heart of Georgia (Dublin).

"I was against it because it was a regional TSPLOST," the commissioner said. "There was a strong opinion that we would be a donor and not see tax dollars improve the roads in Walker County."

November's referendum, if approved, would be dedicated strictly to the local county with pro rata shares for the cities. Allocations would be the same as the current SPLOST with 75 percent going to the county, 11.67 percent to LaFayette, 6.3 percent to Rossville, 3.75 percent to Chickamauga, 2.87 percent to Lookout Mountain and 0.39 percent to that portion of Fort Oglethorpe that is within Walker County's borders.

Whitfield said it is anticipated that this would bring in about $3 million annually, of which about $2.25 million would go into the cash-strapped county's coffers.

"This would be a five-year TSPLOST, by law it cannot exceed five years," he said, adding, "and it can only be used for transportation."

TSPLOST funds can be used to pay for new construction as well as for maintenance of existing roads, bridges and other transportation-related capital projects.

Regions that rejected the TSPLOST have found paying for such projects more costly in recent years. That is because a county, or city, that opposed TSPLOST must pay 30 percent of the cost when applying for state LMIG (local maintenance improvement grants) funds. Regions that adopted the statewide referendum must pay only 10 percent — the state pays 90 percent — for paving projects.

Having to pay three-times as much in matching funds has been even more of a burden for Walker County. Because the current debt load is so high and there is a negative cash flow, the county has not been able to pay its share of projects.

"I have about $ 1 million of LMIG money in the bank account, but can't use it because we are shy of the 30 percent match," Whitfield said. "And we will have slightly more than $1 million (more) coming in for this year.

"I don't have the funds available to match the state money, but TSPLOST could be used as matching funds to reach that 30 percent.

"The cost to resurface is about $100,000 per mile, so with this we would pave and stripe roughly 26 miles of county roads."

Whitfield said feedback so far has favored the idea of a sales tax, as it is a user tax and not one that would affect property taxes, taxes which are already set to go up in the coming year.

The commissioner is adamant that TSPLOST funds would not be used to finance bonds —"there is no bonding component" — but will be used as collected. That is why having unspent LMIG money is a bonus.

"What will help us here is that for every $3 we raise, the state will give us $7," he said. "We will have the state-shared funds that will allow us to do this on a cash flow basis."

If passed in November, the commissioner said TSPLOST collections would begin in April 2018. The state would return those funds to the county "as soon as July" and after that it is expected that about $187,000 will be collected each month.

Those opposed to any increase in local sales taxes always claim that higher rates drive business to surrounding counties or across state lines.

Whitfield said he has heard that complaint but doubts it will have a great impact.

"People already pay more than 9 percent in Chattanooga," he said. "Dade County is putting it on the ballot, and all counties in Georgia are looking toward adding this to the tax base. This is something that is needed."

Catoosa County considering TSPLOST

Walker County is not alone in considering a referendum for an optional sales tax to help build and maintain it roads and bridges.

In May 2016, Catoosa County Manager Jim Walker addressed the issue of having too many miles of roads and too little money to maintain them.

The county manager noted that of the county's then roughly 427 miles of roads, about 88 miles qualified for federal funding, which required a 20 percent county match, with the rest needing a county investment of 30 percent to gain state LMIG money.

That is why the Catoosa Board of Commissioners is considering a TSPLOST.

"But with the next SPLOST on the ballot in 2018, we believe the first possible time frame that makes sense for Catoosa County voters to consider a TSPLOST would be in 2020," Walker said. "Of course this is subject to change, but that is the prevailing wisdom as I understand it today."

The county manager pointed out how, even if its adoption is delayed, an optional sales tax devoted to transportation would benefit Catoosa County.

"We have approximately 427 miles of county road," he said. "Considering the average lifespan of a paved road is 20 years, we need to

be paving over 20 miles of road per year to keep our roads in serviceable shape.

"We are currently paving between 9-11 miles of road per year using almost exclusively SPLOST funding, so an infusion of road money via TSPLOST would have a significant impact on road miles paved per year. Additionally, we have a number of bridges in need of repair and/or reinforcement, and TSPLOST funds would also help with bridge repair and replacement."