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Suit filed against Water and Sewerage Authority

The city of Chattanooga has filed a federal lawsuit alleging Walker County Water and Sewerage Authority has breached its 2016 wastewater contract.

The authority hasn't fully paid Chattanooga for wastewater treatment and disposal, according to the suit.

The suit "is a contractual dispute between the city of Chattanooga and the Walker County Water and Sewerage Authority, not Walker County government," pointed out Joe Legge, the county's public relations director.

"The Water and Sewerage Authority's legal counsel is reviewing the city's complaint," Legge said.

"The authority is an independent entity with its own employees and general manager," he said. "Many people think it is a county department, but it is not."

Board meetings for the authority are held at 6 p.m. the second Tuesday each month at the Walker County Water and Sewerage Authority, 4665 Happy Valley Road, Flintstone. Meetings are open the public to attend and voice their concerns about their drinking water.

The authority's board of directors includes Annette North, Scott Abston, William Cooke, vice chairman Micheal Haney and chairman Shannon Whitfield, who is also county commissioner.

Escalating wastewater treatment costs

In a July 2018 the Walker County Messenger reported that Commissioner Shannon Whitfield "had been in office a short time before learning that the northern end of the county had an old and decaying sewer system."

"Not only was the system failing, it relies on Chattanooga's Moccasin Bend Wastewater Plant for treatment and is billed for that service."

The article advised readers of increasing sewer system volume and escalating costs by Moccassin Bend Wastewater Plant.

The commissioner's office lamented how the treatment bill had risen from $40,000- $50,000 per month to about $220,000 — An increase customers would be forced to bear "due to years of costly neglect of our vital infrastructure," according to the Walker County Water and Sewerage Authority board, which stated so in a notice to customers at that time.

Jan Morris is assistant editor for the Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.


School board plans a property tax hike
Three meetings for public input

The Walker County Board of Education has tentatively adopted a 2019 millage rate that will require a 4.84 percent increase in property taxes.

All concerned citizens are invited to public hearings on this tax increase to be held at the boardroom of the Walker County Department of Education, 201 South Duke St., LaFayette, on Monday, July 15, at 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., and Thursday, July 25, at 6 p.m.

The proposed property tax increase for a home with an estimated value of $100,000 would result in approximately an additional tax cost to the homeowner of approximately $31 under the proposed amount suggested, according to the board.


Fourth of July

It was standing room only at the July 3 Patriotism at the Post event in Fort Oglethorpe Wednesday night, July 3.

Vendor lines, especially for cotton candy, stretched across the field that was home to this year's concert and fireworks show organized by the city's tourism association.

Small and large hands held big glowing columns of pink sugar throughout the crowd thanks to a cotton candymaker named LaDonna of Donna's Cotton Candy in Rocky Face, Ga.

The vendor said she had sold about a hundred of the sugary treat. "Some are small and in bags and some are on glow sticks," she said.

Ashley Harris, one mom with a bag of cotton candy in one hand and a tall glow stick of the pink sweet in another, was waiting on one more glow stick-covered one. Harris said: "I knew if I didn't get a second one (of the tall variety) they would fight over the glow stick."

Gemma Bowen, 7, seemed impervious to the concert

going on as she carefully navigated the crowd carrying her glowing pink cotton candy on a stick.

Katie Ellington, 12, from Lakeview Middle School, was content to eat her pink sugar-filled treat from the comfort of a chair at the Lion's Club pork rind vendor tent, where her mom was busy serving others.

The historic Barnhardt Circle was the perfect venue for the 13th annual event, emphasizing the historic homes that line the perimeter of the field, like the home of Virginia Black, now in her 90s; and, the home of the Morris family (no relation), whose pink-colored home was decked out in full July Fourth regalia.

Even the Morris family got into the celebration, decorating themselves in one way or another in deference to Abe Lincoln. There were tall Abe Lincoln hats and lots of Abe Lincoln t-shirts.

When asked what their routine was for Independence Day, Mrs. Morris, the lady of the manor, said: "We sit out back and grill. We've got a pool. Everybody swims as much as they want to, then we come out here (on the historic home's veranda that faces the Patriotism at the Post field event) and we walk back and forth and watch the fireworks."

Tyler Horn, an attendee of the celebration held at Virginia Black's home right next door to the Morris', said that when it comes to Independence Day he thinks of "freedom, basically."

"I believe in freedom and independence. I have friends who have served (in the military), so it means a lot to me. And I appreciate them for their service. It's a good day to remember them because they do fight for us."

Susie Alvarez, another attendee at the Black home, pointed out that her host's home has been written about in the past due to its historical significance "and because it's haunted," she added.

But, Alvarez, like Horn, turned more serious when thinking about the Independence Day celebration, stating that the day makes her "emotional."

"It's an emotional day. It's a time to reflect; a time to appreciate what we have. There's some that are just not as fortunate," she reminded.

"My dad and I both served," Alvarez said, "So, there again, the military is very special to me."

Susie and her father both served in the Army.

Emily Black, the granddaughter of the historic home owner located on the perimeter of the celebratory field this year said that the house was a hospital at one time during the war and "they actually still have some of the original cabinets and stuff (in the home)."

"It's quite cool. They still have an old phone in there, too, but it doesn't work," she said.

Not everyone at the Thursday night event came just to have fun, watch fireworks or eat pork rinds, cotton candy or sip on crushed ice drinks. Anita and Danny Gaddy enjoyed the festival while also admiring landmarks, like the one that honors the past female contributors to the military park's history.

We caught up to them there.

"I volunteer out at the military park," Danny said, "The one that's army corp."

"It's great that all of this has been preserved," his wife Anita said, pointing to the granite slab beneath the large gazebo on the grounds. It's words illegible in the darkening night but come morning it would remind of past contributions by females during military battle.

"We live just down the way in Ringgold; but, we came out to participate," Anita added.

Other participants on hand included chalk artists, like Ava Bulmer, 9, and her older sister Hannah Bulmer, 11. Ava attends Boynton Elementary School in Ringgold and Hannah will be at Heritage next year her mother Katie Bulmer said.

And, maybe one of the most entertaining attendees was Gale Anders, a Walker resident who moved to Catoosa in 2004. Anders is originally from upstate New York, where she moved from to Walker County in 1989.

According to Anders — who was dressed from head-to-toe in red, white, and blue — this was "my first time helping out, and I've been having a blast."

Anders said she "hopes she is spreading love and peace," at the event and she had just finished helping Bonnie out with the band by carrying around the red bucket for attendees to make donations to the band if they wanted to do so.

"Would you like to donate to the band?" she asked with a smile.

Jan Morris is assistant editor for the Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.


BIG ROSSVILLE BUST
Nearly $250,000 in drugs off street thanks to task force

The drugs seized at a Rossville residence on June 28 had a potential street value of nearly $250,000, including nearly $200,000 worth of meth and $48,000 in heroin, says DeWayne Brown, commander of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force, which spearheaded the drug bust.

The drug task force seized 9 pounds of meth and arrested two people at 819 Park City Road. The task force also confiscated 8 ounces of heroin, 24 grams of psilocybin (mushrooms), a firearm and $1,300 cash.

The task force, which serves Walker, Catoosa, Dade and Chattooga counties, worked in cooperation with deputies from the Walker County Sheriff's Office road patrol division.

Arrested and charged were: Kimberly Grayson, 49, Rossville, charged with trafficking in methamphetamine, trafficking in heroin, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; Matthew Showalter, 47, Signal Mountain, Tennessee, charged with trafficking in methamphetamine, trafficking in heroin, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. Showalter has outstanding felony warrants in Hamilton County, Tennessee, for guns charges.

Meth math

According to Brown, the 9 pounds of methamphetamine seized in the bust equals about 4,082 grams. Each pound of meth contains 453.59 grams of the drug.

Meth is often sold to individual users in what is known as an 8-ball, a package containing 3.5 grams of the drug (about one-eighth of an ounce). That 3.5-gram buy will cost the individual as much as $150. So if eight 8-balls were purchased, the illegal buy would total 1 ounce in size, yet cost $1,000.

Cmdr. Brown and those who participated in the Rossville drug bust confiscated as many as 1,275 8-balls of meth, not just eight. That's a total street value of $191,343, which could have adversely impacted 1,275 individual buyers, Brown said.

Meth easily available

"It is just so much easier to get the crystal meth now because it is coming out of Mexico," Brown said. "And it is less expensive. They ship it here in liquid form and then a conversion lab turns it into the end product that is sold."

While metro-Atlanta serves as the main conversion lab location for those in the drug trade, LaFayette had such a conversion lab in operation in August 2018. It has since been dismantled by law enforcement, thanks to the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force and its fellow law enforcement agency, the Walker County Sheriff's Office.

More heroin, too

The Lookout Mountain Drug Task Force commander said there is a "huge increase in heroin right now, too, due to the (prescription) pills being harder to get."

According to Brown, the crackdown on doctors who were writing unwarranted prescriptions, coupled with the greater oversight and monitoring programs for pill purchases, has served to diminish pill availability.

That, therefore, is driving up demand for other forms of heroin to purchase for illegal use, like the pure heroin confiscated in the Rossville drug bust.

Pure heroin is heroin not cut with any other product, such as fentanyl. Fentanyl-laced heroin and other synthetic opioids have been blamed for more than 28,000 overdose deaths nationwide in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Brown said the Rossville bust did not include confiscation of any fentanyl-laced heroin.

Like meth, heroin isn't cheap. A person can expect to pay $150 for 3.5 grams of meth, but the same

person would have to pay $200 per one gram of heroin, Brown said.

In the Rossville bust, the task force and sheriff's office deputies confiscated 226.8 grams of heroin. One ounce of heroin equals 28.35 grams. The 8 ounces confiscated by the drug task force totaled 226.8 grams that have a street value of about $48,000.

Mushrooms

In addition to the meth and heroin removed by Walker County's Sheriff's Office during the drug bust conducted with the task force, the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit drug agency also removed 24 grams of Psilocybin (mushrooms).

One ounce of these "shrooms," as they are called, cost as much as $200.

These drugs, which Brown says are more psychedelic in nature (causing thought, vision, and auditory changes due to serotonin impact), are mostly sold in ounce quantities and produce LSD-type effects.

Total drug street value Almost a quarter-million dollars worth of meth, heroin and Shrooms were confiscated in the Rossville bust.

Brown says meth, heroin and other drugs continue to be a threat to the community. The Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force, in cooperation with the Walker County Sheriff's Office — and all other agencies in the judicial circuit, continues to make the dismantling of conversion labs and the arrest of drug dealers and manufacturers (and confiscation of illegal drugs) its No. 1 priority, he said.