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Walker County's Erlanger fee to be eliminated
Residents will not be charged the fee on their upcoming tax bills

Shannon Whitfield

Walker County property owners will soon get a tax break.

Commissioner Shannon Whitfield, on Wednesday morning, April 24, proclaimed an end to the Public Health Facilities and Services fee, the ordinance created to pay down the county's debt to Erlanger Health System over the course of three years.

"We project we have collected enough from the Public Health Facilities and Services fee over the past two years to meet our obligation to Erlanger at the end of this tax cycle," Whitfield said. "This means the fee will not be charged on your next tax bill."

Walker County will take the necessary steps to formally end the fee in May by amending the ordinance that established it. Those changes are scheduled to be finalized at the May 23 commissioner meeting.

In 2017, a federal judge ordered Walker County to pay Erlanger $8.7 million plus interest and attorney's fees to cover its portion of a 2011 loan to keep Hutcheson Medical Center open. Erlanger agreed to waive interest and attorney fees, as part of a settlement agreement in January 2018, provided Walker County made 13 quarterly payments.

"Dealing with this debt has been a tough chapter in our shared journey," Whitfield said. "I thank our citizens for the sacrifices made during this

difficult time in our history. Today, we turn the page. Today, we start our own chapter in Walker County history."

Jim Hill, a candidate for District 1 on the Board of Commissioners, praised the end of the tax.

"Earlier this morning I was pleased to hear of the ending of the Emergency Service fee which Walker County citizens were paying to clear up the Erlanger issue," Hill said Wednesday, April 24. "This was great news to hear, as paying off this debt will relieve the county to work toward greater projects. ... It's not often we have a tax or fee go away, so this is welcome news for our citizens. Paying less on your property tax bill is a great thing."

BY THE NUMBERS

According to the state of Georgia, the average home value in Walker County is $100,000. The elimination of the fee will remove $140 from the average homeowner's tax bill.


Lake Winnie park opens May 2 in Rossville

Lake Winnie in Rossville opens for the season on May 2 and is ready to offer a variety of thrills and chills in 2019.

Receive an adrenaline rush on the OH-Zone!, a 14-story freefall guaranteed to take riders for an exciting descent in just seconds. Home to the world-famous Cannon Ball roller coaster and the spectacular inversions of the Fire Ball, the park also hosts family rides and attractions for every age.

Younger riders will giggle with delight on the Bumble Bees and the gentle Parachutes. Families can soar on the wind aboard the Wave Swinger or enjoy a leisurely countryside tour with the Antique Cars, or even splashdown into the waters of Lake Winnie on the park's classic Boat Chute ride!

Lake Winnepesaukah's food concessions are filled with delectable treats and refreshing drinks. Besides the traditional offerings of

hot dogs and hamburgers, the food concession areas also offer a selection of salads and wraps for the health-conscious as well as sweet treats such as funnel cakes, cotton candy, and candy apples, all at affordable prices.

The park's catering department serves delicious meals to larger groups such as businesses, schools, churches, and family reunions.

Lake Winnepesaukah, located at 1730 Lakeview Drive in Rossville, will open for the 2019 season on May 2 with a $27 (plus tax) unlimited ride pass ($19+tax for children ages 1 and 2 and seniors 60 and older).

From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, guests will enjoy two great parks: the Amusement Park and SoakYa Water Park, for one low price of $34.95+tax ($24.95+tax for children ages 1 and 2 and seniors 60 and older). Once SoakYa closes in early fall, an unlimited ride pass will again be $27+tax.

Parking is always free at Lake Winnepesaukah.


Burn ban begins today

Georgia's annual ban on outdoor burning begins May 1 in 54 counties, mostly in the northern half of the state, including both Walker and Catoosa counties.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) puts the restrictions in place during the summer months, when increases in ground level ozone may create health risks.

"From May 1 until Sept. 30, open burning of yard and land-clearing debris is prohibited in some counties where particulate matter pollutants and chemicals from smoke are more likely to combine with emissions from vehicles and industrial activities," said Frank Sorrells, chief of protection for the Georgia Forestry Commission. "Our agencies closely monitor air quality, weather conditions and open burning for the safety of all Georgians."

The 54 counties affected by the ban are: Banks, Barrow, Bartow, Bibb, Butts, Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Clarke, Clayton, Cobb, Columbia, Coweta,

Crawford, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Floyd, Forsyth, Fulton, Gordon, Gwinnett, Hall, Haralson, Heard, Henry, Houston, Jackson, Jasper, Jones, Lamar, Lumpkin, Madison, Meriwether, Monroe, Morgan, Newton, Oconee, Paulding, Peach, Pickens, Pike, Polk, Putnam, Richmond, Rockdale, Spalding, Troup, Twiggs, Upson, Walker and Walton.

May through September is the time of year when people are more likely to be outdoors.

Higher levels of ground-level ozone and particle pollution levels are recognized to contribute to human health concerns and issues.

Residents in Georgia counties not included in the annual burn ban, or wishing to conduct open burning that is exempt from the burn ban in some counties, will continue to be required to get a burn permit from the Georgia Forestry Commission before burning outdoors.

Permits can be secured online at GaTrees.org, by calling 1-877-OK2-BURN or contacting their county GFC office.


Drug busts, raids catch several in surrounding area
Task force makes Walker, Dade drug busts

On Tuesday, April 23, agents with Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit (LMJC) Drug Task Force executed a search warrant at 1224 Arnold Road in Rock Spring in Walker County. As a result of the search warrant, agents located methamphetamine for resale. Arrested were Shannon B. Dean for possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and possession of methamphetamine, and Sandra L. Wrape for possession of methamphetamine.

The task force then partnered with the Dade County Sheriff's Department and Department of Community Supervision for an investigation at 265 Prince Road in Trenton for methamphetamine distribution.

Arrested were Michael Cloud for possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, possession of methamphetamine, use of a communication device in facilitating a felony, and possession of drug-related objects, and Toni M. Greco for possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug-related objects. Christopher P. Swafford was found to be a wanted felon for probation violation in Walker County.

Agents then conducted another distribution investigation at 335 Prince Road in Trenton. Agents located more than five ounces of methamphetamine packaged for resale. Arrested was Chad Sims for trafficking methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, possession of methamphetamine, possession of a firearm during a commission of a crime, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and possession of drug-related objects.


7 arrested in drug raid in Rossville

On Thursday, April 25, agents with the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force executed a search warrant at 783 Mission Ridge Road in Rossville.

Six people were arrested on drug charges and a seventh on a warrant:

• Montel D. Slocum for possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, possession of Schedule II (oxycodone), possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a firearm during a commission of a crime and possession of marijuana (less than an ounce).

• Amanda R. Madris for possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, possession of Schedule II (oxycodone), and possession of marijuana (less than an ounce).

• Jennifer H. West for possession of methamphetamine and possession of Schedule II (oxycodone).

• Rolando Rivera for possession of methamphetamine, possession of Schedule I and possession of marijuana (less than an ounce).

• Dora M. Madris for possession of methamphetamine, possession of Schedule I and probation violation.

• Matthew R. Cabrera for possession of methamphetamine.

• Rebecca D. Browning for probation violation.

Agents also arrested three individuals in Chattooga County during narcotic investigations later in the day. At 221 McCollum St. in Trion, agents arrested Angela M. Beshers for possession of methamphetamine.

At 2431 US Highway 27 in Trion, agents arrested Cody L. Saylor and Heather N. Corey, both for possession of a firearm by convicted felon.