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Sheriff: Walker County inmate did not request medical care before death

Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson says an inmate didn’t ask to be taken to the hospital the night before his death.

Sixty-four-year-old Stephen Andrew Johnson of Rossville was arrested Sept. 3 for a temporary protective order violation (TPO), was taken to jail and booked.

“He indicated during the booking process that he had previously had COVID,” the sheriff said. “He was not positive on intake.”

About 5:19 a.m. Sept. 4 jail officers were alerted that Johnson was having difficulty breathing and administered first aid and CPR, Wilson said. The man died a short time later.

Johnson did not request medical care and was not transported to the hospital, he said.

Johnson’s body has been taken to the crime lab for an autopsy while the Walker County Sheriff’s Office and Georgia Bureau of Investigation are investigating the death.

Pandemic precautions

The Walker County jail’s capacity is 240 inmates. On Sept. 8, its occupancy was 227.

Wilson said 91 Walker County jail inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 since December. Seventeen inmates were active cases Sept. 8 and were recovering from the virus.

“For practical purposes social distancing in a county jail setting is near impossible,” he said. “We require inmates to wear face coverings, and they are provided with disinfectant cleaning supplies. We allow time outside in the recreation yard when possible.”

Wilson has implemented as many of the CDC guidelines in the jail as a secure facility can accommodate, he said.

The jail has a designated area for housing and treating inmates who test positive for the virus.

When possible, “we house negative tested inmates together, and we house positive tested inmates together,” he said. “We are routinely disinfecting the detention facility with products to kill the virus. I spent $30,000 last October to install air purifiers throughout the facility.”

Jail staff try not to place inmates who have tested positive for COVID in the same dorms with inmates who tested negative or are asymptomatic; however, if beds are unavailable, staff may be compelled to house inmates the best they can, he said.

The facility has a medical doctor, nurse practitioner and two licensed practical nurses.

The medical staff evaluates an inmate who is ill and asks to be taken to the hospital to determine if a hospital visit is warranted, he said.

Sacrifices of 9/11 emergency workers lead man to career as Walker firefighter

The sacrifice of emergency workers on 9/11 motivated one local man to become a member of Walker County Fire and Rescue.

Battalion Chief Jim Bulman, speaker at the Walker County Patriot Day service Sept. 10, shared how the sacrifices of emergency services personnel who died that day motivated him to seek his current career and challenged his audience to find a place to serve their community. He joined other local officials, including Walker County Board of Commissioners Chairman Shannon Whitfield and Sheriff Steve Wilson, in speaking at the event, which was attended by dozens of residents.

“What have you done to make the world safer?” he said he asked after 9/11.

Patriot Day honors the victims who had no choice where they would be when the attacks occurred and those who chose to race into danger to aid those in need and paid the ultimate price, speakers said. Bulman has pondered these issues.

Bulman, then a vice president of the subsidiary of a large trucking company, was moved by the images and sounds of 9/11 and the recovery efforts.

He said he watched a TV reporter covering the recovery efforts at the World Trade Center ask for everyone at the scene to be silent because the reporter heard a noise in the debris. The hush was broken by the sound of a firefighter’s PASS (Personal Alert Safety System) device, indicating the firefighter was no longer moving.

The sounds of 343 firefighters’ activated PASS devices at Ground Zero haunted him and led him, after homeland security training for his logistics job, to seek additional security and emergency training. He eventually received firefighter certification and started working for Walker County Fire Rescue.

Public safety members “hold the line” to protect people against evil, to help those in need and to comfort the dying, he explained. He believes that the fire and police officers who died on 9/11 would urge people today to “Hold the line, brothers and sisters. Hold the line.”

Of the nearly 3,000 people who died Sept. 11, 2001, 415 were emergency workers. Another 26,000 people were injured, and many more have died since then because of illnesses from exposure to the debris, Bulman said.

Mountain City Club team captain John “The Mayor” Hixson takes a swing.

New lodge on Lookout Mountain at McLemore to break ground this month

The owners of McLemore have confirmed that nearly $188-million in bonds have been sold to fund the construction of a 245-room lodge, conference center and spa along the eastern edge of Lookout Mountain, Ga.

Construction on the lodge at McLemore will commence in September. Once opened in late 2023, the facility will employ more than 300 full-time, direct employees. Atlanta-based general contractor New South Construction has obtained permits for land disturbance, as well as for foundations. Chattanooga-based GenTech Construction will provide construction management services.

McLemore President Duane Horton noted, “McLemore’s world-class team has been together for the better part of a decade. This milestone is a testament to their commitment and perseverance to create a destination to serve our community and guests for generations to come.”

The five-star facility will be a Curio Collection Hotel by Hilton and offer multi-level dining and entertainment terraces, infinity edge pools and spas, as well as spaces that blend the building with the landscape, including a large outdoor events venue. The completed facility will provide banquet and meeting space for corporate events and weddings, as well as on-site lodging for golfers, families and couples looking for a romantic getaway.

“We met with a number of hotel groups and selected Hilton because of their enthusiasm for the project and location,” Horton said. “The Curio Collection by Hilton gives us the flexibility to design this project in a manner that respects the natural setting, local history and the vision provided by our world-class team.”

Numerous on-site amenities are planned for guests to the McLemore property, including swimming pools, a fitness facility, yoga studio and retail center. An outdoor program will also provide guests with guides and gear to enjoy the numerous outdoor activities available at McLemore and the surrounding area, including hiking, rock climbing and bouldering, mountain biking and road cycling, spelunking, hang gliding and paragliding.

“McLemore is surrounded by thousands of acres of federal and state parks and protected wildlife areas,” Horton said. “We are looking forward to introducing people to the undiscovered natural beauty of northwest Georgia and the tremendous opportunities the Chattanooga metropolitan area has to offer.”

Roland Aberg, Hart Howerton master planner, asserted, “McLemore is and will be a landmark destination. Every venue within the hotel is designed in response to the unique nuances of Lookout Mountain’s rugged terrain — from its dining options, indoor and outdoor bar options, to the conference center and variety of guest accommodations. The lodge will offer stunning views of McLemore Cove, Pigeon Mountain and the Blue Ridge Mountains.”

Providing hospitality management oversight is Atlanta-based Valor Hospitality, which is led by Glaswegian Euan McGlashan, whose launch of the Cape Grace hotel in South Africa secured the No. 1 spot in the world by Condé Nast Traveler’s 2000 Reader’s Choice award.

“McLemore provides us with the unique opportunity to continue our mission of reimagining hospitality,” said McGlashan. “The mixture of Southern hospitality with Valor’s service-based DNA gives us an extraordinary opportunity to position McLemore as a world-class destination.”

McGlashan’s team is currently managing club operations at McLemore, including The Creag restaurant and the Stay & Play program, with the oversight of general manager Tom Schreiner.

Adding to the line-up are Craig Peavy and Thomas Palmer, each a principal in Chattanooga-based firm Tinker Ma and architects of record for the hotel at McLemore. “We challenged ourselves to create a place that is both reflective of and complimentary to McLemore’s vistas,” said Peavy. “Bringing such an economic catalyst to the region is going to be a journey of a lifetime.”

Palmer added, “Our greatest desire is for our work to celebrate this place and create opportunities for more people to discover and appreciate the natural beauty of McLemore and Walker County.”

Horton noted that none of the progress made at McLemore would be possible without support from Walker County leaders.

“From the first meeting with Commissioner Whitfield and Robert Wardlaw, they were open to our ideas and encouraged us to do all we could to meet local needs,” he said. “We’re encouraged by the fact that our efforts will be transformational to the place that has been so supportive to our efforts.”

McLemore leadership worked closely with representatives from the State of Georgia and officials from Walker County.

“While a project like this will bring numerous visitors to Walker County, I’m also excited about the benefits it will yield for our citizens,” said Chairman Shannon Whitfield of the Walker County Board of Commissioners. “The creation of good paying jobs with benefits will provide economic stability and prosperity for many families in our community.”

Echoing Chairman Whitfield, Georgia State Sen. Jeff Mullis said, “I believe that northwest Georgia will quickly become a beacon of tourism in the southeastern United States as a result of this project.”

He added, “Increased revenue from out-of-state tourism dollars will have a ripple effect on the communities surrounding McLemore, impacting everyone for the positive. I, along with the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority, Top of Georgia and our partners, are honored to take part in this phenomenal project.”

“Ultimately, this project has been a team effort by some of the best in their industries,” Horton noted. “Having been raised in McLemore Cove and Walker County, it is rewarding to have the opportunity to create something that will benefit our community and region for years to come.

“We are thankful for everyone contributing to this effort and the leadership of our board and executive team,” he said. “We are committed to the area and believe in the enormous possibilities of its future.”

Walker County receives records preservation funds

Walker County Records and Archives has received a $5,000 grant to expand its storage capacity to preserve records and for shelving, file boxes and map containers.

The Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council (GHRAC) seeks to enrich the culture and protect the rights of Georgians by fostering activities that identify, preserve and provide access to the state’s documentary heritage.

Using funds awarded to the University of Georgia Libraries and the Georgia Archives by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), GHRAC awarded grants totaling $35,000 to Walker County Records and Archives and the following entities to develop and/or implement projects to identify, preserve and provide access to historical records:

♦ Moore Methodist Museum

♦ Historic Oakland Cemetery Foundation

♦ University of North Georgia

♦ Troup County Historical Society/Probate Court

♦ Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia

♦ Chipley Historical Center

♦ Friends of Rylander Theatre

♦ Laurens County Library

GHRAC, dependent on federal funding, plans to offer a similar grant opportunity in 2022.

The Georgia Archives identifies, collects, manages, preserves, provides access to and publicizes records and information of Georgia and its people, as well as assists state and local government agencies with their records management. It is a unit of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.

For more information, go to https://www.georgiaarchives.org/ghrac.