Oliver Says Walker County Plans $6 Million Industrial Park On 480 Acres Between LaFayette, Rock Spring

Thursday, August 08, 2013 - by Gail Perry

Walker County Attorney Don Oliver told the Lookout Mountain, Ga., City Council at a special meeting Thursday about big plans that Walker County has for its 20 percent of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) money if it passes in the upcoming election.

Developing an industrial park has been worked on for the past 10 years, he said. The large amount of land needed was found between LaFayette and Rock Spring and an option has been put on 480 acres. In order for the park to be attractive to the target businesses which are classified as tier two and tier three suppliers, four lane access must be built and all utilities made available. A fiber-optic trunk line that connects the entire East Coast is already installed at the location.

This is visualized as the economic engine of the county for the next 20-30 years, he said. Unfortunately, Lookout Mountain, Ga. is the city farthest away from that location and will benefit the least compared to other cities in the county that are physically closer. Development of this property will use $6.6 million from SPLOST money.

The council members must make a list of projects for the money that they receive from this tax, which is derived by adding an optional county tax to the state sales tax. The proceeds are divided among the cities that are in Walker County.


When this levy was first started in the mid-1980’s it was intended to be used for luxuries. Attorney Oliver told the council members that a lot of the expenses that cities face used to be covered by state funds. That is no longer the case, he said, and now the SPLOST money is needed for essentials such as road building.

This money is restricted for use in capital projects. He explained that any project is eligible that would be depreciated, but not expenses that would be included in a yearly budget and that would be paid for that year. Work that is needed on the Lookout Mountain, Ga. sewer system qualifies by this definition. Replacement of 100 feet of the force main at a cost of around $60,000 is needed, and replacement of release valves and the addition of a battery back-up to keep the system functional during a power outage are items that are anticipated. Money from the reserve fund would be available for emergency sewer fixes.

When City Manager Brad Haven prioritized projects for the use of SPLOST funds, sewer work was at the top of the list, using a large amount of the money that the city plans to receive from the tax. In discussions, it was suggested there are other sources of money for sewer repairs because the city has reserves for this purpose in the form of CDs. If the amount allocated for sewers from the SPLOST fund was reduced, it would leave more to be used in the construction of roads, sidewalks and buildings.

The city’s portion of this tax is expected to be $653,000. Attorney Oliver recommended that the project list be developed using a smaller amount and suggested that the city plan on receiving $600,000 to provide a cushion. The amount is conservatively based on zero percent growth, even though, he said it is reasonable to assume the collected taxes will grow three-four percent based on a proposed industrial park in Walker County.

This list must be as accurate as possible for items the money will provide. If it is specifically listed, and the amount of money for the project is not received, the city would have to levy an ad-valorem tax to cover the cost. Projects can, however, be referred to in general terms such as “improvements to the sewer system,” which would allow money to be moved from the sewer to another undertaking if need be.

This source of money is very valuable to Lookout Mountain, Ga., it was stated. Commissioner David Fussell mentioned an opposition group to SPLOST and the effect it would have on the city. It was stated that the city as a body cannot spend tax dollars to promote this tax, but it would be allowed to educate residents and send out a flyer about the importance of voting for it, and what projects that money has been budgeted for.

The next meeting of the city council is Aug. 15. That is the deadline for finalizing and giving the projects list to Walker County. County officials will then put the information together from all cities involved. The next step will be to come to an intergovernmental agreement between the county and cities concerning the money. In the past, the split has been based on population. Once that occurs, all the information will be sent to the Board of Elections to create a ballot for the Nov. 5 election.

In other business, on second reading, the city council unanimously approved an ordinance to rezone a portion of the parking lot at the Methodist Church to the “community convenience zone.” This will allow Dr. Bill Moore Smith to build an office on the mountain.

The council members met in executive session following the public meeting, to discuss the sale of cityowned property.

 


Family Makes Treasure Trove Of Early Chattanooga Photographs Available For Book; Stokes Collection Has Been Passed Down To Descendants

A treasure trove of Chattanooga photographs that have been passed down in the Stokes family for generations has now been assembled in an upcoming book. Chattanooga Around The Turn Of The Century: The Remarkable Stokes Collection will be published by Chattanoogan.com. Pre-orders are now being taken for the book, which includes over 700 photos on large-size pages. Publisher ... (click for more)

Woman Shot While Driving On 4th Avenue, Drives Herself To Hospital

Chattanooga Police were called to a local hospital Wednesday evening after a woman arrived with a gunshot wound.  Lakita Bowling, 36, told investigators she was driving her car on 4th Avenue when an unknown suspect fired a single round at her vehicle.   Ms. Bowling realized she had been shot and drove herself to a local hospital.  Chattanooga Police ask anyone ... (click for more)

Leaders Lead On Amendment 1

This week the Hamilton County Commission was faced with what I believe may be one of the most important votes they have cast during their tenure.  Granted, the vote was over a "mere" Resolution that resulted in no overt action or new law in our county.  But there are times when simply speaking Truth and taking a stand on a foundational Principle is paramount and as such ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Expert Reasons Why To Vote

Early voting for the November election begins two weeks from today so please jump-start your plans that will assure your choices will be counted. In a fun-filled attempt to show what some of those who actually vote do during the rest of the day, I offer two examples of “those who live among us” from experts. The first are a series of questions from readers of “Dear Abby” who ask ... (click for more)

East Hamilton Personnel Losses Boost Other 5-AAA Hoop Teams

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – East Hamilton’s loss has been solid gains for two other basketball teams in District 5-AAA and Ringgold, Ga. One of the Hurricanes’ top players, Kenny Bunton, left the program two days after Rodney English replaced fired Michael Stone and transferred to Walker Valley where he will play for coach Bob Williams’ Mustangs. “I took the job in March and two days ... (click for more)

John Shearer: Memories Of Watching 38 Baylor-McCallie Games

Back in the fall of 1971 when I was in the sixth grade at Bright School, I listened on the radio to the exciting football game between Baylor and McCallie schools, the first since the series had been discontinued after 1940. I was hoping to attend Baylor School as a student the next year, so I was quite excited that Baylor won, 9-7.  And the next year as a seventh-grader, ... (click for more)