Walker County Commission Candidates Give Ideas For Improving Rossville

Friday, October 14, 2016 - by Gail Perry
Walker County Commissioner candidates answered questions on how to improve Rossville. From left are Shannon Whitfield, Bebe Heiskell and Perry Lamb.
Walker County Commissioner candidates answered questions on how to improve Rossville. From left are Shannon Whitfield, Bebe Heiskell and Perry Lamb.
- photo by Heidi Moore

A forum was held Thursday night for the three candidates running for Walker County’s Sole Commissioner. The question and answer session was sponsored by the Wilson Road Neighborhood Group whose mission is to revitalize north Walker County, Ga. The group is concerned with property values, codes enforcement, trash on roads and support for existing businesses as well as bringing in new businesses. The area has many houses that have been abandoned or burned and property that is considered a public nuisance.

In an effort to make change happen, the WRNG has created “Helping Hands,” a group of volunteers who are helping to clean up the area hoping to promote a sense of pride. 

 

The questions given to each candidate prior to the meeting reflected the issues of greatest concern.

 

What is the shape and condition of North Walker County and the communities in the area?

Commissioner Bebe Heiskell said that the only control county government has involves the unincorporated areas of Walker County that are not within a city limit. The condition of the county, she said is that there is a lot of disrepair and that she has remedies to help.

 

Perry Lamb also recognized the large amount of rundown and dangerous properties in the area which need the help of local government.

 

Shannon Whitfield said that things look in disrepair, but said he sees a lot of great people and opportunities to move forward.

 

What is the greatest asset of this area and what is the greatest liability?

Perry Lamb answered “the people.” When people stop caring, things fall apart, he said. This asset is also the greatest liability, he believes. Because North Walker County is so close to Chattanooga it offers a place to live with less tax burden, but this often contributes to the wrong type of people moving in. He said that he would work with Sheriff Steve Wilson’s department to assure they do not have a safe haven for drugs or violence.

 

Shannon Whitfield said the greatest asset is location, being close to Chattanooga, an interstate and rail system. He said people see run-down buildings. That appearance is only on the surface, he said, but appearance does need to change.

 

Bebe Heiskell told the crowd that if people want change, they must ask for help. The biggest asset in her view is the location being close to Chattanooga, but those who live in N. Georgia still have lower taxes and less traffic to deal with. Often when revitalization displaces people in Chattanooga, many end up in North Walker County, but that is not always a good thing, she said. However, she added, the sheriff’s department can take care of that.

 

Do you believe the current codes department is adequately handling the problems in North Walker County?

Shannon Whitfield said there is one codes enforcer and there is no way one person can tackle all the issues that have become rampant. He believes the county should hire more. He also said the county itself owns properties in the area that are not in compliance with codes, and that the county should set an example. He said a lot of people just need help or encouragement and some do not know they are out of compliance, while others just need a good kick.

 

Bebe Heiskell replied that some buildings the county has acquired just to tear down. Others owned by Walker County are targeted for renovation to be put back on the tax rolls. She feels that the codes enforcement is off balance because some businesses do not have to comply with codes since they were in existence before there were ever codes in Rossville and so are grandfathered in.  

 

Perry Lamb said codes enforcement will be given the equipment and manpower that is needed if he is elected and that it is important to have the buildings in compliance because run-down properties pull down property values all around them.

 

How will you attract new home owners and businesses to relocate?

Bebe Heiskell said people do not want to pay the six percent income tax and she would try to work with the state to, at least, reduce it. She would also work with the Walker County Development Authority to build a new shopping area. Ms. Heiskell also suggested having an owner’s covenant for property, which would not allow rentals.

 

Perry Lamb said to rid the city of dilapidated buildings and eyesores to make it more inviting.

 

Shannon Whitfield said, “We have to get our values back up by cleaning up and creating an environment that is pleasing, which should bring in businesses that would do the developing."

 

What can be done to help improve local, existing businesses?

They need to have nice store fronts, said Perry Lamb. Any help given in Rossville would have to be available all over the county, he said.

 

Shannon Whitfield said more gets done with less government interference.

 

Bebe Heiskell said the Development Authority is a tool and very fair. She said if all shopping was together, more people would likely use the stores.

 

The WRNG is working to help clean up the area, can the county help?

Shannon Whitfield said it is not the county’s role to take the lead, but it could help if the community is leading the project.

 

Bebe Heiskell said the county could help but, if its equipment was used, county employees would have to operate it because of liability.

 

Perry Lamb would buy a brush truck that would pick up brush and trash curbside and take to a landfill.

 

In the future how would you stay in touch and communicate with this group?

Bebe Heiskell said she would set up community meetings but they would only be beneficial if people come.

 

Perry Lamb said his job would be to listen

 

Shannon Whitfield said he would commit to be at the meetings that are held by the WRNG or any community group.

 

What is your plan to encourage economic growth?

Shannon Whitfield said first this community has to be an inviting place and that the county government could encourage compliance with codes. Then the government should get out of the way. Business development and projects such as tourist attractions should not be done with tax money, he said.

 

Bebe Heiskell said the first thing needed is to bring the median income up. People with good paying jobs, such as the ones provided at the county’s new industrial park, is the result of investing in the county. She said that retail businesses will come only when they believe people can pay for what the stores sell.

 

Perry Lamb again emphasized that an inviting environment is needed. He would also work with the Walker County Development Authority. He said housing prices need to rise to encourage companies to invest in the area.

 

 

 


Latest Hamilton County Arrest Report

Renowned Chattanooga Musical Director Glenn Draper Dies

Online Petition Starts To Save Old Oak, Cherry Trees At Site Of Major St. Elmo Project


Here is the latest Hamilton County arrest report: AARON, TAMMY RENEE 2425 ASHMORE AVE APT 9 RED BANK, 37415 Age at Arrest: 49 years old Arresting Agency: Red Bank THEFT (UNDER 1000) ... (click for more)

Renowned Chattanooga musical director Glenn Draper has died at his residence at Alexian Village on Signal Mountain. Mr. Draper came to Chattanooga in 1968 and spent more than 30 years as director ... (click for more)

An online petition urges a developer to save some large old trees at the site of a major project planned in St. Elmo's business district. The petition asks that a "giant oak and row of cherry ... (click for more)


Breaking News

Latest Hamilton County Arrest Report

Here is the latest Hamilton County arrest report: AARON, TAMMY RENEE 2425 ASHMORE AVE APT 9 RED BANK, 37415 Age at Arrest: 49 years old Arresting Agency: Red Bank THEFT (UNDER 1000) THEFT (UNDER 1000) --- BARBEE, JOSHUA 250 FISHER LANE DECATUR, 37322 Age at Arrest: 32 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County POSSESSION OF DRUG PARAPHERNALIA SIMPLE POSSESSION ... (click for more)

Renowned Chattanooga Musical Director Glenn Draper Dies

Renowned Chattanooga musical director Glenn Draper has died at his residence at Alexian Village on Signal Mountain. Mr. Draper came to Chattanooga in 1968 and spent more than 30 years as director of Choral Activities and professor of Music at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and director of Music at First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga. During his illustrious ... (click for more)

Opinion

Rhonda Thurman: More Money Won't Fix The Problems In The Hamilton County Schools - And Response

“For the Children”, “Invest in our future”, “Our children deserve a first class education”, “Our teachers make less than all the counties around us”, “It will only cost a latte a day or a night a week eating out”, these statements show up at HCDE school budget time as sure as, “Have a nice day” at the bank, “My pleasure” at Chick-fil-a and “Thank you for shopping at Walmart”. These ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: What The Indians Knew

‘Flea’ Chambliss, who was a hale-and-hearty friend for my entire life, died at the age of 81 last week and, when the funeral is held at Lookout Mountain’s Church of the Good Shepherd this coming Tuesday (3:30 p.m.), you can bet some glorious stories will be told. After all, ‘Flea’ was indeed a Chambliss – their family Bible proclaiming he was regally known as John Alexander Chambliss ... (click for more)

Sports

CFC Avenges Earlier Loss To Georgia Revolution With 2-1 Win On The Road

With the score between Chattanooga Football Club and the Georgia Revolution tied at one a piece, the saying “it’s sometimes better to be lucky than good” most certainly applied to Chattanooga’s second goal of the game as CFC avenged an earlier loss. It all started with a lackluster clearance by Georgia off of a Chattanooga throw in. The ball flew out to CFC’s sturdy defender ... (click for more)

Mangels Erases Richmond In Red Wolves' 1st Road Win, 2-0

With 83 minutes gone by and a 1-0 lead in his pocket, goalkeeper Andrew Mangels just needed to defend his net for a few more minutes. Those minutes were fraught with danger though, as the Richmond Kickers mounted attack after attack in a desperate effort to equalize the score. But the Red Wolves came out on top for their first road win. The latest onslaught came on a long pass ... (click for more)