One Walker

Walker County Messenger - - Front Page -

Fes­ti­val in the fall and Christ­mas in the Streets. In ad­di­tion to the sea­sonal activities, Miller said the city holds monthly movies-un­der­the-stars nights at the Hol­landWat­son Park and First Fri­day con­certs.

Ad­ding to the mix of activities, Miller said the Ten­nessee Val­ley Rail­road Mu­seum makes the town a stop on its reg­u­lar steam train ex­cur­sions and the Iron­man brings that triathlon com­pe­ti­tion’s cy­cling leg through town twice each year.

“What’ll it be like in the future?” he asked, be­fore de­scrib­ing plans — de­vel­oped in con­junc­tion with the Carl Vinson In­sti­tute of Gov­ern­ment — for sus­tain­able growth.

While Miller’s de­scribed a vi­sion, a pos­si­bil­ity for the future, Day spoke about brick-and-mor­tar mod­ern­iza­tion cur­rently un­der­way at two of the city’s three schools.

The su­per­in­ten­dent ex­plained how vot­ers, by a 3-1 mar­gin, in 2016 ap­proved a referendum to one school and re­vamp the other.

Day said that the day af­ter the school year ended, the mid­dle school’s in­te­rior was razed and its to­tal re­fur­bish­ment was be­gun. She said crews are work­ing long hours and week­ends to as­sure the project is com­pleted within an eight-week time frame — the school must be ready be­fore classes re­sume.

Con­struc­tion of a re­place­ment for the high school be­gan last year and will con­tinue un­til the sec­ond se­mes­ter of the 2017-18 school year.

This year’s high school class will start in the old school and be the first to grad­u­ate from the new build­ing, Day said.

In ad­di­tion to de­mo­li­tion of the old and con­struc­tion of the new, Gor­don Lee had its eval­u­a­tion, given ev­ery five years, for state ac­cred­i­ta­tion, she said. Day said those do­ing the eval­u­a­tion were so im­pressed with the school and its progress that they asked to at­tend ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­monies when con­struc­tion of the new high school is com­plete.

While the school su­per­in­ten­dent has been deal­ing with con­struc­tion dis­rup­tion for about a year, Walker County Com­mis­sioner Shan­non Whit­field, dur­ing the six months since his swear­ing in, has been try­ing to bring or­der to the county’s chaotic fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion.

Among the most ex­cit­ing things to oc­cur has been a pri­vate de­vel­oper’s com­mit­ment to in­vest more than $100 mil­lion to build Canyon Ridge Re­sort atop Lookout Moun­tain.

“This will be the great­est sin­gle in­vest­ment in the county’s his­tory,” Whit­field said. “This will be a real ‘shot in the arm’ for Walker County.”

The com­mis­sioner said “ev­ery­thing is mov­ing for­wards” and that de­vel­oper Duane Horton is in the process of se­cur­ing fi­nanc­ing and work­ing out de­tails that will al­low con­struc­tion to com­mence.

But the “desti­na­tion re­sort” might not be the only bright spot on the county’s hori­zon. Whit­field said sev­eral other— ones he de­scribed as ‘tire kick­ers’ — com­pa­nies con­tinue to look to­ward Walker County as a place to ei­ther build or re­lo­cate a busi­ness.

But new in­dus­try will only come af­ter a pro­tracted pe­riod of ne­go­ti­a­tions, and the newly in­stalled com­mis­sioner must deal with a myr­iad of prob­lems that need im­me­di­ate ac­tion.

Whit­field de­scribed his job as, “Try­ing to iden­tify prob­lems and find so­lu­tions.”

Among the most press­ing prob­lems, at least at the time of the One Walker lun­cheon, is ad­dress­ing is­sues of wa­ter in­fil­tra­tion into the waste wa­ter sew­ers and the huge fi­nan­cial bur­den that places on the county.

Each month, Walker County Wa­ter and Sew­er­age Author­ity buys about 12 mil­lion gal­lons of wa­ter from Ten­nessee Amer­i­can Wa­ter Com­pany for use in the north­ern end of the county. But the county is now be­ing billed for wa­ter re­turned for treat­ment at the Moc­casin Bend Waste­water Treat­ment Plant, which means the county will be charged for 103 mil­lion gal­lons.

Whit­field said “we can’t live with­out wa­ter” so ad­dress­ing ag­ing in­fras­truc­ture as it re­lates to waste wa­ter treat­ment must be apri­or­ity, but it is only one among many prob­lems fac­ing lead­ers of lo­cal gov­ern­ment, whether at the mu­nic­i­pal, county, state or na­tional level.

“This (job) is the ul­ti­mate chal­lenge,” he said.

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