A Superior Court Judge is asking to be paid and for eight months of back pay


A Superior Court Judge is asking to be paid and for eight months of back pay.

Chris Arnt, a Superior Court Judge with the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit, addressed the Walker County Commission regarding the lack of pay received from Walker County since becoming a Judge in March of this year. Arnt explained that the four Superior Court Judges are paid a base pay by the state and then the counties in their jurisdiction pay a supplement. The amount of supplement each county pays is based on the census and size of the county. Currently the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit is one of the busier districts and qualifies for a fifth Judge based on caseload, but is 48th out of 50 circuits in pay and Arnt is the lowest paid Judge in the state. Arnt also spoke about a proposal at the state level that would potentially increase the salary of judges in the state and decrease the  current disparity in pay for Judges throughout the state through a salary study and using a formula.

“I am not asking for more,” Arnt said. “I am just asking for my supplement and to get paid.”

Commissioner Chairman Shannon Whitfield asked Arnt what their base pay was and Arnt said $126,500 and that can be $6,000 higher for Judges who do accountability/mental health court, of which the Lookout Mountain circuit has two and is required for certain grant funds. Whitfield said there was a disparity in what the four counties, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, and Walker were paying for the supplements. Whitfield mentioned an email he had recently sent to Arnt with a proposed lower supplement based on the most recent census. Whitfield said Arnt had agreed with the lower amount.

Arnt said he had agreed that looked right based on the numbers, but that he also said it could not be just him that received a lower supplement from Walker, it would have to be all the Judges and out couldn’t be just one county changing their supplement, it would have to be all four. Arnt explained that other positions in the circuit , like the District Attorneys, reworked their supplements every ten years with the census results and he felt the counties should have a Memorandum of Understanding that they would adjust the supplements for the Judges as needed every ten years with the census results as well. As far as he could tell nothing had been done regarding the portions of the supplements that were paid by each county in over 30 years when the supplements were first set up. Based on the current census information Catoosa should go up while Walker, Dade, and Chattooga went down.

Commissioner Askew asked if there was an amount currently agreed and received an affirmative answer. Askew said the county needed to pay Arnt, get his pay caught up, and figure out the supplement changes later. Arnt was doing his job and the county needed to get him caught up in pay.

Commissioners heard more concerns regarding spot zoning and liquor stores from citizens during public input. Melissa Hulsey spoke regarding the re-zoning for purpose of a liquor store at what is known as Yank’s. Hulsey said after and earlier meeting with Commissioners she was going to table her comments until she hears the Commissioner’s proposal.

Zack Chapman asked about how long it took to prepare the Comprehensive Plan the county follows. The process was explained by Whitfield. The citizen asked the Commission to stick with that plan regarding zoning. The citizen also mentioned the irony of having a vote on a zone change for a liquor store on the agenda along with a proclamation to the state and Governor asking for more help for mental health and substance abuse disorders.

Jill Basham spoke against the proposal which would allow a liquor store at Yank’s in the Crossroads Community. Basham asked “to what greater good” would the zoning change be.

Commissioner Askew asked to address the concerns voiced by those speaking in opposition of the zoning change in the Crossroads Community. Askew said the proposed zoning change resolution would not be spot zoning. The Comprehensive Plan has the Crossroads Community zoned as commercial and residential and not agriculture  Askew said they are listening to the concerns and are working on a way to work with the citizens in the community. The commission does plan to follow the Comprehensive Plan which has the Crossroads Community planned for “One, commercial; two, residential; and three, public” (like schools and government buildings).

Walker County Commissioners presented a lifesaving commendation to first responders for a call where bystanders initiated CPR, first responders continued CPR and used and AED so that there was return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) before the patient was transported by EMS to the nearest appropriate facility.

Commissioners approved a Proclamation for Veteran’s Day on November 11, 2023; a Resolution to the state and Governor requesting better mental health and substance abuse services; tabled the zoning change from CN to C-1 for Yank’s at 9180 W Hwy. 136, Chickamauga, GA until changes can be made in the county’s liquor ordinance; approved the application for a cell tower on Hwy 136 across from Fort Villanow; and a resolution for a burn ban to be put in place for Walker County until December 14 at 4:59 pm.

By: Summer Kelly