Walker County Community Update: Sewer Redirection Project Begins and CHI Memorial Breaks Ground on New Hospital

Sewer Redirection Project Begins in Northern Walker County

Construction on a project to redirect sewer that currently flows to Chattanooga for treatment back to Chickamauga recently got underway. The Walker County Water & Sewerage Authority is investing $23-million to install nine-miles of new sewer lines, along with other infrastructure, in an effort to save $35-million over the next seven years.

The wastewater treatment plant in Chickamauga has the capacity to handle the additional flow and can treat the water for a significantly lower cost than Chattanooga’s Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment plant.

“The project itself will provide sewer services to areas that currently don’t have the ability to even be provided,” said Brandon Whitley, general manager, WCWSA. “This will get the main infrastructure in, so in the future, we can look for those additional projects to help areas that do have failing septic tanks or projects where monies are made available for utilities for a particular. That gives us the opportunity, once the mains are in, to provide those services to the citizens of the county.”

The system is built to take the regular flow of wastewater in the Fairview and Rossville areas to a lift station, which is a pump system, that will redirect the flow to Chickamauga. It has also been designed to utilize Moccasin Bend as a backup when flow exceeds the capacity of the lines, reducing the potential of a spill that could cause an environmental impact.

The project has been in the planning stages for the past five years and will result in a number of road closures, now that construction is underway. Work is scheduled for completion by mid-2025.

CHI Memorial Breaks Ground on New Hospital for North GA

Construction is now underway on a new hospital for Walker, Dade and Catoosa counties. CHI Memorial recently broke ground on a new $126-million facility that will feature 64 patient rooms, a 24-bed emergency department, an eight bed intensive care unit, five operating rooms and two endoscopy suites.

“This new hospital will be a beacon of hope,” said Janelle Reilly, market CEO, CHI Memorial. “The facility will connect with the Skillern Cancer Center that already exists and our CHI Memorial Parkway Medical Building to form a unified campus for both inpatient and outpatient services. It will enhance access and convenience for patients and ensure the highest quality care is delivered.”

“The patients that I care for here in my office on this campus appreciate being able to obtain cardiac services close to where they live and work,” said Dr. Aditya Mandawat. “When the new hospital opens, I am pleased to have access to advanced cardiac imaging, alongside the new
state-of-the-art emergency room that will allow us to rapidly assess patients experiencing chest pain, as well as other emergencies.”

The new hospital will replace an 80-year old facility that currently sits on the Walker-Catoosa county line. It is scheduled to open in late 2025.

Retire Your Tires Amnesty Day Returns April 20

Walker County residents will have a chance to participate in a community clean-up effort near Earth Day, as the county’s popular Retire Your Tires Amnesty Day returns. On Saturday, April 20th, the county will accept tires free of charge from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Walker County Landfill, 5120 N Marble Top Road, Chickamauga.

Since 2017, Walker County residents have disposed of 26,324 old car and light truck tires during amnesty events, including 3,643 last year. Those rubbery remains are sent to an approved recycling center and turned into things like industrial fuel or rubber mulch for landscaping and playground applications.

Car and light truck tires with wheel sizes 20-inches or smaller will be accepted during Retire Your Tires Amnesty Day, as well as ATV (all-terrain vehicle) tires. Tires must be dismounted from wheels. In addition, they must be dry and free of mud and debris. Tires with rims and large truck, tractor or heavy equipment tires are not eligible for amnesty. Landfill staff reserve the right to refuse any tires.

Retire Your Tires Amnesty Day is only for residents, not for commercial businesses. Proof of residency, such as a driver’s license or current utility bill, will be required to dispose of tires free of charge during the amnesty event. Those participating will also be required to unload their own tires and adhere to a limit of 16 tires per vehicle.

The entrance to the event will be at the transfer station, not the scale house, and there will be two lines. Cars and trucks with a small number of tires to recycle should follow the path marked by green arrows, while vehicles with utility trailers should follow the orange arrows to an offloading site below the transfer station. An exit will be established about halfway between the transfer station and the scale house.

The Retire Your Tires Amnesty Day event is made possible thanks to a $17,265 grant from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s Local Government Scrap Tire Abatement Reimbursement (STAR) Program. This grant reimburses Walker County for the cost of transporting and processing scrap tires. The grant is funded from Georgia’s Solid Waste Trust Fund, which consumers pay into when purchasing new tires in Georgia.

Walker County Receives $30,000 for Community Connectivity

$30,000 has been awarded to Walker County, Georgia from Connect Humanity, a nonprofit impact fund, to participate in the Appalachian Digital Accelerator, an initiative that supports communities as they create custom connectivity plans: roadmaps for improving internet connectivity that leads to new economic opportunities and healthier communities.

The timing of the Appalachian Digital Accelerator program is momentous. As of February, all states have a plan to address digital equity: the condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in society.

By planning internet connectivity at the municipal and county levels, local communities will have a strategy to connect with state and federal resources, such as the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program, that will come available for implementation later this year.

To implement the program in the greater Chattanooga region, Thrive Regional Partnership has partnered with Connect Humanity to provide project management and technical support to Walker County, along with Whitfield County and Bradley County in Tennessee. Each community will be working to create a connectivity plan that meets their broadband goals and prepares them for next-generation broadband networks.

“We are on a mission to ensure that residents of the tri-state have meaningful access to the internet to support their livelihoods and wellbeing,” said Shannon Millsaps, Chief Operating Officer of Thrive Regional Partnership. “With broadband deployment funds expected this fall, we are energized by this opportunity to partner with local communities across the region to address infrastructure challenges, affordability barriers, and digital skills gaps across the region.”

The counties were chosen by Connect Humanity, using following criteria, which guided the competitive selection process of 50 Appalachian communities:

  1. Community leadership,
  2. Financial capacity to manage a federal grant, and
  3. Connectivity needs of the area.

“High speed internet access is no longer a luxury,” said Joe Legge, public relations director, Walker County Government. “It’s a necessity for business, education, healthcare, emergency services, agriculture and our overall quality of life. The work produced by the Appalachian Digital Accelerator will bring us one step closer to our goal of becoming a Broadband Ready Community in Georgia.”

This work is supported by a subaward from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), led by Connect Humanity.

Partial Solar Eclipse to Impact Walker County

On Monday, April 8, a solar eclipse will cover a band of the United Stated stretching from Texas to Maine.

While Walker County will not be in the path of totality, we will experience a partial eclipse, with about 88% coverage. The partial eclipse will reach maximum coverage around 1:45 p.m., but light from the sun will start to be impacted around 12:30 p.m. and not return to normal until roughly 3:00 p.m.

Crescent shadows are expected to be visible with a pinhole projector or special eye protection. Those planning to experience the eclipse should remember that looking directly at the event with the naked eye can cause serious eye damage.

Unfortunately, after this celestial event, NASA says the next total solar eclipse that can be seen from the United States wont occur until August 2044.

Dates of Interest for May County Primary Election

The Walker County Board of Elections and Registration has released a timeline of important dates in preparation for the May General Primary Election.

Early voting begins Monday, April 29 at the Walker County Courthouse and will be available through May 17. Hours for early voting will be 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 4 and May 11.

Early voting satellite locations in Rock Spring, Rossville, Chickamauga and Fairyland open Saturday, May 11 and will also be available May 13 through May 17.

On Election Day, May 21, voting will be available at regular precinct locations from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Absentee ballots will start being mailed out on Tuesday, April 22 to those who request one. The last day to request an Absentee ballot is May 10. All Absentee ballots are due back by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day, May 21.

Annual Rabies Clinics Planned April 20 and April 27

Walker County Extension and Cornerstone Veterinarian Services have teamed up to provide low cost rabies clinics again this year.  Protect your family from a deadly disease by bringing your dog and/or cat to one of the locations listed below to be vaccinated.  The cost is just $15, cash only.  Vets will provide a certificate and tag.
Brief Items of Interest:

The annual audit of governmental and business-type activities of Walker County was presented to the Walker County Board of Commissioners during their March 14th meeting. The audit covers October 1, 2022 to September 30, 2023. The 112-page document, prepared by Rushton LLC, is available for community review on the county’s website.

Public Safety remains the largest categorical expense (39%), unchanged from FY2022.  Property taxes (27%) produced the largest categorical revenue source, outpacing sales tax, which was the FY2022 categorical leader.

New estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau list the population of Walker County at 69,489 people as of July 1, 2023. The new number reflects 1,779 additional residents since the 2020 census count for a 2.7% growth rate.

UGA Extension and Limestone Valley RC&D hosted a successful adopt a stream class recently in Walker County. 17 participants took part in the training that looked at how to monitor creeks for water quality. The adopt a stream program is a state of Georgia program. Funding for this class came from a clean water act grant focused on improving Chattanooga Creek in Walker County.