Walker County Gears Up for Weather Preparedness and Reports Record Growth in 2023


Community Weather Awareness Event in Walker County on February 3rd

In an effort to bolster community preparedness for severe weather conditions, Walker County Emergency Management is organizing a free weather awareness event scheduled for this Saturday, February 3rd. The event will take place at the Cedar Grove Community Center located at 5395 West Cove Road in Chickamauga, running from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Residents are encouraged to attend and gain valuable insights from first responders on protective measures for themselves and their families during severe weather events. The focus will be on the advantages of using a weather radio and the county’s SirenGPS notification system. Free weather radios will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Blake Hodge, the Emergency Management Director, expressed the importance of early notification announcements in partnership with the Cedar Grove community. The hope is to extend such initiatives to other communities within Walker County throughout the year.

First responders will be present to assist attendees in programming weather radios, setting up the SirenGPS app on smartphones for text and notifications from the National Weather Service, and helping those without smartphones register for automated phone call alerts on landlines.

As an additional service during the event, Walker County Fire Rescue will be scheduling appointments to install free smoke alarms. Over the past five years, the department has installed more than 1,800 free smoke alarms in collaboration with the American Red Cross of Northwest Georgia, proving to be a lifesaving endeavor.

The event coincides with the Cedar Grove Community Club’s Wild Game Supper, a drop-in dinner starting at 6:00 p.m. with admission fees of $15 for adults and $5 for children.

Board of Commissioners Announces Changes and Elections for 2024

At the initial meeting of the new year, the Walker County Board of Commissioners addressed several administrative matters, electing District 2 Commissioner Mark Askew as vice chair for 2024. The board also revised its meeting schedule, moving the start time to 6:30 p.m. for the second and fourth Thursday of each month at Courthouse Annex III, 201 South Main Street in LaFayette. The next meeting is slated for Thursday, February 8, at the new time.

Qualifying fees for county offices in the upcoming 2024 general primary and general election were set at 3% of the minimum salary for the office. Positions on the ballot include the chair, district 3, and district 4 seats on the Board of Commissioners, as well as sheriff, tax commissioner, clerk of courts, and several judicial positions. Candidate qualifying will be open from March 4 through March 8, and interested individuals can find more information at walkercountyelections.com.

In addition, the Board of Commissioners is actively seeking applicants for the Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Planning Commission, both of which convene once a month. Those interested in serving the community are invited to submit applications at walkercountyga.gov/serve, with qualifications and responsibilities detailed in the county code – Chapter 4 for Alcohol and Chapter 22 for Planning.

Record Growth in New Home Construction in 2023

Despite challenges such as high interest rates and inflation affecting the housing market nationwide, Walker County experienced record growth in new home construction in 2023. The Walker County Planning Office issued 352 permits for the construction of new single-family homes, marking an impressive 148% increase over 2022.

Chairman Shannon Whitfield emphasized the strategic importance of attracting new housing to stimulate the county’s sales tax base, as retail tends to follow increased residential development. The majority of new home constructions occurred in unincorporated areas near Rossville, LaFayette, and Chickamauga.

The average size of a new home contracted slightly to 2,457 square feet in 2023 from 2,691 in 2022, contributing to a lower average construction cost of $243,060 compared to $273,096 per home in 2022. The total valuation of all homes built in 2023 in unincorporated Walker County exceeded $85 million, more than double the investment made in 2022.

Record Ridership for Walker County Transit in 2023

Walker County Transit, the public transportation service, reported its highest ridership numbers on record in 2023. The service rebounded from a ridership decline during the pandemic, making 30,456 trips last year, a remarkable 9% increase over 2022 and 65% from 2021.

Amanda Shropshire, Walker Transit Director, attributed the growth to factors such as population increase, greater awareness of transit services, and more in-person trips for medical appointments. The Roper route, designated for Roper Corporation employees, also contributed significantly to the increased ridership.

Walker Transit operates from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and reservations can be made by calling (706) 375-0803 at least one day prior to a trip, with a one-way transportation cost of $4 per person.

Preparations Underway for Presidential Preference Primary

The Walker County Board of Elections & Registration, administered by Probate Judge Christy Anderson, welcomed three members, Scott Conner, Keith Edwards, and Eddie Upshaw, who took the oath of office on January 11. The board discussed preparations for the March 12, 2024 Presidential Preference Primary at their monthly meeting.

Early voting is set to begin at the Walker County Courthouse (103 S Duke Street, LaFayette) on February 19. Additional dates, times, and locations are available on the graphic provided.

Completion of Dougherty Gap Road Rockfall Mitigation Project

The rockfall mitigation project on Dougherty Gap Road is nearing completion. Initiated in response to a rock slide near the top of Lookout Mountain over Thanksgiving weekend, the project involved removing loose rocks and securing the rock ledge with bolts.

While the road has reopened, motorists are urged to exercise caution in the area, with warning signs posted in both directions. For a visual overview of the work, viewers can access the Walker This Week episode.

Last Call for the 2033 Note to Self Time Capsule

There is just one day left to contribute to the 2033 Note to Self time capsule. Letters are being accepted through 11:50 p.m. on January 31 for inclusion in the time capsule, which will remain sealed until the county’s 200th birthday.

Letters can be submitted digitally at walkercountyga.gov/timecapsule and may include observations of life in Walker County today, reflections on growing up, lessons learned, advice for the future, or aspirations for the next decade.

Successful Culvert Replacements along Glentana Road and Villanow Mill Creek Road

The replacement of failing culverts along Glentana Road and Villanow Mill Creek Road has been successfully completed. The county invested $482,000 in installing new box culverts on both roads, enhancing infrastructure and ensuring community safety.