Price finds check
With Hamilton County schools closed Friday because of weather-related power outages at a number of schools, Signal Mountain football coach Bill Price found time to cut his grass. As he was cutting he found a check in his Signal Mountain yard from a family in Cullman, Ala., made out to Wal-Mart.
"It had been wet, but it was fairly dry when I found it," he said. "I have it in the house. I tried to contact them but couldn't get through. I got a recording that all services were out. I hope they're all right. I plan to keep trying."
Cullman, one of the communities hit hard by Wednesday's tornadoes, is about 150 miles from Signal Mountain.
Officials impacted by storm
Hamilton County Trustee Bill Hullander's family took a tremendous blow during Wednesday's tornadoes. Hullander's son, Matt, said at least five of the deaths in Apison were people related to the Hullander family.
"Five of them for sure were cousins," Matt Hullander said.
Matt Hullander said his father's farm in Apison also took a hit, saying the storm destroyed three large barns.
"It's one of those things you won't forget," Bill Hullander said.
During their regular meeting Thursday, Hamilton County commissioners reflected on tornadoes that devastated their community.
"Jan, my wife, worked third shift in the trauma unit," Commissioner Tim Boyd said. "She said it was the worst night ever in 33 years. An individual that was working there ... lost his daughter in Ringgold last night."
"To the first responders, a special prayer to them as they go through the rubble that's out there," County Mayor Jim Coppinger said. "It's incredible, the devastation. Let's continue to pray for them, for the ones that may be out there that are alive that are simply trapped, that can't get out."
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the families, especially our Trustee Bill Hullander who lost family members in this disaster," Commissioner Greg Beck said. "I had one fatality in my district, as well."
Commissioner Joe Graham urged people who don't live in the area to stay away while the rescuers and first responders continue their work. Graham said he had to dig his wife's grandmother out of her house in Lookout Valley.
Commissioner Chester Bankston was shaken by his experience. He said he took refuge in a building while visiting Alabama.
"I got caught in the middle of a huge tornado in Guntersville, Ala.," Bankston said. "Only the hand of the Lord brought me back. The building should've been destroyed."
Johnson calls county whiners
Dan Johnson, chief of staff for Mayor Ron Littlefield, went through a slide presentation Thursday night with several agencies funded through the almost-defunct sales-tax agreement.
At one point, Johnson told the audience of agency heads that Littlefield brought the expiration of the agreement up two years ago during a County Commission meeting and the county did nothing.
The sales-tax agreement expires May 23.
"It didn't come up again until we told them we weren't going to renew it," Johnson said. "It got their attention. What did they do? They started whining."
He then went through a series of slides providing examples of county "whining."
The slides said the county started:
• "Whining to be excused from funding agencies that were not funded from sales tax ... "
• "Whining about the County Health Department funding ... "
• "Whining that Chattanooga dumped the schools on the county ... "
• "Whining that Chattanooga dumped the jails on the county ... "
Mayor Jim Coppinger, reached by the phone after the meeting, said the county never whined about those issues and only stated its position.
"What we did is what responsible leadership does," he said.
The formal name for the health department is the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department.
Dan Johnson, chief of staff for Mayor Ron Littlefield, kept going through his presentation Thursday night about the sales-tax agreement expiring.
At one point, he got to a slide that showed how and where the money for agencies was being spent. He showed a part of the slide that showed the library being funded by city sales tax and city property tax.
"Now what's happening here?" Johnson asked. "Chattanooga is funding 100 percent of the joint obligation. Not much joint there."
As he concluded his presentation, he asked if there were any questions.
"That's the end of all the boring stuff," Johnson said. "Jack Benson will answer all questions."
Councilman Benson was sitting in the audience, and the crowd laughed.
Staff writers Cliff Hightower, Dan Whisenhunt and Ward Gossett contributed to this story.