Speed limit in front of Saddle Ridge Elementary drops

Shannon Whitfield
Shannon Whitfield
photo Shannon Whitfield

LAFAYETTE, Ga. - After a series of complaints from residents, the speed limit in front of Saddle Ridge Elementary and Middle School will drop at the beginning and end of the school day.

Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield announced during Thursday's meeting that the speed limit in a three-tenths of a mile stretch in front of the school will be 45 mph from 7-8 a.m. at the beginning of classes and from 2-3 p.m. at the end of classes. That is a 10 mph drop from the current rate.

Since 2014, according to Walker County 911 call logs, 11 crashes have occurred in front of the school, which is located in Rock Spring on Highway 27. Two crashes in January prompted some residents to request a change, arguing the school's location on the highway tempts too many drivers to speed through the area.

Sheriff Steve Wilson asked the Georgia Department of Transportation to allow the county to change the rate, a move a DOT region representative approved. Whitfield said drivers will see flashing school zone signs on both sides of Saddle Ridge, alerting them to the speed limit drop.

Meanwhile, the speed limit on Round Pond Road, located east of the LaFayette City Reservoir, is increasing from 35 to 45 mph.

Landfill changes

After increasing rates earlier this year, the Walker County landfill has lost three customers from Chattanooga.

Paine Gily, the landfill manager, said Thursday he doesn't know how the loss of business will hurt the county's bottom line. The new rates on the landfill went into affect at the beginning of the month. He's not sure how the boosted revenue from the clients who stuck around will compare to the losses from the three businesses that bailed.

Gily is also not yet sure what volume of trash those three clients accounted for. It's possible, he argued, that loss of business could help the county long term, because the landfill may fill up slower.

The landfill was a point of contention during last year's election. Audits showed the operation was losing $500,000 per year, and Whitfield argued the operation should at least be closer to breaking even. His predecessor, Bebe Heiskell, said the landfill was not actually losing money, despite what the audit said. She did not explain the discrepancies between her opinion and that of the auditors.

Gily, who joined the county this year, said he has added a couple policies that he hopes will save the landfill money. Before buying any equipment, like excavator teeth and replacement parts for the landfill's heavy machinery, the staff now has to receive prices from three different sellers. Also, the county has sent out a request for proposals from companies seeking the contract to haul off the county's household trash.

The landfill hosts construction and demolition equipment, and the material used to build houses, like wood. As for people's everyday trash, the county receives it at the landfill, and another company drives it to a different landfill in a different county.

"We're happy with the current provider," Gily said. "But this is just a measure to see what other numbers are out there."

Juvenile Court

County workers are also trying to convert the abandoned tax and tag office into the home for Juvenile Court. The office, located on the corner of Main and Napier streets in LaFayette, was abandoned after Heiskell moved workers to a converted bank building in Rock Spring in 2014.

Juvenile court employees need more space, Whitfield said, and county workers are trying to put together a potential floodplan, which would include a place for the court itself, as well as a play place for children and a space for Department of Family and Children's Services representatives.

The commissioner said he wants to apply for a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's rural development agency to cover some of the cost of the work.

Contact Staff Writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.

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