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Former City Councilman Earl Gray, left, shown with Jack Goodlet, owner of Park Place Restaurant, says Mayor Lynn Long is making up allegations against him for the November election.
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Fort Oglethorpe Mayor Lynn Long says former Councilman Earl Gray wanted to give important city property to Catoosa County.

Georgia municipal elections

Fort Oglethorpe

Mayor: Judd Burkhart, Lynn Long (Incumbent) and Earl Gray

Ward 1 Council Seat: Steve Lanier, Rhonda James and Clay Kissner

Ward 2 Council Seat: Tracy Bass, Jim Childs and Harold Silcox

Ward 4 Council Seat: Derek Rogers (Incumbent) (Unopposed)

Ringgold

Mayor: Tony Hullender, Paul Lee, Nick Millwood and Jerry Payne

City Council: Larry C. Black, Kelly Bomar, Sara S. Clark, Terry Crawford (Incumbent), Earl Henderson (Incumbent), Mark Higgs and Ray Reavely

* Three City Council seats available. This is an at-large election. The three top vote getters join the council.

Walker County

E-SPLOST Referendum

Chickamauga

Mayor: Ray Crowder (incumbent) (unopposed)

Council: Daymon Garrett (incumbent), Lee Miller and James Dale Powell

* Two seats available. Both for top vote-getters.

School Board: David Askew (incumbent), Grant Parrish (incumbent) and James W. Powell

* Two seats available. Both for top vote-getters

LaFayette

Ward 3 Council Seat: Judy Meeks (incumbent) (unopposed)

Ward 4 Council Seat: Chris Davis (incumbent) (unopposed)

At-large Council Seat: Wayne Swanson (incumbent) (unopposed)

Lookout Mountain

Council: Jim Sabourin (incumbent) (unopposed)

Council: Taylor Watson (incumbent) (unopposed)

Rossville

Mayor: Teddy Harris (incumbent) (unopposed)

Council: Rick Buff (incumbent), Michael Hicks and William Rose

* Two seats available. Top two vote getters receive seats.

Trenton

Mayor: Anthony Emmanuel (incumbent) and Alex Case

Street Commissioner: James Emmett and Monda Wooten

Fire and Utilities Commissioner: Jerry Henegar (unopposed)

Chattooga County

SPLOST (sales tax) referendum

Lyerly

Council: Gwen Fisher (incumbent) (unopposed)

Council: Nobody

* Lyerly’s council is supposed to consist of four members, plus a mayor. Currently, there are three council members. It will stay that way.

Menlo

Mayor: Theresa Canada (incumbent) (unopposed)

Council Seat 1: Chuck Powell (incumbent) (unopposed)

Council Seat 2: Virginia Welch (incumbent) (unopposed)

Summerville

Council Seat 3: Aubrey Dale Housch (incumbent) and Earl H Parris

Council Seat 4: Sammy Joe Money Jr. (incumbent) (unopposed)

Council Seat 5: Charles R. Bennett and Zachary D Martin (incumbent)

Trion

Council Seat 4: Thomas Benn (incumbent) Linda Ingle and James Russell

Council Seat 5: Garrick Evans, Donald Harris and Johnny Simmons

School Board 4: Kari Maddux (incumbent) (unopposed)

School Board 5: Joe Middleton (incumbent) (unopposed)

The first public tiff in the Fort Oglethorpe mayoral race involves 42 acres of land that disappeared off the city tax rolls two years ago.

Fomer city councilman Earl Gray wanted to give the property, on Battlefield Parkway next to Dietz Road, to the Catoosa County government. Either that, or Gray wanted to do everything he could to keep the property.

It really depends on who you ask — and who you believe.

The issue first arose in early 2013. Executives at Northwest Georgia Bank, which owns those 42 acres, asked Catoosa County commissioners if they would take the property from Fort Oglethorpe, assuming the state legislature approved the move. The request was made in hopes of helping a potential developer who wanted to sell liquor on Sundays from the land, an option that was forbidden in Fort Oglethorpe at the time. The county's leaders said yes.

Then, in February 2013, according to meeting minutes, Gray made a motion to discuss and perhaps approve the plan to slide that property from the city to the county. That motion died when no other council member seconded it — not that it mattered.

State Sen. Jeff Mullis, a former Fort Oglethorpe city employee, authored legislation a month later to amend the city's boundaries and seal the deal.

Fast forward two years, and Fort Oglethorpe Mayor Lynn Long brought the issue up again on local access station UCTV on the night of Aug. 25. He reminded viewers that Gray, who is now running against him in the Nov. 3 mayoral race, made that motion to get rid of the land.

Long has argued that losing this land cost the city tax revenue. He wants this to be a key issue in the election.

But as Long brought this up on TV, a viewer called in: it was Gray. The former councilman, who claims he has not talked to Long for more than half an hour during their five years in city government together, then debated Long on the air for about four minutes.

Yes, Gray conceded: He made that motion about getting rid of the property. But he said he would never have actually voted to give it to Catoosa County. He merely wanted to discuss the issue, publicly, while a vice president for Northwest Georgia Bank sat in front of them at the council meeting.

"The most disappointing thing that I had was that one of the city council members that I served with made a motion to remove that 42 acres," Long told his viewers.

"That's not what happened at all, and you know it," Gray told Long.

Gray told the Times Free Press that Northwest Georgia Bank wanted the transfer of property out of the city because a developer offered to buy the land from the bank and turn it into a supermarket and two restaurants.

But, Gray said, the developer couldn't pull this off if Sunday alcohol sales were illegal. So, with help from the state legislature, Catoosa County would annex the land. Even after Catoosa County took the land, however, the deal fell through.

On TV last month, Long said everybody involved should have known the development wasn't going to happen. The prospective supermarket chain, which he did not name, was not interested in the Battlefield Parkway location because it was too close to another one of its stores.

"That dog wasn't going to hunt," Long said. "But people like to say all these grand things about, 'It's going to fall out of the sky and hit you in the head.' But it don't."

Gray, however, now says he was never interested in giving the property to Catoosa County. He just wanted to open the issue up for discussion to ask the bank's vice president how the city could take the property back — if the development deal ever fell through.

"The man could have given us some vital information," Gray said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a third candidate has emerged in the mayoral race. Judd Burkhart, who served as mayor from 2001-08, hopes to reclaim his seat. He said voters should bring him back because during his tenure, the city developed strip malls, built a new city hall, constructed sidewalks on Battlefield Parkway, established a walking trail near city hall, expanded the swimming pool in Gilbert-Stephenson Park and refurbished baseball fields at Barnhardt Circle.

He also said he's running because candidates have acted uglier toward each other since he left.

He pointed out the time the elected officials voted to oust Charles Sharrock from the council in 2012, and the time the city manager said he was forced to resign in March 2013. That was followed by a new city manager, who fired the police chief and the public works director within a day.

"The people just want everybody to get along and be ethical and professional," Burkhart said. "We are a city of ethics."

Contact Staff Writer Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6476.

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