published Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

Sunday sales, council seats, sales tax on Georgia ballots Tuesday

VOTING HOURS

On Tuesday, polls will be open for voting in Georgia's general election from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In Catoosa County, the only polling place open will be in Fort Oglethorpe at Constitution Hall at 205 Forrest Road. All precincts will be open in Walker County for the SPLOST vote. Three cities will have voting in the following sites: LaFayette, at the senior citizens building at 636 S. Main St.; Chickamauga, the civic center at 1817 Clarkson Road; and Rossville, the civic center at 400 McFarland Ave.

Will Fort Oglethorpe voters approve Sunday alcohol sales? Will a slate of new council members there win the struggle for control of City Hall? Will Walker County voters renew a 1 cent per $1 special purpose local option sales tax that has spawned campaigns for and against it?

That and more will be decided Tuesday in Catoosa, Walker, Dade and Whitfield counties. It's an odd-year Election Day in Georgia, when municipal elections take the fore.

That's not the case, though, in two North Georgia cities -- Ringgold and Lookout Mountain -- which don't have to hold elections to fill offices, because not enough candidates were interested.

In Lookout Mountain, there are no challengers for incumbent Mayor Sandy Gothard or for City Council members David Bennett, Beth Soloff and David Fussell, who all seek re-election.

Only two candidates qualified for two open seats on the Ringgold City Council: incumbent councilman Randall Franks and Jake Haynes. The latter seeks the seat held by G. Larry Black, who didn't seek re-election after suffering a serious stroke.

Bitter battle in Fort O

Meanwhile, a bitter battle is underway in Fort Oglethorpe, sparked by the sitting City Council's controversial March 22 decision to force the resignation of then-City Manager Ron Goulart that was followed by the sudden firings of Police Chief David Eubanks and Public Works Director Jeff Long.

At least two contestants are running for each open seat. The Ward 2 contest features Earl Gray (incumbent) and Arlene Walker; in Ward 3, it's Louis Hamm (incumbent), Craig Crawford and Scott Chastain. The Ward 5 card is Clay Kissner (incumbent) and Paula G. Stinnett, whose father, Eddie Stinnett, held the seat before dying of a heart attack in November.

Gray, Crawford and Stinnett have lined up against the employees' dismissals.

Fort Oglethorpe Election Superintendent Orma Luckey said early voter turnout is at a record high for the election, which also includes giving voters a chance to approve Sunday sales of beer, wine and liquor by the glass and Sunday sales at stores of beer and wine.

SPLOST challenged

Voters in Walker County, both inside its cities and the unincorporated area, will decide whether to renew a special purpose local option sales tax levy of 1 cent per $1 of sales until 2019.

City and county government officials have put together their wish lists for millions of dollars in projects they'd like to see funded through the SPLOST, including new police and sheriff's patrol cars, road repaving and public works equipment.

The tax's supporters include the county, all of its cities and the Walker County Chamber of Commerce. But anti-SPLOST signs have sprung up, prepared by what is said to be the first organized opposition to the tax since it was first approved in 1987.

"The opponents don't seem to understand what is required for economic development," Yes4SPLOST committee Chairman Virgil Sperry said. One of the big-ticket items is $1.3 million for development of phase two of a county industrial park.

SPLOST opponents include G. Paul Shaw, who came within 211 votes of beating three-term county Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell in the July 2012 Republican primary. He said the sales tax is regressive.

"The people that can least afford an increase are the people in the lower income brackets," Shaw said this summer when the list of projects was released. "They have to pay a higher percentage of their income for this SPLOST."

Also in Walker County, city offices are up for grabs in LaFayette, Rossville, Chickamauga and Lookout Mountain.

In LaFayette, three candidates will compete to fill the mayor's seat being vacated by Neal Florence, who isn't seeking re-election after 23 years: incumbent Councilman Andy Arnold, Michael Lovelady and James H. Mashburn.

Three candidates want the Ward I seat being vacated by Andy Arnold: Beacher Garmany, Glenn Gunnells and Robert Wardlaw. In Ward 2, Ben Bradford (incumbent) is being challenged by Ronald M. Underwood.

In Rossville, two at-large seats are open. Incumbents Rick Buff and Joyce Wall face challenger William Larry Rose Jr.

In Chickamauga, three at-large City Council seats are open. Incumbents Randal Dalton and Evitte Parrish will face challengers James Dale Powell and Shannon Whitfield. City Recorder Juanita Crowder will run unopposed.

Three Chickamauga City Schools incumbents will run unopposed: Billy Neal Ellis, Janet Landers and D. Ashley "Corky" Jewell V.

Dade, Whitfield races

In Trenton, Ga., the seat of Dade County, incumbent City Clerk Lucretia Houts is unopposed. Incumbent Police Commissioner Sandra D. Gray faces challenger Tim Riddle. Incumbent Recreation and Parks Commissioner Terry Powell has a challenger, Holly E. Moore.

In Whitfield County, Tate O'Gwin will seek the Ward 2 Dalton City Council seat, and incumbent Ward 4 Councilman Gary Crews will be challenged by Jafar Ware.

For Dalton City Schools, Steve Laird has no opposition for one open seat while Sherwood Jones III and Pablo Perez will battle for another seat.

In Varnell, two candidates qualified to run for the mayor's seat, which is being vacated by Dan Peeples: Anthony Hulsey and David Owens. For Seat 2, Jan Pourquoi will face Michael Willocks.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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