Walker County, Georgia (WDEF) — Walker county has a new sole commissioner for the first time in 16 years.
Oil company executive Shannon Whitfield defeated Bebe Heiskel and took office in January.
Whitfield admits his county is deep in debt and facing other financial problems.
“We do have a lot of debt. We’ve already had to borrow 4-million dollars back in January to meet our daily operational obligations–to be able to pay our bills,”says Commissioner Whitfield.
The new commissioner refuses to let existing problems put a cloud over the county.
He’s hopeful the annual audit now going on will help.
“We’ve already been able to cut about 700-thousand dollars in operational expenses in the first couple of months.”
Mountain Coves Farm has been draining resources. Will the county try to get rid of it?
Whitfield says, “Well, I’d love to be in a position to sell it right now that property has a 15-million dollar lien against it. So, we’re not really in a very good position to try to sell it. There’s a lot of residents in Walker county that would to keep it just for the beauty and the asset of having that in the county and preserving it. ”
Mountain Coves last year lost about $700,000, and the year before $925,000.
Whitfield says the county is looking for a company to run it.
Whitfield says its too early to talk about possible tax increases.
He’s looking to save up to $2 million a year on operational expenses.
Industrial expansion could help.
“Got a couple of companies that are looking at our Rock Springs industrial park. So we feel like probably in the next 90 days we’ll have a couple of positive announcements to create some more industrial development –some more jobs in Walker county,” he says.
Whitfield also says he has met with Erlanger CEO Kevin Spiegel about the estimated 8.2 million dollars Erlanger wants from Walker county for it’s work at the now defunct Hutcheson Medical Center.
He said both hope to avoid any more legal action to resolve that issue.