CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – A year long “war of words” in the media between the Walker county commissioner and Elanger Medical Center….has dissolved almost overnight.
The two sides have agreed on a plan for Walker county to pay a court-ordered judgment of 8 POINT 7 million dollars.
Walker county businessman Shannon Whitfield defeated long-time sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskel and took office last January.
He had to borrow 4-million dollars to make budget almost immediately and announced the county was 70-million dollars in debt.
His biggest challenge, though, was Erlanger Health system’s summary judgment for more than 8 million dollars owed for Hutcheson hospital.
It has now been resolved.
Last night, the commissioner said “Back about 3 weeks ago I submitted an offer to Mr. Spiegle. We talked on the phone for about 15 or 20 minutes..come to an agreement, it took about three weeks due to the holiday season for the attorneys to get it all on paper. So what we accomplished in a few minutes, it took them 26 pages to get in on paper.”
As a called meeting last night Whitfield described how the county would pay 650-thousand dollars a quarter for the next 12 quarters and 900-thousand for the final payment in 2020 to resolve the issue.
Whitfield has raised taxes during that period to raise 2.5 million per year to pay for the settlement.
“THE public health facilities fee that we put in place on a three year term, uh, we feel that plus funding we can hopefully free-up from the general fund will pay this out over the three year term without us having to raise taxes anymore to pay this out.”
The tax increase created strong emotional responses last night.
One resident spoke up, saying “I would implore every citizen in Walker county to call the Walker county district attorney and ask him why Bebe Haskill is not in jail, yeah!”
Whitfield did not comment on that angry response..but he reminded the audience that the extra tax burden will go away when Erlanger is paid off.
Erlanger agreed to drop it’s demand for interest on the loan, and legal fees.
Whitfield pointed out that if the county were to default on the payment plan, Erlanger would take legal action.