City of Calhoun temporarily shuts down; officials blame unpaid taxes
CALHOUN, TENNESSEE (WRCB) -- The city of Calhoun laid off nearly every employee, including the police chief, starting Monday. Officials say unpaid taxes are to blame.
The parking lot of Calhoun's city hall, police department and public library was empty Thursday afternoon. A sign that reads, "sorry we're closed" hangs in the window.
"I don't really know what's going on," says resident Ronnie Cook. The abrupt closing caught him off guard. "The people that live in this city need their city services. They need garbage pickup, they need their law enforcement."
Lists of Calhoun's delinquent taxes dating back to 2009 are posted in the window. In all it totals $7,248.10 – with a majority of that money owed by former Calhoun Mayor John Walker.
"I owe $4,100 worth of back property taxes," says Walker. However, he says there's a reason he's not paying up. "Ever since this commission took over they won't mow in front of my places."
Walker also claims $7,248.10 is not a big enough deficit for the city to shut down but thousands of dollars lost in bad budgeting and a lawsuit filed by a former police officer a couple years ago may have done the trick.
"He came back from Iraq and they fired him. He got a lawyer and sued them and won $15,000. City of Calhoun had to pay out of their pocket," explains Walker.
City officials say Calhoun's current mayor, Faye Parks, is on vacation. We talked to City Manager Judy Barrett. She admits she's heartbroken about the situation.
We asked her about Walker's claims that delinquent taxes are not behind the layoffs. Barrett replied saying there isn't one particular element that caused the financial deficit, it was a number of things but she would not go into detail.
"They should have seen this coming and already fixed the problem. Somebody wasn't doing what they were supposed to be doing," Walker says.
Barrett says she hopes city hall and the police department will open one week from Monday. In the meantime the library will open for one day on Tuesday and a public works employee will collect trash on Wednesday.
The McMinn County Sheriff's office is patrolling the area.