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Best days are ahead for Calhoun-Gordon County

By: BRANDI OWCZARZ | Gazette Owner-Publisher
Friday, Aug. 25, 2023


Calhoun Mayor Jimmy Palmer (sixth from right) and Gordon County Board of Commissioners' Chair Bud Owens (seventh from right) pose with members of City of Calhoun Government, Gordon County Government, Gordon County Development Authority and State Legislators at the Friday, Aug. 25, 2023 State of City/State of County meeting.

At the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce Booster Breakfast on Friday morning, Aug.25, Calhoun Mayor Jimmy Palmer and Gordon County Board of Commissioners’ Chair Bud Owens gave reports on the State of the City and State of the County. The annual Booster Breakfast is sponsored by the Development Authority of Gordon County.

The theme of growth was present in reports from both the City and County, and despite the large growth that has been experienced in the area, both Calhoun and Gordon County continue to thrive.

In the City of Calhoun, Calhoun Mayor Jimmy Palmer pointed that the growth experienced has brought jobs, which are essential to the health of the community.

“Job growth is essential for improving the quality of life in our community,” said Palmer, stating that the city gives $120,000 to the Development Authority each year for economic development for all of Gordon County.

Palmer also mentioned the Revolving Loan Fund, where more than $2.5 million dollars has been loaned out at low interest to businesses with the goal of increasing economic development and establishing low to moderate income job creation.

Palmer addressed the growth in the area, saying that last year there were 536 permitted single family dwellings, up from 313 the year before. But the mayor pointed out this is not the first time the community has seen expansion of this magnitude.

“We all know growth and construction in the city is moving forward rapidly,” said Palmer. “But this is not the first time we’ve been recognized with fast growth. We were once recognized as one of the fastest growing cities in the nation.  The 2000 Census showed a population increase in the City of Calhoun of more than 49.5 percent (from the prior 10-year period using 1990 Census numbers). The next five year period, from 2000 to 2005 showed a 27 percent increase. Our Comprehensive Plan in 2007 projected us to have a population of 27,000 by the year 2025. Because of the slow downs, we are currently at 18,000.”

Palmer said that while the location of Calhoun attracts a lot of growth, there are other factors that draw people to the community, including schools, healthcare and quality of life.

“I think people locate here because of our strengths,” said Palmer. “First of those is our schools. I believe we’re a leader in public education, with a 100 percent graduation rate and we all know the benefits of education to our community. The next is healthcare, I believe we have the number one ranked small hospital in the state of Georgia, and I think healthcare opportunity is excellent in our community. The next is quality of life; we were recognized as number seven in the state as one of the best cities by and we also ranked number four as the best place to raise a family. We all want to live in a safe community; we’re ranked in the top five percent of safest cities in Georgia.”

Palmer said Calhoun Fire responded to more than 2,300 calls in 2022; 76 were fire calls with more than 1,500 medical calls. He said that the Police Department last year removed 990 pounds of crystal meth and 160 gallons of liquid meth as well as other drugs on the street. The CPD partners with the FBI in the Safe Streets program and with the local school system by putting resource officers in the schools.

Palmer said that the Downtown Development Authority is working hard to bring additional events to the community, and has completed the Court Street streetscape renovation project and has received a state award for the project on Park Avenue.

The Mayor said that the Calhoun Recreation Department continues to grow and improve to meet the needs of the community. The old maintenance building at the top of the hill beside the pool will soon be demolished to make way for a new gym. New pickleball courts and a new pavilion is in the early stages of construction. The Tennis Facility just received an award from the USTA for being an outstanding facility. The Rec has also added new programs and is seeing additional participation from the community. Fields Ferry Golf Course saw another successful year with more than 37,000 rounds of golf played last year. Fields Ferry hosted 35 high school and middle school matches.

Palmer also said a strong point of the City is the utilities department, which plays a major role in economic and industrial development as well as quality of life.

“I would say we are the only place in Georgia that’s expected to have capacity in water, sewer and power to last the next 50 years,” said Palmer. “I think this speaks highly of the planning that’s gone into it, and we’re one of the 15 largest water producers in the state and serve wholesale water to Pickens County and Floyd County as well as the City of Jasper. We’re involved with MEAG and recently had Plant Vogtle Number 3 come online that provides clean energy to the system.”

Palmer stressed the importance of the upcoming SPLOST and how SPLOST has helped to keep the millage rate down for the residents of Calhoun.

“I think something else that sets our city apart is having a very low millage rate,” said Palmer. “There are 28 cities in the State of Georgia with a population between 15,000 and 20,000 people; their average millage rate is 9.1. The millage rate of Calhoun is 3.2. What this means to you is, if you use the average millage rate of 9.1 and you have a $200,000 house, the taxes on that house would be $726. This same house in Dalton would be $442; the same house in Rome, $918. In Calhoun, these taxes (at 3.2) would be $256. As another example, a small business valued at $500,000, use the average millage rate, the taxes would be $1,812. The same business in Calhoun the taxes are $640. Only 11 percent of the City’s budget comes from property taxes. This is compared to 32 percent on average for all other cities in Georgia.

“One thing that makes this possible is having a SPLOST in place,” continued Palmer. “This is an important election year for the City of Calhoun and Gordon County because there is an opportunity on the ballot to continue the SPLOST. The City has a population of 18,000 people, but it is estimated that the daytime population is 50,000-55,000 people. It is also estimated that 40-45 percent of the SPLOST dollars come from people who do not live in our community. I believe this is an excellent way to continue to improve our community and it has no budgeted impact…it’s a way to keep our property taxes low.”

Owens then took the stage for an update on Gordon County.

“What is the State of the County? What does that really mean? I looked up the definition and it means the condition the condition that something is in currently. And I believe we just heard the condition of the City of Calhoun, and it’s a privilege to work hand in hand with the City of Calhoun and right things for Calhoun and Gordon County because we support each other,” said Owens.

Owens began the State of County by discussing public safety.

At the Gordon County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Mitch Ralston has implemented a new program called C.H.A.M.P.S, Choosing Healthy Activities and Methods Promoting Safety. C.H.A.M.P.S focuses on fifth grade students in each of the six county elementary schools and offers a wide range of programs consisting of several elements or individual topics of concern for students, they learn about alcohol, bullying, they do a C.H.A.M.P.S. project, they learn about choices and the consequences of those choices, home alone and child abduction safety, gangs, firearms safety, internet safety and social media, illicit drug abuse, prescription drug abuse, tobacco, stress and avoiding violence, all things that are extremely important for our children to learn.”

Owens said that at Gordon County Fire & Rescue, the department responded to more than 3,900 calls last year and completed more than 500 inspections. The staff assisted the community by giving and installing 21 car seats, 33 smoke detectors and 31 reflective address markers. The department hosted the annual Santa in Uniform, providing Christmas to 60 children who otherwise may have not had Christmas. The department staff has accumulated more than 21,000 hours of training in the last year and seven new firefighters completed the recruit training. The fire department was able to purchase new air packs for the firefighters, equipment to sterilize the masks and air hoses and four thermal imaging cameras. The County has also ordered four new fire trucks that will go a long way to serve the citizens of Gordon County.

The EMA Department has completed the revision of the County’s Emergency Operations Plan and participates in four full-scale emergency drills throughout the year. EMA has been able to focus on training and education with resources that include Winter Weather Preparedness Week, Flood Safety Preparedness Week and Severe Weather Awareness Week. Gordon County EMA applied for and received a Hazardous Mitigation Grant for the purchase of 200 Weather Radios to disperse to all government buildings and citizens upon request. EMA also provides community classes such as CPR, Stop the Bleed, Basic First Aid, Community Alerts and Response Training and Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events.

At Gordon County E911, there were several system upgrades over the past year, with a new telephone system, a new CAD system, and a recording system. The department also implemented a new Rapid SOS system that allows real time location of cell phone callers. The department had more than 155,000 calls last year and the system upgrades allows them to better serve the community.

Owens also announced that Angie Gillman, who has served as the Interim Director of Gordon County E911 since March 2023 when former E911 Director Debbie Vance retired, has been named the director of the department. Gillman has been with Gordon County E911 since January 2000, serving as telecommunicator, sergeant, tactical dispatch commander and lieutenant.

At Gordon County Animal Control, the department took in over 820 dogs and 650 cats.

“We are offering adoptions with free spay and neuter certificates,” said Owens. “Our local animal control is able to work with local and regional rescues to ensure the department does not euthanize pets based on space.”

There are now five vets that honor the free spay and neuter certificates provided with pet adoption at Gordon County Animal Control.

At the Gordon County Senior Center, new health and wellness classes are being implemented such as healthy eating, fall prevention and classes on dementia. The center has also started walking groups and invites anyone age 55 and over to participate.

In the Building Inspections and Public Works, there is a subdivision expansion of over eight homes and a new subdivision of around 400 homes in the County being developed at this time. There are three industrial facilities under development, as well as several agricultural operations. There have been more than 1200 permits issued in the last year; more than 600 of those since January of this year. A new E-Plan Review system has been implemented, which has sped up reviews by 83 percent.

More than 45 miles of roadways were paved throughout the unincorporated areas of Gordon County this past year, with more than four miles being paved in the municipalities over the past year. Public Works also installed 123 culverts and cross drains.

At Gordon County Parks & Recreation, more than 1700 children registered to participate in youth sports. The department hosted numerous Georgia High School events in cooperation with the Gordon County School System.

Owens then addressed SPLOST and millage.

“Mayor Palmer talked a little bit about SPLOST; as you already know, there’s going to be a referendum to renew the one cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. This one cent tax helps relieve the burden on our property tax payers by helping to fund capital projects and capital equipment, such as the newly renovated courthouse,” said Owens. “I think you as a citizen will be so proud (of the renovation). We’re trying to do every project we do, to make sure it lasts for (many) years and serve our citizens very well.

“Along with the Courthouse, we’ve completed renovations to our Senior Center. There’s been a great increase in the number of attendees,” said Owens. “In addition to that, we used SPLOST dollars to complete renovations out at Salacoa Park. So far we have completed the Salacoa Beach Concession Stand. We continue to work on a new Evidence Building, new Morgue, Greenway trails, the Salacoa Beach Bathhouse renovations, a new ball field and rec area on the west side of the County, the Sugar Valley Fire Station renovations, a multi-purpose Agriculture building and much, much more with already collected SPLOST dollars.

“These SPLOST dollars are very important to our community,” continued Owens, mentioning previous projects such as the Judicial Building, Animal Control, Red Bud Fire Station, Sheriff’s Office and Jail, Library Renovations, Sonoraville Parks & Recreation, as well as miles of road paving. “These could not have been possible with SPLOST. We always have folks who say, ‘No New Taxes, we don’t want to pay another penny,’ but nobody is paying another penny, they’re just continuing the penny (tax) that’s already existing and it’s working well to make sure that we’re able to do infrastructure improvements to our community and future life improvements to our community, with 40-45 percent of that money being paid for by visitors that come through our community.

“Talking about our millage rate; our sales tax, SPLOST and LOST, help us to keep our millage rate (for the county) the lowest it has been since 2010,” said Owens. “Because of his continued growth, the Board of Commissioners is planning to meet on September 19 and we plan to take a full rollback on the upcoming millage rate. This will take the county government’s portion of the millage rate to 9.042. Along with the County School’s rollback, and Governor Kemp’s additional $18,000 homestead exemption, a $200,000 homesteaded property that was valued in the last valuation in unincorporated Gordon County will see a decrease in their property taxes of over 27 percent. On that $200,000 homesteaded exemption property, that equals about $548 dollars decrease in taxes. It’s amazing that we have the ability to do that. It’s because we have a county staff that works really hard to make sure we’re fiscally responsible for every dollar that comes through and the way it is spent. While these numbers seem very promising, we also remain very cautious and always operate in a fiscally conservative manner.”

Owens said that the past year has been trying because the County continues to face soaring inflation rates, supply chain issues as well as labor shortages.

“However, even in the midst of economic issues, Gordon County continues to see growth in the residential market and the commercial/industrial market,” said Owens. “Because of this growth, and 533 business license renewals and over 121 new businesses that have opened, Gordon County’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.4 percent in April 2023.”

Owens thanked the Gordon County Development Authority and Mayor Palmer with the City of Calhoun. “By working together, we will see Gordon County continue to grow and become an even better place to live, learn, work and play. I believe that (despite) all of our challenges, our best is yet to come and Gordon County has a bright hope for tomorrow.”

‘SPLOST is absolutely essential’

With tremendous growth, infrastructure and public safety needs and a negative increase in the county’s ISO rating among other issues the community needs to address, the importance of the upcoming SPOST referendum was discussed at a special called meeting of Gordon County on Friday, July 7

Some of the prior SPLOST projects for both Gordon County and its municipalities include the Health Department, new Fire Stations, improvements to Peter Street, fire trucks, and recreation areas.

By: BRANDI OWCZARZ | Gazette Owner-Publisher
Saturday, May 20, 2023

On Friday, July 7, four of the five members of the Gordon County Board of Commissioners, along with County Administrator/Attorney Jim Ledbetter met to discuss proposed projects for the upcoming SPLOST.

SPLOST stands for Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, and is a financing method for funding capital outlay projects. It is an optional 1-percent (one penny of every dollar) sales tax levied for the purpose of funding the building of parks, roads and other public facilities. The revenue generated cannot be used towards operating expenses or most maintenance projects. Because it’s collected through sales tax, a large portion of the local SPLOST comes from people traveling through Gordon County. The County met with the Municipalities in April 2023 at the first public planning meeting, where it was mentioned that close to 50 percent of those tax dollars come from people traveling through Gordon County. On Friday, Ledbetter said that number was more than 30 percent.

SPLOST must be approved by voters in a general referendum in order to be enacted and last for a maximum of 72 months (6 years).

According to information shared in the April meeting, the 2018 SPLOST collections will end on April 30, 2024 and to be able to continue SPLOST collections, a referendum to continue the SPLOST must be voted on by the citizens. That referendum would be voted on this November 7 during the Municipal Elections.

“What I think is important for the public to know is that our SPLOST is absolutely essential to fund capital projects,” said Ledbetter. “Our current SPLOST referendum will ask the voters to continue the ‘one penny on a dollar’ one-percent sales tax that’s been in place for many years (in Gordon County). Our prior SPLOST has funded essential improvements to Public Safety, Fire, EMA, E-911, the Sheriff’s Office, Public Works, over 30 miles of paving per year, resurfacing, repairs, bridges, equipment to our Public Works infrastructure, the parking deck, Animal Control, courthouse, Sheriff’s Office and Jail, fire stations, fire trucks and equipment, Health Department and Parks and Recreation.”

Ledbetter stressed that without SPLOST, either the projects would have to be paid by local taxpayers or the projects just wouldn’t be completed.

“Our best estimates indicate that much more than 30 percent of our SPLOST collections are on money spent by non-residents passing through Gordon County,” said Ledbetter. “Without the SPLOST, these capital projects would either have to be paid for by the tax-paying residents of Gordon County or we just couldn’t have them; our roads would be in worse shape, our capital equipment projects, our buildings, would be in worse shape.”

Ledbetter then explained how the 2018 SPLOST has positively impacted the community.

“Our last SPLOST was 2018; we estimated collections (for that SPLOST) at $48 million dollars. Actual collections to date, just over five out of six years, are $60 million dollars. So we’ve run well ahead,” said Ledbetter. “We think we’re running well ahead because, one, inflation increasing the cost of goods; number two, internet sales; and number three, large commercial establishments that have chosen to locate here that have generated a whole lot of sales tax. For our 2018 projects, which we’re still working on, we approved approximately $17.9 million dollars for road and bridge improvements, which includes our annual paving of the 30-plus miles per year resurfacing, repairs and acquisition of right-of-ways. (In projects), Sheriff’s (Office) vehicles, fire engines, brush trucks, staff vehicles, renovations to (the Administration) building, public safety facilities, renovations at E-911, fire stations and so forth. The Ag Facility that we need get built, repairs and replacements at Salacoa, Evidence Building and Morgue, Records Retention, Sugar Valley Community Center. Those were the highlights of the County projects, which were estimated at $33,700,000 but we are expecting to over that but we will be covered with overages.

“The 2018 Intergovernmental Agreement divided the proceeds strictly based upon population plus,” said Ledbetter. “The population of Gordon County is at 67.93 percent, Calhoun at 28.83 percent, Fairmount at 1.3 percent, Resaca at 1.37 percent and Plainville at .57 percent. In addition, we had special projects that were $2 million to Calhoun for Peter Street improvements, $100,000 to Fairmount for sewer, $100,000 to Resaca for their Town Hall project.

Ledbetter then explained the process for the proposed 2024 SPLOST.

“On the 2024 SPLOST, I think it’s important we all understand the process,” said Ledbetter. “One, it’s always on our mind, ‘What does our community need?’ But we really started this process in earnest back around the same time last year that we started the Comprehensive Plan. Some of that plays into some of our decisions. If we were to say we have a theme for the current SPLOST, I think that theme would be to address vital infrastructure needs, such as roads and intersections that have become overwhelmed due to growth; increase fire protection capacities, not only in the interest of public safety but it’s also in our financial interest as I reported last month of our ISO ratings going up. So we’ve got some new fire station provisions in this SPLOST and new fire equipment.”

At the June 20, 2023 meeting of the Gordon County Board of Commissioners, Ledbetter announced that the ISO (Insurance Services Office) Rating for Gordon County had increased from a 4,4y to either a 5,5y or 5,5x as both updated ratings were announced in comments at the meeting by Ledbetter. The ISO score reflects how prepared a community is for fires. An ISO score has the power to affect the insurance premium of every homeowner in the area and can even cause an insurer to deny coverage in some circumstances.

There are four categories that account for the ISO scoring model, no matter where in the U.S. a home is located: Fire Department, Water Supply; Emergency Communication Systems and Community Risk Reduction.

The highest PPC (Public Protection Classification) score an area can receive from the ISO is a 1 and the lowest is a 10. While the biggest category that accounts for the scoring is the fire department, which is 50 percent of the score, the hardest to improve is an area’s water supply. A lack of fire hydrants and access to an adequate amount of water cannot be easily remedied and would require extensive infrastructure development to fix.

“We have gotten our rating and we were afraid we’d regress or back up a little with that,” said Ledbetter at the June 20 meeting. “How this applies property owners (is) what you pay for fire insurance, homeowners insurance, is somewhat dependent on the ISO rating. At our last rating, we were at a 4,4y. Lower is better. At this rating, we are at a 5,5y. Our problems had to do principally with personnel and equipment. The ISO rating is an analysis of the structural of the fire suppression delivery system in the county. They are a factor in determining the cost of your insurance. Based on the report from June 9 (2023), the Public Protection Classification regressed, as I just said, from a 4,4y to a 5,5x. Significant areas of deficiency included on ladder trucks, we rated a 0.13 out of four. On reserve ladder trucks, which would be those available in other jurisdictions, we rated a 0.00 out of five. And then we need additional stations and additional personnel. These things cost a whole lot of money. A ladder truck has been quoted to us at $1.7 million dollars; it’s 18 months out for delivery. We have a SPLOST referendum that will be on the ballot in November. In that SPLOST we’ve got $4 million dollars for fire engines, that’s basically a ladder truck and three or four others (trucks). We have at least one new fire station and renovations to our others, and so we’re hoping for - I’m not politicking for it - is a passage of the SPLOST so we can get that equipment for our firefighters.”

In addition to fire safety needs, Ledbetter said at Friday’s meeting that most every department has equipment needs.

“Across the board, basically every department has worn out equipment,” said Ledbetter. “So it’ll be addressing growth and replacing obsolete equipment. This equipment is getting to where it costs so much to maintain, it’s not worth it to keep it. We need to surplus it to get new (equipment).”

Ledbetter then explained to the Board the 2014 SPLOST planning process to this point.

“So how did we get to this point?” asked Ledbetter. “We always talk, whether it’s one-on-one, two-on-two or in our planning sessions. Internally, starting in about January or February, Keith (King, assistant administrator) and I solicited SPLOST requests from all of our department heads, constitutional officers, elected officials and agencies for their input into their capital needs. So everyone was given an opportunity and I think pretty much everyone participated in what they might need. Some don’t need much; Magistrate and Probate are getting brand new facilities from a previous (2012) SPLOST. So in addition, the comments from the Community Survey and the Comprehensive Plan Stakeholder Committee really dove-tailed with what we see as our community needs and what our department heads indicated they needed with emphasis upon traffic and intersections, primarily. Of course, we’ve had individual and official group discussions with Calhoun, Resaca, Fairmount and Plainville to discuss what their needs might be, coordinate the process and money. As the result of that, we kind of have a proposal. What I’m (suggesting) today of course are all estimates and they have not been voted on by (the Board) or agreed upon by (the Board), but time is upon us to start getting there.

“As a result of that process, we are estimating SPLOST collection (for a 2024 SPLOST), of over a six-year period, at $77 million dollars,” said Ledbetter. “That was compared to the $48 million that we’d estimated (in the 2018 SPLOST) and we’re at $60 million. That (proposed $77 million) is a conservative estimate; that estimate does not account for much growth, if any, because we have an uncertain economy. It really doesn’t hurt to come in at $77 million versus (more) and it has served us well to be conservative (in the past) because we have handled our projects with all the inflation we have seen the last few years because of that conservative estimation.

“So out of the $77 million dollars, we would be proposing, like we did the last time but on new numbers, a distribution (to the municipalities) based upon population from the latest Census in 2020,” said Ledbetter. “That puts the County (as receiving) 66.98 percent (of collection); Calhoun at 29.45 percent, Fairmount at 1.34 percent, Resaca at 1.61 percent and Plainville at 0.62 percent. In addition to that division based upon population, we’ve been discussing special purpose projects with the cities that would be from our county funds of what we might expect to collect off the 66.98 percent, which of $77 million is $51,574,638. As a footnote, the total departmental requests we received were in excess of $65 million, just from within our umbrella (at the county), so we’ve had to pretty severely prioritize and cut some of those requests to get down to our $51 or $52 million dollar estimate.”

Ledbetter mentioned some of the projects on the SPLOST list.

“We are working on our estimated project list,” said Ledbetter. “For Parks and Recreation, we’ve narrowed their requests down to renovations at the Ranger Community Center, the Ranger Park, replacement playgrounds at Salacoa and Ookie Faith Parks, some outdoor Pickle Ball Courts and some LED lighting upgrades to our ball fields.

“Public Safety projects are vehicles for the Sheriff’s Office; for EMA and E-911, equipment and vehicles; fire engines, a ladder truck, fire and rescue equipment and fire hydrants (for the Fire Department); in Public Safety facilities, we have a new E-911 and EMA Center, a new fire station and repairs and renovations to existing fire stations,” said Ledbetter. “At Public Works, resurfacing about 168 miles, major culvert projects, and various widening projects. We’re really looking at major improvements. Calhoun is improving the Curtis Parkway corridor on the west side of the interstate and we’re looking at a joint project with Calhoun of some form or fashion to basically redo the frontage road, so to speak, of the Union Grove/Belwood intersection, across Highway 53, working on Lovers Lane (already have money for the Lovers Lane/Boone Ford intersection from 2018 SPLOST), moving on down to improving Harmony Church/Dews Pond/Lovers Lane. That’s really a signature project to suggest in this proposal.”

Ledbetter also said that additional county-wide equipment and vehicles, including a 4-H Extension Bus and other capital equipment is on the list to replace worn out equipment. Joint projects with the cities were also discussed.

“On Joint Municipal Projects, I just referred to the Belwood Road, Harmony Church/Lovers Lane corridor to be hopefully jointly with Calhoun; funding for sewer project in Resaca and Fairmount; and then funding for storm water management in the City of Plainville,” said Ledbetter. “Within those, if we start expanding them out, it amounts to a whole lot.”

Ledbetter said that an Intergovernmental Agreement is the next step.

“We would come about this with an intergovernmental agreement (IGA),” said Ledbetter. “The advantage of an intergovernmental agreement is that the SPLOST collections can run for six years versus five. SPLOST is a county-wide sales tax collection but it’s important to everyone within the county, that’s why cities are included and they have essential projects to benefit us all as well. So if we’re able to come to an agreement, we get six years of collections, which we have historically been able to do. We’ve collected $60 million in five years, that’s $12 million a year, so that’s a $12 million difference on the 2018 SPLOST.

‘We are proposing that we would have $77 million in estimated collections; if we collect more, we’re proposing that it would be divided pro rata (proportionally) based upon population,” said Ledbetter. “If we collect less, the loss would be shared pro rata based upon population. The division of proceeds would be made upon our County Project List which will be attached in sort of the level of detail in Exhibit A1 of the 2018 SPLOST Agreement, which will outline the projects and the estimated funds assigned to them. We want flexibility in the referendum that will come from the IGA just in case projects change or demographics change, or (for example) if GDOT were to come up with money for the intersection of Harmony Church or Dews Pond, we wouldn’t spend money there we would move it somewhere else. It would outline the joint special projects with the cities. It requires an annual audit of funds to make sure everyone is spending them right. Then any money that’s left over at the end of the SPLOST (project completion) would be used to pay off existing debt, or if we have no debt, it would be used to offset the millage rate or reduce taxes.”

According to Ledbetter, August 15, 2023 is the last date to have the IGA adopted by all parties (county and municipalities) and a Resolution of Referendum submitted to the Board of Elections. August 27, 2023 is the day the Elections Office will have to send the Call for Referendum to the ballot builder. The election for the SPLOST referendum will then be held on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023.

Team Red, White & Blue’s Old Glory Relay makes way through Gordon on way to Atlanta

By: BRANDI OWCZARZ | Gazette Owner-Publisher
Saturday, May 20, 2023

A volunteer with Team Red, White & Blue's Old Glory Relay brought the flag from Sugar Valley Baptist Church towards Calhoun on Thursday evening, May 18, 2023.

Another relay for a great cause came through Calhoun-Gordon County Thursday night when Team Red, White & Blue’s Old Glory Relay made its way through the community on the way to Atlanta where the group will present the flag for a flag folding ceremony at the Atlanta Braves game today at Truist Park. In addition, 100 Team RWB veterans will hold a giant American flag along the field prior to the National Anthem. Atlanta Braves third baseman Austin Riley is a member of the Team Red, White & Blues’ Advisory Board.

The American flag traveling in the Relay was flown above the battlefields of Iraq while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve and presented to Team RWB. 

Team Red, White & Blue’s Old Glory Relay is a national movement showcasing the strength, grit and commitment of American veterans in support of their well-being. Over the span of 50 days which began on April 1, supporters unite to walk, ruck, run, push and cycle a single American flag more than 4,000 miles from Seattle, Wash. to Atlanta this year.

Team RWB is a nonprofit organization that is shaping up to be America’s leading health and wellness community for veterans. Rooted in an epic display of patriotism, the Old Glory Relay epitomizes what Team RWB is all about — showing our nation’s veterans that their best days are ahead through a strong focus on health and wellness.

“America’s veterans know firsthand that life is a team sport. There’s no better demonstration of that concept than the Old Glory Relay,” said Mike Erwin, Team RWB founder and Executive Director. “As we pass the flag from one great American to the next over its 4,000-mile journey, we are reminded that together we can show veterans that their best days are ahead.”

The Old Glory Relay made its way from the Northwest U.S. down through Southern California, Southern Arizona and New Mexico, Texas, a small portion of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and down to Atlanta. The Relay was made up of many supporters and volunteers from states where the Relay did not pass through this year, such as New York, Indiana and Florida. The supporters traveled hundreds of miles to be able to help get the flag to Atlanta.

The relay group from Team RWB entered Gordon County from Whitfield and made a stop in Sugar Valley at the Sugar Valley Church of God. A solo runner headed south on Hwy. 136, clocking around a 7 minute mile, then passed off the flag along the way to a couple of cyclist who brought the flag to the Calhoun Post Office. The flag was then passed to a couple of runners, who headed down South Wall Street to Kroger, where the group met up with the team from Carry The Load, another veterans support group who were in town for their annual Carry The Load Relay. From Kroger, two cyclists took the flag to Buc-ee’s Calhoun, where the relay ended for the day.

Team RWB is America’s leading Health & Wellness community for veterans. Team RWB exists to guide veterans through their civilian journey with real-life and virtual opportunities focused on building a healthier lifestyle because a strong focus on mental and physical health which is critical to ensuring veterans’ best days are ahead. More than 200,000 members are forging the nation’s leading health and wellness community for veterans.

Recent data from the Wounded Warrior Project Annual Survey shows that veterans are facing chronic pain and sleep challenges which negatively impact their quality of life. Team RWB offers veterans a community with training, programming and events to build a healthier lifestyle, serving as supportive solutions for those with challenges.

“It’s going to be an incredible moment when the Old Glory Relay flag enters Truist Park in celebration of Military Appreciation Day,” said Riley. “Between this event and the Austin Riley Charity Golf Tournament in June, I’m excited to support this organization making a big impact on our nation’s veterans.”

Find out more about Team RWB and the Old Glory Relay online at or download the Team RWB app.

WHO ARE YOU CARRYING? Team from Carry The Load makes stop in Calhoun for annual relay to recognize true meaning of Memorial Day

By: BRANDI OWCZARZ | Gazette Owner-Publisher
Friday, May 19, 2023

Members from Carry the Load's New England Route, Calhoun Police Department, Calhoun Fire Department and Gordon County Fire & Rescue pose for a photo before the almost 2-mile walk for the Carry the Load Relay leg through Calhoun on Thursday, May 18, 2023.

A Relay group from Dallas-based non-profit Carry The Load made a stop in Calhoun Thursday night, May 18, 2023; the group, part of the New England Route of Carry The Load’s National Relay, which is held each May, is headed to Dallas, Texas for a special event to honor Memorial Day.


Carry The Load is a non-profit organization that provides active ways to connect Americans to the sacrifices made daily by our military, veterans, first responders and their families. What started in 2011 by two veteran U.S. Navy SEALs to restore the true meaning of Memorial Day has now grown into a nationwide movement with people volunteering throughout the year to honor and remember our nation’s heroes. The main mission of Carry The Load is to make sure that people know why Memorial Day was established: to honor those who have died in service for their country. Carry The Load provides active ways to honor and remember the nation’s heroes by connecting Americans to the sacrifices made by military, veterans, first responders and their families.

The National Relay consists of five routes that cover 20,000 miles across 48 states. The relay teams walk and/or cycle daily throughout Carry the Load’s Memorial May campaign.


Carry The Load’s New England Relay Manager Andy Medrano has participated with Carry The Load since 2014, participating in the National Relay the past three years.

“I spent 23 years in the Army; I was an Infantry guy and went to Ranger school,” said Medrano. “I did a lot of cool things while I was (enlisted). I retired in 2014, which is when I first started doing Carry the Load and in 2021, I was asked to be on the Relay.”


Medrano’s group consists of anywhere between 7-10 volunteers at a time covering an approximate 3,700 mile journey.


“Our team has been traveling since the third of May,” said Medrano. “We had an event in Long Island, New York, with one of our sponsors, Henry Schein Cares, and did a walk with them before we moved up to Burlington, Vermont, where the relay began. Our route has taken us from Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island and all the New England states. So far, it’s been a very good trip for us. Sometimes you have people who do not understand what our organization is about, so we talk to them and let them know that we’re a non-profit out of Dallas, we support our military veterans and first responders and their families. We also want them to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day, which is remembering those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms that we have today.”


The team walks from about 7 o’clock in the morning to 8 or 9 o’clock in the evening, which is when the walkers recoup and move to the next spot, by bus. The bus, which is wrapped with the images of service members or first responders from areas along the Relay route, honors the sacrifices made by those while serving our country.


“This year, we have four people on each side of the bus that we’re honoring,” said Medrano. “Representing the state of Georgia, (we’re honoring) Specialist Murphy. We actually walked with his parents on his birthday. They told us some stories while we were walking, and it was really great just to have them walk with us because Gold Star families are truly a blessing for us. It’s their day. The great thing about Gold Star families is they talk about their loved one as if they’re still here. That’s great because we never want to forget their names. Once we stop saying their names or forget their name, that’s the second time they’ve passed.”


Spc. Etienne J. Murphy, 22, of Snellville, Georgia, died May 26, 2017 in Al-Hasakah, Syria, of injuries sustained during a vehicle rollover-related incident. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia. He was on his first deployment, according to information from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He enlisted in June 2013; after training at Fort Benning, he served in 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment which is part of the 10th Mountain Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team at Fort Drum, N.Y. In October 2015, Murphy volunteered to serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment, successfully completing airborne school and Ranger Assessment and Selection Program 1. That is when he was assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment, where he served as an anti-tank gunner. His awards and decorations include the Parachutist Badge, the Army Achievement Medal with three oak leaf clusters, the NATO Medal and the Operation Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal with Campaign Star. He was posthumously awarded the Army Commendation Medal.


On Thursday night, the Carry the Load group arrived in Calhoun and was greeted by Team Red, White & Blue’s Old Glory Relay team, who was making its way to Atlanta after a Relay that began in Washington State. The Carry the Load group then met with members of the Calhoun Police Department, Calhoun Fire Department and Gordon County Fire & Rescue before walking the nearly two miles from Kroger to Calhoun Fire Station 1 in downtown Calhoun. Officers with the CPD provided escort for the relay, while members of both CFD and GCF&R put on their full turnout gear and walked alongside the Relay group.


“Our veterans have put their lives on hold and at risk to protect our freedom,” said Calhoun Police Chief Tony Pyle. “I feel as Americans, it is our duty to support these men and women in every way possible, and programs like this allow us to do just that. CPD is proud to play a small part in making this happen."


Upon arriving at the fire station, the Relay group got hot showers and was treated to a meal catered by Monty Erwin and Dub’s High on the Hog.


“Calhoun Fire had 10 members of the department walk the Calhoun leg of Carry the Load in full turnout gear to honor the sacrifice of many who have died in the line of duty. Our department was honored to be able help carry the load of many families who have lost a loved one in service to our country or in service to their community,” said Calhoun Fire Deputy Chief Terry Mills. “Calhoun Fire was honored to host the Carry the Load team at our Headquarters Station for a hot meal provided by Dub’s BBQ and a hot shower before the group continued on to the next leg of their journey. Calhoun Fire thanks all of the citizens who, while driving by our teams walking, said ‘thank you for your service.’ Calhoun firefighters make sacrifices every day to serve this community and the department is proud of all its firefighters and the job they do.”


There will be stops in Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana for the Relay group, with their final destination being Dallas, Texas for the Dallas Memorial March, hosted each year in Carry The Load’s hometown. The March is their flagship event and the culmination of the National Relay; it’s a two-day Memorial Day weekend event honoring service members and their families for the sacrifices they make. All five routes of the National Relay will meet up at the Dallas event.


“The Dallas Memorial Day March will begin on May 29th, the Sunday prior to Memorial Day,” said Medrano. “What happens there is all five Relay Teams culminate two stops prior to Opening Day ceremonies. We’ll get together at (a local) high school with the other relay teams and a couple hundred people walking a five-mile leg. We reach our stop point just prior to the event, at a Chase Bank, where all five Relay Teams will walk in; last year we had about 20,000 people participate and raised just over $2 million dollars.”


This year’s fundraising goal for the organization is $2.25 million dollars. Carry The Load has raised more than $38 million dollars since their formation. More than 93 percent of the funds go towards their three programs: Awareness, Continuum of Care and Education.

Carry The Load’s Continuum of Care program is built upon a strategic collaboration among their corporate and non-profit partners. The program raises much needed awareness and funds to assist with the many issues facing military, veterans, first responders and their families. In addition to healing the nation’s heroes experience by physically walking or volunteering with Carry The Load, peer-to-peer fundraising and corporate support strengthens nationwide services such as counseling, adaptive training, suicide prevention, equine therapy, service dogs, job placements, civilian transition, home improvements, hope for homeless veterans, care for burn victims, educational scholarships for children of the fallen and many other healing services.

One of the Education programs offered by Carry The Load is Carry The Flag, which focuses on the younger generation, teaching them about our nation’s traditions and why they’re important. With Carry The Flag, kids learn more about our nation’s heroes by developing storyboards to honor and remember a hero, giving a presentation on patriotism and learning the history of the American flag.


In their Awareness program, Carry The Load’s mission is rooted in raising awareness for the true meaning of Memorial Day. Each May, people can actively participate in Carry The Load’s Memorial May awareness campaign to make Memorial Day matter again. People can participate by hosting a Carry It Anywhere experience, organize a youth Carry The Flag activity, walk in the National Relay, attend a Rally, fundraise for our nation’s heroes, and take part virtually throughout the month.


For more information on Carry The Load or to donate, visit

GOING RED: Local Keller Williams agency helps the Calhoun Housing Authority in changing lives this RED Day

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Associates of Keller Williams Premier North Georgia, located on North Wall Street in Calhoun, stand in front of a home on Court Street with Calhoun Housing Authority representatives Carol Hatch, Gary Erwin and Toya Washington during Keller Williams RED Day Community Service event on Thursday, May 11.

Justin Childress and the associates of Keller Williams Premier North Georgia, located at 204 North Wall Street in Calhoun, spent the majority of the day on Thursday, May 11, 2023 performing a large community service project in honor of Keller Williams’ RED Day.


RED is an acronym for Renew, Energize and Donate and gives Keller Williams agencies a chance to give back to the local community they serve.


Every second Thursday of May, Keller Williams agents, leadership members and associates step away from daily business duties, proudly donning their red KW gear, and venturing into the communities they serve with those three goals in mind: renew, energize, donate.


This annual day of service took shape in May 2009 in celebration of Keller Williams’ board member Mo Anderson’s birthday. Fourteen years later, it continues to grow in momentum as the Keller Williams family unites under a shared commitment to philanthropy.


“We’ve always been a community service-oriented company; we love serving the community that has supported us since 2015,” said Childress.


Each year, agents choose the project they want to support. In years past, Keller Williams Premier North Georgia helped with a coat closet and performed yard cleanup projects.


This year, Childress again looked to the Calhoun Housing Authority for a referral and was given the idea to help with some outdoor maintenance at the home of Ms. Golden on Court Street. Ms. Golden recently received a CHIP Grant through the Calhoun Housing Authority’s New Foundations Development, a non-profit that performs home rehabilitations within Gordon County to upgrade and expand the local housing inventory. Since its creation in 2013, NFD, with the help of local contractors and the City of Calhoun and Gordon County Building Inspectors, has completed hundreds of home rehabilitation projects for local home owners, especially veterans. New Foundations Development is under the direction of Carol Hatch, the program coordinator.


The money the Golden household receives trough the CHIP funds will go towards a new roof, new HVAC, new flooring and other updates to the home.


But before the home rehab project can begin, the home’s yard needed a lot of work. Weeds had grown up on the side of the home and over the driveway, preventing anyone from parking at the residence.


Keller Williams Premier North Georgia has around 30 associates that serve in this community. On Court Street, some of those local KW Premier North Georgia associates performed yard work, clearedlimbs and debris and cut or trimmed overgrown shrubs and trees. The house was also pressure washed.


“We roll up our sleeves, take a day off from work and just try to make a difference,” said Childress. “We try to make a difference in the community every day, but especially on RED Day.”

Internationally, Keller Williams has 186,000 people supporting the volunteer efforts on Red Day, with more than one million hours of community service performed worldwide on Red Day by Keller Williams’ agents and staff.


For more information on Keller Williams Premier North Georgia, visit their Facebook page at or call 706-625-6535.


For more information on New Foundations Development, visit visit

GSWCC launches regional newsletter

Thursday, May 4, 2023


The Georgia Soil & Water Conservation Commission has launched their first newsletter for Region 1, which covers the eight districts of Blue Ridge Mountain, Catoosa County, Cobb County, Coosa River, Fulton County, Limestone Valley, Roosevelt and West Georgia. The Region 1 office is located in Calhoun, on Highway 53 Spur.


In the first newsletter, the public can learn about the GSWCC and how it serves our area.


About the Soil & Water Conservation Commission

The GSWCC is a Georgia State Government Agency that is dedicated to protecting, conserving, and improving soil and water resources across the state. Regional offices were able to be re-implemented in 2023 due to additional funding. The regional staff provides support to the Soil & Water Conservation Districts (SWCD), Local Issuing Authorities (LIA) and community members with concerns about soil and water quality. Additional staff administrative responsibilities include minute taking and requisitions, district program support, outreach and a variety of other functions to serve each district.


Region I Staff

Josh Jackwood, Conservation Regional Manager


Ricky Ensley, Resource Specialist


Ashley Temples, Administrative Specialist



About Conservation Districts

The Georgia Assembly created the Soil and Water Conservation Districts in 1937 to protect the state's soil and water resources following the Dust Bowl. Each District provides a way for citizens to set local resource priorities for state and federal assistance programs. There are 40 SWCD's across the 159 counties in Georgia. Throughout the state, 370 district supervisors work to conserve, improve and protect the natural resources. There are at least 2 district supervisors in each county, one is appointed and one is elected. The supervisors are unpaid state officials that work with the GSWCC and the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service.


Districts hold regular monthly meetings to plan their work and determine local needs for soil and water conservation and resource development. SWCDs work on a local level to promote conservation goals. These meetings are public and the schedule can be found on the website (


Partners for Fish & Wildlife

GSWCC in cooperation with the US Fish & Wildlife Service, partners with private landowners to provide livestock exclusion fencing for waterbodies. This Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program (PFW) will provide a cost share to improve water quality and water habitat on farmlands.


GSWCC also offers stream bank restoration through public-private partnerships by offering advice and funding. This PFW program will provide a cost share to restore stream banks, wetlands and adjoining wildlife habitat that might otherwise go unprotected. See program details below:

  • Program will reimburse 90% of total costs up to $10,000 for fence exclusion projects in priority watershed areas.

  • Program will reimburse 90% of total costs of any small stream restoration projects.

  • Maximum reimbursement for stream restoration projects will be determined according to available funds.

  • 60% of funds must be used to provide streambank protection.

Land Owner Responsibilities:

  • Assist with project scope development.

  • Be available for any inspections.

  • Be available for any media.

GSWCC Responsibilities:

  • Develop project scope, including:

       *Synopsis of farm and planned activities.

       *Goals and list of BMP's to be installed.

       *Size of buffer created.

  • Write & submit project for approval.

  • Provide necessary maps and photos


NRCW: National Resources Conservation Workshop will be held June 11th-16th in Tifton, GA. This workshop focuses on the value of protecting wildlife, forestry, soil & water resources. Registration is due by May 1st. For more information please visit the website here.


District News:


Blue Ridge Mountain

  • Blue Ridge is sponsoring a bus for NRCW.

  • The Supervisors will be working on their Plan of Work for FY24.

  • Hog trapping is currently on hold as the camera on their trap needs repair.

Catoosa County:

  • Unfortunately, Supervisor Bob Plemons passed away last weekend. He served as the District Supervisor for 45.5 years.

  • Catoosa is planning an initial 1A and 1B recertification course offered to LIA's and anyone in the community that would like to attend the courses.

  • Thursday, May 4th Catoosa will host an Award Picnic to honor their scholarship and poster contest winner and their teachers at Elsie Holmes Park in Ringgold.

Cobb County

  • Cobb had a Community Garden ground breaking. They are partnering with Farm Bureau, WellStar Hospitals, and the Cobb County Master Gardeners program to build and operate a community garden that provides fresh produce to residents.

Coosa River

  • Coosa is making year end donations to school projects and community projects in their area.

  • Newly elected supervisor Jordan Fuquea from Gordon County has been a welcome addition to the board.

  • Coosa will be working on they FY24 Plan of Work and deciding what projects to focus on over the next year.

Limestone Valley

  • Gilmer County High School won Envirothon and will be going to Canada!

  • Limestone Valley is also sponsoring a bus for transportation for the NRCW Students.

  • Currently looking for a Supervisor to fill the Murray County Elected position.

Fulton County

  • The supervisors have been interviewing candidates for an open appointed position in Fulton County. A new supervisor should be appointed soon.

  • The district has been working diligently to apply for an urban agriculture grant with the City of Atlanta’s help.

  • A recent overview on the City of South Fulton was conducted and problems were identified that will continue to be addressed by the Commission and the District.


  • Roosevelt will have a Wildlife Field Day this fall involving all local elementary schools.

  • Discussion on farm management practices and potential starting a weed wiper program have also been discussed by supervisors.

  • The Supervisors have asked GSWCC to conduct an overview the City of LaGrange and their ES&PC program.

West Georgia

  • West Georgia Continues to sponsor several kids to go to NRCW.

  • They have not been getting reports on feral hogs but know they are in the area.

  • They are looking to fill two supervisor positions.

To view the first newsletter, click the PDF here.

2024 SPLOST Referendum talks have begun between Gordon County, municipalities

Thursday, April 13, 2023

On Tuesday, April 11, administration and elected officials from throughout Gordon County and the municipalities met for an initial public planning meeting on the upcoming SPLOST referendum, which will hit the ballot this fall.


SPLOST stands for Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, and is a financing method for funding capital outlay projects. It is an optional 1-percent (one penny of every dollar) sales tax levied for the purpose of funding the building of parks, roads and other public facilities. The revenue generated cannot be used towards operating expenses or most maintenance projects. Because it’s collected through sales tax, a large portion of the local SPLOST, estimated at close to 50 percent, comes from people traveling through Gordon County.


The 2018 SPLOST collections will end on April 30, 2024; the cycle for the SPLOST is six years and to be able to continue the SPLOST collections, a referendum to continue the SPLOST must be voted on by the citizens.


At the meeting on Tuesday, Gordon County Administrator Jim Ledbetter and City of Calhoun Administrator Paul Worley met with Gordon County Commission Chair Bud Owens, Commissioners Kevin Cunningham and Bruce Potts, Calhoun Mayor Jimmy Palmer, Resaca Mayor Nathan Wyatt, Plainville Mayor Jim Miller, Plainville Attorney Frank Beacham and Rep. Matt Barton to hold a discussion on the upcoming referendum. The public meeting is a requirement under the SPLOST law. Fairmount Mayor Steve Brannon was not able to be in attendance, but he has been in talks with the County concerning the upcoming SPLOST referendum.


“I’d like to emphasize that we’ve been discussing projects; I’ve met with all cities and city representatives (previously) that are involved in this SPLOST project and we’re working together very well,” said Ledbetter. “It’s very important that we do so. I cannot emphasize enough how important this SPLOST referendum is to us. Gordon County collects a certain amount of ad valorem tax, but SPLOST and LOST make up the vast majority of our revenue. If we did not have the SPLOST or LOST, we would have to cut many major projects and services, and taxes would go up. We’re trying to plan projects very carefully, and have spent a lot of time already planning with engineers in the field looking at costs and cost estimates. We want to put a very sensible SPLOST referendum before the public.”


Ledbetter said that the current state of development the community is experiencing heightens the need for the SPLOST to pass.


“If our public wants improved intersections, improved roads, improvements to keep up with the growth that’s coming our way we’ve got to have this SPLOST,” said Ledbetter. “If we want fire trucks and fire stations and the public safety vehicles that we need, if we want roads paved, we’ve got to have the SPLOST.”


Past projects completed with SPLOST dollars include the Peters Street project with sidewalks added, the new Judicial Building and the Courthouse remodel, the new Health Department, new fire trucks, fire hydrants, patrol cars, the paving of about 37 miles of roadways each year and recreation department renovations, among other projects.


Ledbetter said that the revenues for the 2024 SPLOST will be estimated conservatively at around $76 – $77 million dollars.


“That would be a very conservative (estimate),” said Ledbetter. “We try to budget conservatively with our SPLOST revenue; we consult with an outside firm and have very qualified people in our finance departments that look at this and give us their recommendations.”


For the 2018 SPLOST, the estimated SPLOST revenue collection was advertised at $48 million but collections ended up being  greater due to internet sales tax collections and what is known locally as the Buc-ee’s Effect, which pushed SPLOST collections up dramatically since it opened in August 2021. However, recent collections have trended down; LOST revenues have been down three months in a row and the last month of SPLOST collections were down 9 percent.


“What we’ve agreed to do is if we have overages, we share those according to our agreed upon percentages and if we have losses, share those too,” said Ledbetter, noting that with the conservative collection estimates they are hoping for no losses.


Ledbetter said that the percentage of revenue from SPLOST collections that each municipality receives is based on that city's population but that since a lot of what is done in each city affects the County as a whole, the County is looking to again partner with the cities for a portion of projects where there is commonality.


In Calhoun, that’ll be a partnership between the city and county on road improvements, especially to certain corridors including Union Grove/Lovers Lane/Boone Ford/Dews Pond. In Plainville, the county will work with the city on storm water improvements. In Resaca, the county plans to assist with their sewer project.


After the meeting, the hope is that by June 15, the agreement for the cities and county on projects has been reached, signed and executed by the respective city councils to be delivered back to Gordon County in time for the county to adopt a resolution at their second regularly scheduled meeting in June. That resolution would be passed on to the Gordon County Board of Elections, where a call to election would be placed and advertised. The election would be held on Tuesday, November 7, 2023.


The 2018 SPLOST ends on April 30, 2024 and the new 2024 SPLOST, if passed by the voters, would begin on May 1, 2024.


The proposed projects Gordon County is looking at include infrastructure improvements, essential government, public safety and capital improvements. This includes fire trucks and equipment, fire hydrants and possible fire stations; 911 and EMA facility improvements or new facilities; to continue to pave 37 miles of roads each year; public works equipment and staff vehicle needs (the County is already spending a good bit of money on maintenance of the equipment and vehicles); technology improvements; and renovations and improvements to recreation parks.


“There are no special projects so far; the list has nothing but essential government needs at this time,” said Ledbetter.


“I think it’s our responsibility to be frugal with the dollars that are coming and I think it’s an opportunity for us to work together on projects and show the citizens that there are needs out there that would be very detrimental to the tax payer if we didn’t have SPLOST,” said Commission Chair Bud Owens. “I’m excited about some of the infrastructure and road projects we’ll be working on with Calhoun because it benefits all of our community. I’m looking forward to working with the City of Plainville and the City of Resaca as they entertain their projects and see how they can benefit and improve their particular areas. I encourage everyone to stay positive through this process and come up with a very good list (of projects) where we can hit some of the true needs that we have in our community over the next few years. As we know, this is the way to pay for those things that are needed to keep us from having to look at taxpayer dollars.”


“Transportation is a big issue, contrary to what people don’t want, we are growing,” said Commissioner Bruce Potts. “I think we’re behind and we’re coming from a place of serious catch-up. That’s why I think it’s vital that SPLOST is passed. As we grow, I think there’s a need to be interested in quality of life. We have people that are looking for what we offer as a community.”


Worley said the City of Calhoun’s project list will also feature a heavy emphasis on infrastructure.


“We are looking along the same areas that the County is, looking at transportation and we have a high priority with our road and sidewalk infrastructure,” said Worley. “We’re trying to have better connectivity for pedestrians as well as vehicles.”


Other big projects for the City will include utilities.

“Our plant capacities are in excellent shape, it’s the distribution that’s always the challenge,” said Worley. “We’ve got a lot of old infrastructure; undersized lines, water (line) quality, piping that’s been in the ground for 60 to 70 years. The City has been very proactive in replacing a lot of that infrastructure but there’s hundreds and hundreds of miles that still need to be (replaced). So as with every SPLOST, a portion needs to be dedicated to water line upgrades and replacement and sewer infrastructure to keep up with that growth.”


Worley also mentioned equipment and public safety projects will be on the list, including patrol vehicles, fire trucks, and a possible addition of another fire station. Some dollars will also go towards renovations at the Recreation Department, with more money needed for the Billy Bearden Center renovation and ball park improvements.


“The SPLOST is important to each community,” said Mayor Palmer. “It’s an opportunity for new projects and new equipment that you need for day-to-day operations. I really would like to emphasize the communication between the County and the City, and how far we’ve come in being able to sit down and talk about joint projects that benefit everyone and make the entire county better. To me, if you want to see the county totally, as well as the cities move forward and accomplish what you want to accomplish, the SPLOST is the best way to do that. The only way to see the improvements that you want to see is through the continuation of the SPLOST.”


Resaca Mayor Wyatt said that their sewer project has been held up due to having to run the project under the railroad tracks, but that they hope to continue expansion further with SPLOST dollars.

“The SPLOST is very important; we’re doing our sewer and hopefully it’ll be completed as soon as we can get under the railroad,” said Mayor Wyatt. “We are updating the town hall facility and want to do some work to the ball fields. One thing we are (also) looking at is a possible community storm shelter.”


Plainville Mayor Miller said the SPLOST is important for Plainville.


“We will not be able to do the majority of the projects we have underway and have completed without SPLOST,” said Miller. “I think storm water management is going to be one of our larger categories for the upcoming SPLOST.”


In closing the meeting, Ledbetter again reiterated the importance of SPLOST to Gordon County.


“We want to keep our property taxes as low as possible for our citizens, and SPLOST is the best way to keep property taxes low,” said Ledbetter.

State HB 773 introduced to repeal City of Ranger's charter 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

There’s a good possibility that Ranger will cease to exist as an incorporated city in Gordon County after Rep. Matt Barton introduced HB 773 on Monday, March 20 that would repeal the act that provided the new charter for the Town of Ranger from April 1979.


Barton is the bill's primary sponsor, with Rep. Jason Ridley and Rep. Rick Jasperse also sponsoring.


The move comes after several citizen complaints that Ranger was not offering delivery of services.


The bill would transfer duties and obligations from Ranger to Gordon County. 


The bill in part reads: "To repeal an Act to provide a new charter for the Town of Ranger in the County of Gordon, approved April 11, 1979 (Ga. L. 1979 p. 4208); to provide for transfer of duties and obligations to Gordon County; to provide for transfer of all legal rights, privileges, and assets to Gordon County; to establish a special tax and service district for outstanding bonded indebtedness and other obligations; to provide for transfer of all federal and state permits and licenses; to provide for the transfer of ongoing judicial actions; to provide for the continuation of zoning and land use regulations; to provide for future proceeds of special and regular local option sales taxes; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes." The bill also states that upon the effective date of this Act, the existence of any local authority created by or for the Town of Ranger will terminate on the same date. 

You can read the full bill HERE


After the first reading on Monday, the bill moved to the Georgia House's Intergovernmental Coordination Committee.

“I tried to contact who I thought was the mayor after moving here from Cherokee County last year, about an issue with the road that I live on and never got a response,” said Tyson Fritts, who lives on Possum Hollow Road inside the city limits of Ranger. “The road is in need of repair and you call the phone number for the city and it’s not in service.”


Fritts said he could have probably let that go but once he couldn’t get in touch with anyone to apply for a business license for his plumbing business, he had to do something about the issue.


“I couldn’t find anyone to give me a business license, so now, they’re affecting my livelihood,” said Fritts. “And there are other businesses here in Ranger. How did they get a license? I know of one business that has a new owner who needs a business license. They don’t have anyone to help.”


Fritts reached out to Gordon County, who advised him they could not do anything to issue him a business license due to Ranger being an incorporated municipality.


Fritts then reached out to Rep. Barton, who immediately began to try to contact Ranger, but never got a response.


“It’s a horrible situation,” said Barton. “I’ve been calling for close to a year and the number doesn’t work.”


According to Georgia law (Code Section 36-30-7.1), an active municipality must:


Provide at least three of the following services, either directly or by contract:

  • Law Enforcement

  • Fire protection and fire safety

  • Road and street construction or maintenance

  • Solid waste management

  • Water supply or distribution or both

  • Wastewater treatment

  • Stormwater collection and disposal

  • Electric or gas utility service

  • Enforcement of building, housing, plumbing and electric codes or other similar codes

  • Planning and zoning

  • Recreational facilities

In addition, an active municipality must:

  • Hold at least six regular, monthly or bimonthly, officially recorded public meetings within the 12 month period prior to execution of a certificate stating that the municipal corporation meets the minimum standards for determining an active municipality

  • Qualify for and hold a regular municipal election as provided by law


There are also population requirements that must be met, including a total residential population of at least 200 persons and an average residential population of at least 200 persons per square mile for the total area. At this time, Ranger has just over 100 residents, not meeting the population requirements for the just under 1 square mile the city encompasses, and it’s unclear how many, if any, of the services Ranger actually meets.


Beginning in July 1995, state law required that municipal corporations must meet certain minimum standards or risk becoming ‘inactive.’ The standards primarily require that the municipality provide a basic level of services, but several in the community do not feel Ranger is offering those basic services.


It is also unclear when Ranger last held a municipal election. Shea Hicks, Chairperson for the Gordon County Board of Elections, said that the last time Ranger attempted to hold an election through a contract with Gordon County was in 2005, but that election was cancelled due to incumbents not having any opposition.


In the 2018 Gordon County Joint Comprehensive Plan, Ranger’s elected officials were identified as Mayor Chad Stamey and council members as James Haynes, April Bailey and Brian Crider, with Sonja May identified as Town Clerk. According to the Georgia Municipal Association website, the Mayor is still identified as Stamey and City Clerk is Sonja May, with the council members listed as James Hanes, Beatrice Nix and Jewell Thacker. It is unclear when an election would have been held between 2018 and 2023, as the Secretary of State’s office has no election information listed for Ranger, and several Ranger residents who have lived there for many years say that there have been no recent elections that they are aware of. The Gazette has requested election records from the State concerning Ranger’s last election, but has not received a response at press time.


And it’s unknown whether any of the people claiming they currently hold public elected office in Ranger could face criminal charges for violating Georgia Code 16-10-23: Impersonating a Public Officer or Employee if no elections have actually been held in recent years.


The Gazette has made several calls to Mayor Chad Stamey’s personal phone but it goes directly to a generic voicemail. At press time, Stamey has not returned messages left by the Gazette.


It is also unclear how Ranger is able to financially sustain itself. Ranger does not levy taxes against property owners, and did not receive any money from the most recent 2018 SPLOST.


The last SPLOST that Ranger appears to have received money from was 2012. In early 2015, then Ranger city clerk Cynthia R. Brown was arrested in connection with the theft of more than $154,000 in funds collected from SPLOST tax revenues. At the time, it was believed that the thefts began in June 2012 and continued through December 2014. Brown was originally arrested and charged in early 2015 with 26 counts of theft by taking and 48 counts of forgery. According to records from Gordon County Superior Court, Brown negotiated a deal filed on May 31, 2018 on 15 guilty pleas of Theft by Taking and was sentenced to 15 years of probation and had to pay restitution in the amount of $1,000 through the Department of Community Supervision for the benefit of the Town of Ranger. She also had to serve 200 hours of community service, and was not allowed contact with anyone involved in the case.


On Monday, March 20, 2023, a first reading of Barton’s bill was read on the floor of the State House and was assigned to a committee. If passed, Gordon County would take over services for the residents in the city of Ranger.


Barton said his main concern that caused him to introduce the bill is the citizens.


“This is the best solution I see to make sure the citizens of Ranger are being served,” said Barton.

Work progresses for two new developments on Curtis Parkway

Friday, February 17, 2023

Work continues to progress on two large residential developments on Curtis Parkway in Calhoun, which are expected to alleviate some of the issues with lack of housing experienced in the community over the past few years.


The Exchange and The Ridge at Calhoun are the names of the two new communities going up on the land on the east side of the highway near Heritage Baptist Church and Ashton Furniture.

The Exchange is a 300 unit, three-level garden style apartment complex situated on around 19 acres on the north side of all the development. The Exchange will offer 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartment homes. That project is expected to be completed in early 2024. You can find more information as it becomes available at or on Facebook at

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On the south 34+/- acres of the development area, Manor Lake Development is building The Ridge at Calhoun, 236 single-story cottage-style residences offering 2-3 bedroom floor plans, according to Will Creekmore, Vice President of Development for Manor Lake Development. The build-to-rent cottages will feature front and back porches, a resort-style pool, pet park and community club house. The community's convenient location, along with upscale finishes and amenities, are billed as the place “where you can celebrate life and escape the everyday.”


Manor Lake Development is a real estate company that focuses on projects in the senior living, student housing and multi-family industries. This will be their first build of this type in Georgia, with another planned for Rome in the near future.

The cottages are now leasing. To review floor plans, or for more information on The Ridge at Calhoun, visit You can also find an application area on the website as well.


With all of the additional building in the area, the City Council in early 2022 approved the purchase of the land at the northwest corner of Dews Pond Road and Curtis Parkway to make improvements for traffic flow to the road, but the proposed round-about project, considered a quick response project by the Georgia DOT, does not have an estimated start time.


The DOT’s Quick Response Project Program allows Georgia DOT to quickly identify, approve and construct small traffic operations safety projects on the state route system.


City Administrator Paul Worley said that the GDOT has granted the City up to $400,000 in funding to go towards the round-about project.


“(We recently) met with our traffic engineers to walk the area,” said City Administrator Paul Worley. “They have completed all field surveying and they are now continuing to work on the overall design and engineering of the project. Once engineering design is complete, we should have enough information to obtain the additional right-of-way needed, work on all utility relocations required and finally, road construction. There are many moving parts to a road project like this.”


The Georgia DOT highly recommends roundabouts due to their numerous benefits, including reducing the number of points where vehicles can cross and eliminating the potential for right-angle and head-on crashes; prompting lower speeds, giving drivers more time to react; increasing efficiency and reduced congestion since the yield-controlled design means fewer stops, fewer delays and shorter queues; there is long-term cost effectiveness since roundabouts do not require the same maintenance and operational costs as traffic signals; their design allows for landscaping and beautification and roundabouts are found to significantly reduce pollution, noise impacts, and fuel consumption.


In addition to that road work, Worley told the Gazette last year that the City hopes there will be additional improvements to the area, including the addition of a stacking lane on Curtis Parkway for Calhoun Primary and Elementary school traffic heading south from Dews Pond, along with building a sidewalk that will connect the Dews Pond sidewalk to the one already in place around Firehouse Gym.

REMEMBERING A LOCAL LIVESTOCK JUDGING LEGEND: ‘The Darby’ Livestock Judging Contest held Saturday

Monday, February 13, 2023

Gordon County 4-H hosted ‘The Darby’ Livestock Judging Contest on Saturday, Feb. 11, at Northwest Georgia Livestock Pavilion in Calhoun.

‘The Darby’ livestock judging contest was named in honor and memory of former Gordon County 4-H and later FFA Livestock Judging participant Matthew Darby, known by many as simply “Darby,” a 2009 Gordon Central graduate who passed away due to complications from COVID in August 2021.

Livestock judging consists of analyzing …or judging…animals and comparing them against an accepted standard. Livestock judging is usually a team sport, made up of four people per team, but can be performed individually.

A total of 66 students in middle and high schools, in both 4-H and FFA, representing the states of Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, competed in The Darby, the first year of the contest. There were a total of 10 senior teams (9th – 12th grades) and 8 junior teams (4th-8th grades). Livestock judged at the event included breeding and market cattle, swine, sheep and goats.

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TOP LEFT PHOTO: Matthew Darby. TOP RIGHT PHOTO: Annoucements being made at the awards table at 'The Darby' Livestock Judging Competition on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023. BOTTOM RIGHT PHOTOS: The Gordon County 4-H Livestock Judging Team that won the state competition, from left to right: Matthew Darby, Jacob Holmes, Coach Joe Darby, Tyler Turnquist and David Miller; then the remaining members of the team at Saturday's event: David Miller, Tyler Turnquist and David Miller. BOTTOM LEFT PHOTO: Participants getting ready to judge market lambs at Saturday's event.

“When Matthew was a little boy, he did not talk; he was quite shy,” said Kathy Darby, his mother. “When he got in 4-H and started DPA (District Project Achievement), he really came out of his shell. He was on the BB Team and Shotgun Team. He stayed busy.”

Matthew’s love of livestock came after spending time on farms as a small child.

“He liked going out and riding around to see the cows in the pasture,” said Kathy. “His uncle, Joe Darby, was the 4-H Coordinator at the time, and he always had cows. So he was just really into it.”

Matthew’s dad, Harry, showed cattle as a child, and worked with Matthew as he became old enough to participate in 4-H. In livestock showing, a participant exhibits their animal, a cow, a goat, a pig or sheep, in front of a judge. A lot of time goes into feeding, caring for and training the animal.

“He began showing when he was in 5th grade; he only showed cows,” said Kathy of Matthew. “He was good at it. He won Showmanship several times, he would win his class in some shows, and he’d be Grand Champion. He was very successful with it.”

In high school at Gordon Central, Matthew competed in livestock judging in a team that also consisted of David Miller, Tyler Turnquist and Jacob Holmes. The four boys were very successful in their years competing together, winning the 4-H State Livestock Judging Contest, coached by Matthew's uncle, Joe Darby.

“You are kind of born into it really,” said Miller. “You start at 8-years-old in 4-H, then we morphed into FFA in high school. I stuck with 4-H in livestock judging. I teamed up with Tyler, Jacob and Matthew. We participated as a team in livestock judging - cattle, sheep and pigs - and we just became good at it. We grew a passion for it, realized how good we were at it and we went to the state level and won there. Then we went to the national level and won there. We’ve been to Kansas City, Missouri; South Dakota; Austin, Minnesota; Hershey Pennsylvania; Louisville, Kentucky and all over the state of Georgia. We traveled everywhere.”

“There’s a big show up in Austin, Minnesota and that’s where Spam is made,” said Melissa Hubbard, who served as the Ag teacher and FFA Advisor at Gordon Central for about 12 years. “They take these boys up to the National Barrow Show, the only team from the Southeast, and they win the contest! It was unbelievable. All they did was judge pigs.

“I had Matthew for four years at Gordon Central,” said Hubbard. “He came into my program as a freshman around 2005. I was the FFA Advisor for Gordon Central, but Matthew came up through the ranks in 4-H, so once he came to Gordon Central, he was in both 4-H and FFA. He was a State finalist in Proficiency Application and he was on a nationally recognized judging team that won some national contests. If I could describe him with one word when it comes to livestock and judging, it’s ‘passion.’ He absolutely ate, slept and breathed livestock and livestock judging.”

Holmes said that over the years, he feels their most important win was their first.

“The biggest competition we ever won was the first 4-H competition; it was the most meaningful because it was the first one we won,” said Holmes.

“In 4-H, when you are in 9th, 10th, and 11th grade, it’s so competitive,” said Miller. “If you won state, you got to go to Louisville to National. We were in the Top 20 there! Then you see what Darby did with his experience, becoming an Ag teacher. He set the legacy.``

After high school, Darby received a full ride scholarship in livestock judging at North Eastern Oklahoma A&M (NEO), and along with Holmes, spent his first two years of college there. After graduation with an associate’s degree at NEO, Darby came home to Georgia, and attended the University of Georgia, again with Holmes, participating in judging there as well.

“They were very competitive; usually in the Top 5,” said Kathy of his team at UGA.

Matthew graduated UGA in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture and Animal Science. With that degree, he began a teaching career in Ag, first in Effingham County, then after a year, becoming a Vocational Agriculture teacher at Northside High School in Warner Robins where he was the coach for the Livestock Judging Team and served as an advisor to the FFA.

“He (graduated and became) an Ag teacher, but that was the last thing I thought Matthew Darby would ever do,” said Hubbard. “Matthew was an old soul in a young man’s body. When he began teaching, I was afraid he might struggle but he took those kids and they loved him. They adored him. He cared about the kids but there was accountability, discipline and expectations. He was very successful in his too-short career. He was a great young man.”

“He loved what he did and he loved the kids,” said Harry of Matthew teaching. “He had one student that wanted to show who didn’t have anything. So Matthew bought a calf and let (the student) show it, and bought the student the shirt and shoes to use as his show clothes.”

“He built a tremendous program in that high school,” said Commissioner Kurt Sutherland, who has years of experience in livestock showing and worked with the local 4-H for about 10 years as the livestock coordinator. He was also on hand helping at Saturday’s contest.

“Matthew was a great young man that came through (Gordon County) who followed his dream,” said Sutherland. “There are a lot of different states represented here today (by people) who were Matthew’s friends in junior college and at the University of Georgia. Some brought stock to be judged; others are here as officials. It says so much that a lot of people have traveled a lot of miles to honor him.”

Saturday’s Livestock Judging Contest was also attended and worked by Miller, Turnquist and Holmes, with all three saying you could not have kept them away from the event.

“I grew up in Calhoun, went off to college in Oklahoma with Darby for two years, moved back here and went to UGA with Darby,” said Holmes. “In this building is where I met Darby for the first time. It’s full circle.”

“It makes me proud of Darby,” said Miller of the livestock judging contest that bears the name of Matthew Darby.

“And it’s an honor to be here and to be able to help out in his memory,” said Turnquist.

“I’ve known him for so long and he was like a brother,” said Holmes. “Like a brother to the fact that we went everywhere together and we didn’t always like each other but we always loved each other. There’s no telling the thousands of miles we’ve spent together. This (contest) is a really big deal to me.”

"I just feel honored to be able to put on such an event in memory of an individual such as Matthew who made such a big impact on peoples lives!" said Gordon County 4-H Program Assistant Tim Street.

“It’s very touching,” said Kathy. “It makes us proud of him. He was a special young man. It was very sweet of 4-H to do this in his honor.”

***The results for 'The Darby' Livestock Judging Contest will be published Tuesday.

Update on broadband internet project given
at latest Commission meeting

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

According to Gordon County Administrator Jim Ledbetter, it will be a bit longer before internet is available to the unserved areas of Gordon County.


Ledbetter said in his update to the Commissioners that county staff, Board Chair Bud Owens and Vice Chair Kevin Cunningham hosted Comcast representatives on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023 for an update on the County initiative to bring broadband to all unserved areas of Gordon County.


As reported in September 2021, the Board of Commissioners awarded a proposal from Comcast to bring broadband services to the unserved areas to Gordon County. At that time, Comcast said it was planning to bring high-speed internet that meets the federal definition of high-speed to more than 5,100 homes in Gordon County that are not currently served. In January of this year, it was announced that Comcast was awarded a grant in the amount of $4,400,000 by the state, but was for only 4,385 locations in Gordon County. The grant was part of Governor Brian Kemp's initiative Capital Projects Fund Grant Program, utilizing funds from the American Rescue Plan Act from the federal government.


"We met with high anticipation for a good update since the grant had been awarded," Ledbetter told the Board. Because federal money that's being passed through the state is being used, the timeline has now changed.


"Comcast and the State have been working through the necessary contracts for grant administration and execution," said Ledbetter in his report. "The contracts are supposed to be signed this week. Because Federal money is involved, a formal RFP (bid) process must be followed for all contractors working on the project. This process will take at least 60 days. So that means construction will not begin until the RFP results are in and contracts are signed. Comcast was selected by Gordon County to establish high speed broadband service to all feasible locations. The selection of Comcast was made after an advertised public proposal process. Comcast was the only internet service provider to submit a proposal after ATT and another declined the opportunity. There has been some discussion on social media expressing concern that the government does not need to be in the ISP business. Gordon County will not be an internet service provider. Our role is to use the Public Facilities Authority as a pipeline for the permissible use of ARPA funds to bring broadband to areas that do not have it. Without government incentives, these areas would continue to be unserved because there would not be enough return on investment to the ISP due to distance and low population density."


Ledbetter told the Board this extends the project considerably.


"It will be no sooner than 60-plus contracting days before they can run fiber to people's homes," said Ledbetter. "This process started in 2021; the Board of Commissioners saw the need to get broadband to the rural areas to our communities that were unserved. The reason they were unserved is because there's no return of investment for Comcast, AT&T and so forth to run the wire and then make that money back at the monthly rate for broadband.


"We thought, at that time, we could get broadband to everybody in a hurry," said Ledbetter. "Comcast was the only proposer and has been working diligently with us ever since. Despite our good intentions, it looks like, just to be real fair to the community, describe a 60-day process from now, and add another 30-60 days to that to start running wire then the entire process from there will probably take 18 months."


Ledbetter said there is a silver lining to the project.


"Because there is federal money involved, this is supposed to be benefitting our unserved areas and our people who cannot afford broadband," said Ledbetter. "For certain folks who qualify, they will be able to receive it for free as I understand. There will be a reduced rate for others. There will be a minimum basic service of $30 available, and then if you want the bells and whistles, the prices go up."


In other news from the meeting:


The Board adopted a resolution appointing new County Clerk Hollis Barton as the County Records Custodian and Open Records Clerk and Adopting Records Retention Policy.


The Board approved an application for a Malt Beverage, Wine, and/or Liquor License to American Legion Post 305 in Fairmount.


The Board approved a request from Gordon County Fire to award a bid purchase for five new thermal cameras in the amount of $36,522 to Georgia Fire and Rescue Supply. The items came in below budget and will be budgeted using the Fire Fund. The Board also approved to surplus items no longer deemed useful by the fire department.


The Board approve a request from Gordon County Sheriff's Office to approve a proposal to award a bid to Telenet Systems for a new camera system at the Gordon County Justice Center (Jail) in the amount of $365,000, which is $65,000 over budget due to inflation. This was the low bid, and it was pointed out that the Jail has several cameras that are not operational at this time. The money will come from the Sheriff's Office Budget from the General Fund.


The Board approved the waiving of adoption fees at Gordon County Animal Control until further notice.


"We're full now," said Animal Control Director Sue Henson. "I think this will help a lot to get some of the animals into homes."


The fees being waived are adoption (free spay/neuter certificates for adopted pets included) until further notice.


The Board approved a request from the City of Calhoun Utilities to allow the City to install a 12-inch water line on Gordon County property off Lovers Lane at the old GSP building and if feasible, to work with Gordon County Public Works to remove the oak trees that would be contiguous to that water line.


In other news from Ledbetter's report:


SPLOST and LOST revenue dated January 31, 2023 reflect collections reported for December 2022. For that period, SPLOST collections were $1,337,079.17 which is a $34,255.78 (3.5%) increase over the same period last year. LOST collections were $811,385.84 which is a $14,188.64 (2.29%) decrease over the same period last year. The LOST decrease is due to an adjustment that increased distribution to the Cities as a result of population growth within the cities.

Gordon County and its Cities expect to have a referendum on the ballot in November 2023 to continue the Special Local Option Sales Tax when the current SPLOST expires in April 2024. Gordon County has provided a calendar to all municipalities to participate in planning. Chairman Owens and County Administration met with Calhoun Mayor Palmer and city staff last week to discuss areas of common interest to be addressed with SPLOST revenue such as possible traffic flow improvements intended to benefit everyone.


OPIOID SETTLEMENTS: Last month Ledbetter reported that Gordon County has received $119,288.11 to date from the nationwide class actions against drug manufacturers and distributors. Settlements continue to come in from manufacturers and distributors. These funds are held separately from the general fund and must be used to remediate issues related to the opioid crisis. The County is studying permissive uses and local needs for these funds.


A budget calendar was presented to the BOC at the work session last Friday. Budget planning is underway for F/Y 2023-2024.


In ARPA funds, the Finance Director filed the quarterly report that was due at the end of January so that we remain in compliance with federal requirements. The money remains earmarked for providing Broadband to unserved areas, digitizing vital records, and has been used previously to provide premium pay to essential government workers.


In construction projects:

A project meeting with the Architect and Contractor on January 26th concerning the 1960's Courthouse. Floor installation has begun on the first floor and all flooring should end in June. As reported in January: “Drywall is completed on all floors. Trim work has begun on the first and second floor. First coat of paint has been applied on the first and second floors. Ceiling grids and lights are installed on the first and second floors.” Looking forward, elevators should be complete on June 30, 2023, courtroom benches installed by June 28, final paint by end of March, low voltage and audio video by end of July, back porch complete in May.


The Administration Building in downtown Calhoun is in need of roof repair. Because it is a slate roof and a historical building, the project is expected to be expensive, per Ledbetter. Momon will present an estimate for roof and cornice/gutter repairs in Q1. Ledbetter said it is part of the 2018 SPLOST.


The Public Works building has damage due to water seepage over time possibly due to poor construction methods when it was built 21 years ago. The county has consulted with air quality specialists, Croft and Associates architects and engineers, and Momon Construction for a plan to remediate and repair the building. County staff has been moved to a temporary onsite trailer while repairs are underway. This damage is not covered by insurance.


The Juvenile Court facility experienced extensive flood damage due to a broken water pipe during the December freeze. Remediation of the water damage should be complete next week and reconstruction of the affected area should begin next week. This damage is covered by insurance.


At the Redbone Ridges Landfill, the County continues to file reports as due. The most recent was the industrial storm water report and completion of Cell 3A.


In Economic Development, Thor officials briefly showed the completed facility to Keith and me. You cannot appreciate the vast size of this 1.2 million square foot facility until you are inside of it. As of the tour, the building did not have a tenant.

The Gordon County Development Authority met on January 24th. Ledbetter's takeaway was that several warehouse projects that are permitted remain underway but, industrial development interest may be cooling off as inflation and interest rate hikes affect the economy.


The Georgia Department of Transportation briefed county officials on local projects which are part of the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP). Projects include: upgrades for pedestrians at State ROW’s in 2025; Bridge on HWY 156 at Salacoa Creek in 2025; Bridge on Hwy 411 in Oakman in 2027.Roundabout at intersection of Newtown Church/Craigtown Rds. with Hwy 225; Widening Hwy 156 heading east from Calhoun in 2030; modifying HWY 53 in Scottsville to install a hard median; intersection improvements at Hwy 41 and Redbud Road to begin in 2024; and, Hwy 53 resurfacing is to begin soon. We are inviting GDOT to a future BOC work session for further updates and explanation.


The County continues work on the Comprehensive plan update. A second Public Hearing is anticipated for the end of March and public notices will be posted 30 days in advance.


The next meeting of the Gordon County Board of Commissioners will be held at 6 p.m. (Work Session at 5 p.m.) on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at the Gordon County Judicial Building Assembly Room on Piedmont Street.

Hughes arrested again; faces DUI, other charges
after a traffic stop Saturday night

Monday, January 16, 2023

Jeffery Lance Hughes, 50, of Sitton Road, Calhoun (pictured), was arrested by the Georgia State Patrol on Saturday, Jan. 14, on a slew of new charges, including DUI and Possession, nearly a year after his arrest in an unrelated hit-and-run incident in Plainville that killed a bicyclist.


According to the GSP Department of Public Safety incident report, just after 8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14, a trooper was on patrol on GA 156 near Harris Beamer Road, when he observed a large white truck (a 2009 GMC Sierra) traveling on the highway. The trooper noticed a large amount of damage to the windshield, and after it passed, saw that it had damage to its taillights and no taillight covers on the passenger side. The report states the truck appeared to be traveling at approximately 65 – 70mph. The trooper quickly turned around and was eventually able to see the vehicle braking; turning onto Sitton Road then coming to a stop.


The trooper exited his patrol car and approached the driver’s window and requested the driver’s license. The driver was identified as Jeffery Hughes and the trooper noted several firearms in the vehicle while speaking to Hughes, and that Hughes appeared nervous. The trooper asked Hughes what he was doing that night, and Hughes replied he was going to a pond to shoot beavers. The trooper noted as he continued to speak to Hughes, Hughes’ speech was fast, he had dilated pupils and beads of sweat around the edge of his hat. The trooper asked Hughes if there was anything illegal in the vehicle and Hughes stated there was not.


The trooper, noting that Hughes may be under the influence of a CNS stimulant, asked Hughes to exit the vehicle; he asked Hughes if he had any other guns on his person or drugs. Hughes replied he did not. The trooper advised Hughes that he appeared to be very abnormally nervous, and Hughes told the trooper it was because he had the guns. The trooper patted Hughes down, and noticed he became more nervous and began shaking. The trooper asked the man several more times if there was anything Hughes wanted to tell him, and Hughes answered “yes,” then “no.” Upon open-handed patting Hughes’ top jacket pocket, the trooper felt what he immediately identified as a meth pipe. The trooper asked Hughes if he was sure that the pipe wasn’t what had him so nervous. Hughes then began pleading and begging with the trooper “please don’t, sir.” Hughes told the trooper that he has “some bad stuff going on right now” and advised the trooper it had to do with a hit and run.


The trooper asked Hughes about the last time he used, and Hughes told him it was earlier in the day. The trooper then asked Hughes how long he had a problem. Hughes responded that he didn’t have a problem and that he does not use very often; that he only uses every once in a blue moon and this just happened to be one of the blue moons.


The trooper then had Hughes perform a series of standardized field sobriety tests and noted Hughes was unable to balance and made improper turns. The trooper asked Hughes if he only does meth every once in a while, why doesn’t he put himself in a program to get off the drug. Hughes told the trooper that he should. Hughes was then placed under arrest for DUI. While the trooper was handcuffing Hughes, the man began to plead with the trooper and stated he was “right here at his house.” He asked the trooper to “please do not do this;” the trooper advised Hughes that he was not doing that, that Hughes did this. Hughes told the trooper he understood.


The trooper then read Hughes Georgia’s implied consent notice for suspects age 21 or over and requested a blood test, and Hughes agreed to the test. The trooper asked Hughes if he had a cell phone to call someone to pick up his vehicle. Hughes told the trooper that he had a cell phone in the truck. The trooper then walked Hughes to the back of his patrol car and asked him if he had anything else illegal on his person and warned him that if anything illegal was found at the jail, he could possibly be charged with a felony. Hughes told the trooper that he had something in a top jacket pocket. After further examination, in the bottom of the top jacket pocket, the trooper located a clear plastic baggie that contained a white crystal substance that appeared to be Methamphetamine (meth).


The trooper retrieved Hughes cell phone and then called Hughes’ wife to get her to pick up his truck. Upon Hughes telling her what he was being charged with, she immediately began to cry and became very upset, according to the report. She said that she would have to bring their 8-year-old daughter down with her. The trooper advised against it because he did not want the daughter to see her father in that situation. Hughes then had his wife put their daughter on the phone, and the trooper noted it appeared that Hughes was trying to use his daughter to guilt the trooper into letting Hughes go. Shortly afterwards, a neighbor was able to retrieve Hughes’ truck.


After completing the investigation at the scene, the trooper transported Hughes to the hospital for the blood draw. At the hospital, Hughes asked the trooper if it was too late to refuse the blood test. The trooper advised Hughes that he could refuse at any time and asked if he would like to be read the implied consent again. Hughes stated he would and the trooper again read to Hughes, at his request, the implied consent several more times and requested a blood test. Hughes again agreed to the blood test. After the test was complete, Hughes was transported to Gordon County Jail for booking.


At press time Monday Jan. 15, 2023, Hughes remained housed in Gordon County Jail on charges of felony Possession and Use of Drug Related Objects; DUI; felony Unlawful for Any Person to Purchase/Possess; Tail Light violation; Windshield/Windshield Wiper violation. He was denied bond on Monday by the Magistrate Court and will now have to request bond in Superior Court. A $50,000 property bond from the March 2022 arrest is still in effect for his previous charges.


As readers may remember, in February 2022, an Adairsville man succumbed to injuries he received after he was hit by what appeared to be a dump truck while riding his bike on Saturday night, Feb. 5, 2022.


GSP Post 43 Calhoun was requested to investigate that hit-and-run crash on Hwy. 53 and Brownlee Mountain Road near Plainville. At the time, the GSP said a possible older model orange cab dump truck with a black bed was traveling south on Hwy. 53 in the center turn lane while approaching Brownlee Mountain Road. The report states that 52-year-old Michael Shane Robbins, of an Adairsville address, was on a bicycle in the center turn lane near Brownlee Mountain Road. The truck struck the bicycle in the rear tire. After impact, the vehicle fled the scene. Robbins was transported to Erlanger Medical in Chattanooga by LifeForce, where he was listed in serious condition. On Feb. 9, the GSP received information from family members that Robbins had succumbed to his injuries the previous day. In early March 2022, it was announced by the GSP that Hughes was wanted in connection to hit-and-run, and put out a BOLO on March 5. Hughes turned himself in early Monday, March 7, 2022. At the time he turned himself in, Hughes was charged with Felony 1st Degree Homicide by Vehicle; Felony Tampering with Evidence; Hit-and-Run; Duty Upon Striking a Fixture; and Operation of Vehicle Without Current Plate in connection with the hit and run. Hughes has not been indicted on those charges at press time.

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