Planning and Zoning recommend denial of Evergreen rezone for large poultry production; request now goes before Commissioners

Monday, September 13, 2021

On Monday night, Sept. 13, the Gordon County Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-0 to recommend denial of the rezone request for the Evergreen Road property in Resaca that was planned to house a large poultry operation.

That recommendation for denial will now go to the Gordon County Board of Commissioners, who will hold a public hearing and vote on the rezone at their next meeting.

The rezone applicant Toa Nguyen, of Chatsworth, was not on hand at Monday night’s meeting, but a representative of the project was on hand to answer questions.

The hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission was based on Nguyen’s original application in May 2021,

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for a request to rezone 577.17 acres on Evergreen to build “24 chicken houses to begin with, then as many as allowed by the ULDC (Unified Land Development Code).”  The houses are planned to be built about 600 feet from the bank of the Coosawattee River.

Before the public hearing could be held, the Planning and Zoning Commission requested an environmental study be performed; the environmental study was based on just 12 chicken houses being built on the property.

The representative for the project explained that Nguyen originally wanted the 24 chicken houses built, but Tyson, who is providing the birds, only agreed to 12 chicken houses up front, which is why the number of chicken houses was lower on the environmental study.

While the environmental study found that the project would be safe for air and water quality, the community members on hand at the meeting were not buying the results. More than 20 people signed up to speak at the public hearing, voicing their concerns on the affect these mega chicken houses will have on air and water quality, along with property values.

“Coosa River Basin Initiative is a clean water advocacy group; we work on all of the Upper Coosa Basin, including the Coosa, Etowah, Oostanaula, Conasauga and the Coosawattee (rivers),” said Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman, executive director of CRBI. “Just considering the circumstances that fit the brief as requested by this board is grounds procedurally to recommend rejection of this proposal. Beyond that, having read the environmental impact study, I am very much concerned about the water table underneath this property that is pockmarked with regions that have very high seasonal high-point water table, coming to 18-inches up to zero, up to the surface; that’s  groundwater coming up to the soil. One of those pockmarks is immediately between the two sets of houses that are proposed with just the 12 house diagram. As a matter of fact, it’s immediately adjacent to the eastern complex’s litter and mortality storage facility. I’m very deeply concerned in giving the nature of this soil and how susceptible it is to pollution. Any procedural flaw in the handling of that litter will infiltrate into groundwater at that site. And given the amount of private residences around the area and the proximity to the Coosawattee (River), which is home to the federal threatened (river) otter, I’m very concerned about those pollutants very easily moving offsite, very specifically because how high the water table maxes out seasonally even where those 12  houses are proposed.”

Members of the Environmental Defense of Georgia (EDOG) were on hand with statements against the rezone.

“…We must stop applications like #Z21-13 from destroying our nation’s history. We are the home of the Cherokee.  We need to protect it, not destroy it like those before us,” said organizer Al Stone. “Gordon County has the greatest Ecotourism place in our state and surely the oldest sites dating back to 800A.D.  May we today celebrate the first Americans by not burning, killing, or covering their history, and our history, with chicken litter.”

“I have read the Unified Land Plan. I have read the commissioner’s meeting minutes,” said Meg Reidy. “On May 5, 2015 the commissioners implemented a moratorium on the development of chicken houses based on public health, safety and welfare. On March 7, 2017 the commissioners amended the moratorium, based on input by the Georgia Poultry Growers Association to allow permits for two or less chicken houses on a tract of land as long as those houses do not exceed 50 feet by 500 feet and are not designed to hold more than 35,000 birds. On July 11, 2017 the commissioners approved to amend the Unified Land Plan, which essentially lifted the moratorium on the construction of new large poultry operations.  However, the amendment clearly outlines all the information that is to be submitted with a conditional use application. I have reviewed the initial conditional use application, and the required documents were not part of the initial application. Based on this failure to adhere to the commissioner’s addendum to the Unified Land Plan and the Unified Land Plan I am requesting that the Planning & Zoning Commission and Commissioners vote no to Application #Z21-13.”

Resaca Mayor Nathan Wyatt said he was concerned about the additional traffic the poultry operation would bring to an already congested area at Resaca’s railroad crossing at Hwy. 136.

“They didn’t do a (traffic) impact study; I sent a resolution to (this committee) to check on the traffic. We say 12 chicken houses, 24 chicken houses, the next thing you know it’s 48. I deal enough with the CSX Railroad blocking the tracks. So if we have trucks sitting there (while the railroad is blocked), what’s going to happen? I call the railroad all the time to get them to move trains. All the traffic comes from the west; from the interstate to Hwy 136 over Hwy 41 and back to Hwy 136. It’s going to be congested. We talk about community; I don’t want to put this in my community. So I’m asking for (the committee) to deny this.”

Only one person spoke in favor of the rezone; a contractor who plans to bid for the building of the chicken houses if the rezone is approved by the Board of Commissioners. Mark Owens addressed the traffic in Resaca that many were complaining about.

“If they contract with Tyson Foods, it’ll be an extremer rarity that there will be a truck in Resaca,” said Owens. “They come out of Cumming, Georgia. Their feed mill is in Fairmount. Their hatchery is in Dahlonega. So everything will be coming from the east.”

Owens said the proposed poultry operation was just like the other poultry operations in Gordon County.

“This CAFO is no different than probably half the farms in Gordon County. Probably half of them or better would fall under the CAFO definition. We’re looking at 500 acres, and according to the ordinance as I understand it, it’s a total of only 120 acres needed for 24 houses. If he meets all setbacks and all requirements of the ordinances, in my opinion, this should be approved.”

Another issue brought up in the meeting was the cemetery on the property. The representative of the proposed chicken operation told the planning and zoning committee that they were planning to move the graves.

Committee members Sabrina Poole, Jerry Lovelace, Nathan Serritt, Eddie J. Smith and chair Randy Rule asked questions of clarification, then ultimately, Poole, Lovelace, Serritt and Smith all voted to recommend denial to the Board of Commissioners.

The next meeting of the Gordon County Board of Commissioners will be held next Tuesday, Sept. 21, beginning at 6 p.m.

NOT YOUR MOM AND POP CHICKEN FARM: Planning & Zoning meeting to be held Monday night, Sept. 13 for proposed Evergreen rezone for industrial-sized poultry production

Discrepancies in environmental study information and rezone application for Evergreen Road mega poultry project; Planning and Zoning Commission meeting scheduled for Monday night

Saturday, September 11, 2021

The request for Toa Quoc Nguyen to rezone property off of Evergreen Road from A-1, Agricultural District to Conditional Use for the purpose of building poultry houses will be heard by the Planning and Zoning Commission this Monday night, Sept. 13, beginning at 6 p.m. at the GEM Theatre on North Wall Street in downtown Calhoun. It will be the only public hearing for the rezone request before it goes to the Gordon County Board of Commissioners, and the Environmental Defense of Georgia (EDOG) wants to get the word out about the meeting for citizens to voice their concerns over the proposed development. EDOG has concerns over the findings in the environmental report, due to the discrepancies found, saying the environmental study should have been completed by an independent, unbiased third party.


The rezone request had been tabled for the environmental study to be performed on the property; however, information reported in that environmental study is vastly different from the application for rezone by Nguyen from May 2021.


The environmental report states that the farm will consist of 12 mega chicken houses on the property, housing about 28,000 birds, but in Nguyen’s rezone request in May 2021, he stated that there will be “24 houses to begin with and then as many as will comply with the U.L.D.C. (Unified Land Development Code) regulations,” which could be dozens of houses on the 577 acre property, which has the potential to house millions of birds on the property near the banks of the Coosawatee River.

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Because Nguyen began his application process in May 2021, he is exempted from the emergency moratorium on building chicken houses that the Gordon County Board of Commissioners put into place on Aug. 20.


Several items of note contained in the historical and environmental study includes:


Surface Water: Small portions of the property are located in a 100-year flood plain; the proposed location for the poultry houses and associated buildings will be outside of the 100-year flood plain. Significant adverse impacts on stormwater runoff quality post construction are also not expected given the proposed farm design and management practices;


Water Supply: The growers have indicated the primary source of drinking water for the broiler chickens will be groundwater extracted from onsite water supply wells. These wells will be located and constructed according to applicable standards (Georgia State and Gordon County Health Department water well standards), and they will be properly permitted/approved as required by local/state laws, rules, regulations, and guidelines. Well placement and design will consider the location of animal confinement areas, litter/mortality treatment and holding structures, and septic systems for sanitary wastewater;


Groundwater: The groundwater pollution susceptibility map of Georgia shows that the proposed poultry farm is located in an area that is rated as having a “high” susceptibility to groundwater pollution, (but) data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) indicates that the depth to groundwater in the region of Gordon County the farm will be constructed in is generally at least ten feet and is often 20-30 feet below the ground surface. This reported depth to groundwater is considered a limiting factor for potential pollutant migration to groundwater despite the nature of the soil itself. Overall, the potential for groundwater contamination from the proposed farming activities is considered to be low given the proposed farm design and proposed farming practices;


Solid Waste: Solid waste is not generated in significant quantities in typical poultry farm operations. Poultry litter and finished compost (from mortality management) will be handled as soil amendments/fertilizers, and no other significant source of solid waste is present. The limited solid waste materials generated by the farm will be transported offsite for proper disposal;


Air Quality: The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has developed the National Air Quality Site Assessment Tool (NAQSAT) to evaluate the potential impacts of various animal-based agricultural operations on air quality for these operations. The NAQSAT was used to evaluate the potential impact of the proposed broiler growing operation in Gordon County on air quality, and it indicated the proposed broiler operation is not expected to have a significant impact on air quality in the surrounding area;


Historical Review: The Cultural Resources Literature Review completed for the property and nearby area by R.S. Webb & Associates for the proposed poultry farm identified the presence of a cemetery within the project area along the abandoned Audubon Road. Under Georgia law, a full or partial cemetery delineation may be required by the local governing authority when there is a proposed/potential change in land use for land adjacent to or surrounding a cemetery. This finding will need to be considered in the design, construction, and operation of the proposed broiler farm;


Conclusion: Based on the results of this investigation there are no significant environmental concerns that would prohibit the proposed construction of this poultry farm.


But after having their own environmental study performed based on what Nguyen proposed in his application, EDOG feels the information in the most recent environmental study cannot be correct due to the differentiation on the quantity of chicken houses being proposed in the rezone application.


In late July, EDOG held a community information session on the proposed poultry operation, where dozens of concerned citizens, including many local chicken farmers, met to discuss their opposition to the farm on Evergreen.


Amy Massey, who has a background in science with a degree in Biology and has spent more than two decades in the Pharmaceutical and Biotech industry, explained at that meeting what this type of farm is and how it will affect the environment.


“I’m really concerned about this proposed use of land on Evergreen Road,” said Massey. “There are numerous public health and environmental issues from CAFO. We’re not talking about families with chicken farms, or Georgians who earn a living raising chickens. We are not talking about responsible Gordon County citizens who we know run good businesses. This is the total opposite of the family chicken farms we all know. CAFO’s are industrial-sized livestock operations. It could be for dairy cattle or hogs; (this farm is) about chickens. This property we’re discussing is a 24-plus chicken house operation which will classify it as a CAFO as defined by the US Department of Agriculture. The applicant has stated ’24 houses to begin with then as many as will comply.’ We’re talking millions of chickens. These are animal factories. They produce huge amounts of animal sewage and other pollutants. This CAFO will emit hundreds of gases including hazardous ammonia, methane, Hydrogen sulfide and airborne particles that will travel for miles. This is why it affects the entire county. It has the potential for 60 different human communal diseases. Currently, the EPA provides no regulation of air pollution problems from CAFOs. They just trust that the CAFO will report emissions of gases, especially ammonia. So your health is at risk here; (there is an) increased risk of respiratory issues, asthma, and gases such as Hydrogen sulfide lead to neurological and brain damage.


“The proposed CAFO on the Evergreen property is already known to have a shallow water table,” continued Massey. “The Coosawattee River is located only 600 feet from the southeast corner of the property. There are many tributaries and creeks that feed directly into the Coosawattee. This runoff would all go downstream, negatively impacting our (portion of the) county, other portions of the county and other counties, possibly into other states. While this proposed CAFO is subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act, this operation is so intensive, an industrial-sized operation with industrial-sized side effects such as ground pollution and effects to drinking water and the water system. It all ties into together. The waste alone is staggering; when you look at the amount of urine and feces this produces, it would equate to 135,000 humans per day. There’s nothing positive about a CAFO for our county or our environment. And if there is a poor design or poor management once this goes in, the environmental impact will be irreversible.”


Rucker McDonald, a Georgia Tech graduate who is a former Global Quality Manager at DuPont and now owns a cattle farm in the area, also spoke at that meeting about his concerns with the proposed poultry operation.

“Evergreen Road is a narrow, curvy country road,” said McDonald. “Owens Gin Road is a narrow road. (These roads now have) bike riders, runners, local cars, trucks and tractors. What happens when we have the big trucks running day and night? Chicken houses run 24-hours a day. The big trucks require turn lanes; they’re going to have to have expanded radiuses to make turns in certain locations. Also, about the structure: the construction that takes place will be big and it’s partially situated on a flood plain. That’s going to influence what it takes to build it and how strong the structure is.”


Al Stone, an organizer of EDOG, said that the group had paid for a report (which can be found at http://edog.site/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Zoning-Application-Z21-13-Analysis-1.pdf) that was presented to the County that shows in addition to the environmental issues, that there will be a decrease in property value county-wide.


At that meeting, a local chicken farmer also brought up the close proximity of the initial two-dozen chicken houses proposed on the property in Nguyen’s application and potentials for disease outbreak, including Bird Flu. He noted that if Bird Flu was to break out at the proposed development, farms in a five-mile radius would have to shut down.


“It’s a five-mile radius if there’s a breakout of the Bird Flu,” said the farmer. “Everybody around that has to stop production for six months. So I’m going to lose my pay for six months. Then what’s going to happen to those chicken houses? Because they will not put chickens back in the houses (after an outbreak).”


EDOG, made up of concerned citizens and chicken farmers from throughout Gordon County, strongly opposes the building of the operation, saying that the possibility of as many as 48 chicken houses on the farm, possibly more, will be detrimental to the community. Fighting for the health and safety of “Where We Live,” the group has a petition for citizens concerned with the project to sign. That petition can be found at www.change.org/ItsWhereWeLive. This petition is to gather signatures to show Gordon County commissioners, along with the Planning and Zoning Commission that the people of Gordon County are against the Evergreen Road rezone for the poultry operation. Supporters of the petition want the county leaders to make changes and have stricter regulations so other applicants of large-scale industrial agriculture facilities (CAFOs) will not be permitted in Gordon County.


For more information on EDOG, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/963257797788502
 

List of events for Patriot Day 2021:
20th Anniversary of 9/11

Monday, September 7, 2021

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ROUGH RIDER MEMORIAL 5K: Check-in begins at 6:30 A.M., Race at 7:30 A.M.

Love running for a cause or just because you are able? Then YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS THIS ONE! Come out and join the Georgia Army National Guard as we run in remembrance of the 14 Rough Riders killed in action during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This 5K will be a run/walk/ruck with 14 push-ups once you cross the finish; push-ups are not required.

We'll be set up with Vendors & some cool military vehicles to check out so you and your kiddos don't want to miss this! There may even be some Fire and Police vehicles too! We look forward to strengthening/rebuilding our relationship with our community while running (or walking) for a cause.

This will be a flat & fast course through the park with some awesome, one-of-a kind awards only available at the Rough Rider Memorial 5K!

Money raised will go to the Rough Rider Association, which funds the 108th Morale, Welfare, and Recreation events for our Soldiers and their families.

Race shirts guaranteed through 9/5, afterwards shirts will be available while supplies last.

ENTRY FEE


Virtual 5K...$35 (Registration closes 9/9)

Late Registration...5K $40 (Sept 5 - Sept 11)
 

EVENT BENEFICIARY

Money raised will go to the 1-108th Unit Fund to be used for Morale, Welfare, and Recreation events for our Soldiers and their families. Money will also go towards repairs and maintenance to the Rough Rider Memorial Wall at 108th Headquarters in Calhoun.
 

COURSE & TIMING
Great flat & fast course completely inside the park. We'll be chip timing the start & finish.

 

AWARDS & GOODIES
Awesome race shirt you'll be proud to wear!

One-of-a-Kind Engraved Tumblers & Rough Rider Decal awarded to the Top 3 M/F in the following Age Groups:

14 & Under
15 - 34
35-54
55-74
75+

GROUPS & TEAMS
Grab your friends...neighbors...come one, come all


Racing/Running is F-U-N and even better with a group of friends, family, etc. so grab them all...you'll all have a great time & you'll score a great discount.

Groups/Teams of 5 & more will receive a discount of $3.00 after the 5th person registers under the Group/Team.

VIRTUAL RUN - HOW IT WORKS
Can't make it out to the event site on race day? 
Still want to participate and have a shot at an award? or maybe you saw the shirt and said: "Sweet...I want one!" Then the virtual race is for you. Run when & where you want, just submit your time by end of Race Day. We'll ship out virtual packages the week-day after event date! *Shipping available for continental US only.

New to Virtual Running? Here's how it works:

Step 1: Get excited, grab some friends and buddies to join you! Sign up and register for the Rough Rider Memorial Virtual 5K!

Step 2: Hydrate, grab your buddy (or not) and get ready to get moving!

Step 3: Get out there and run or walk! You can run at the park, your favorite route in your neighborhood; anywhere you want. Please remember to social distance & be safe!

Step 4: HAVE FUN!~ Share your distance, a selfie, or a picture along your race route and use the hashtag #RoughRider5K

Step 5: Submit your results online directly onto RunSignUp from the Event Page or your Profile Page. You can submit your race time anytime from Sept 1st until 9/11/2021 11:59 PM..

Step 6: View your Virtual Results Monday after the Event Date.

CHAMPIONSHIPS & TURKEY TROT
All participants will automatically qualify for FREE entry into one of the 2020 Five Star Turkey Trots. See event website for details.

Top finishers will also qualify for entry into the Five Star 5K/10K Championships to be held January 3, 2021.

COURTESY & REFUND POLICY
Our events are designed to be fun for the entire family. With that in mind; any competitor, spectator, parent, volunteer, or sponsor, exhibiting unsportsmanlike conduct or interfering with the positive, competitive atmosphere of the event will be asked to leave the venue and course immediately with no refunds.

All registrations are final. There are no refunds, deferments, or transfers.

Event will take place rain or shine. In the event of extreme weather, we will cancel for the safety of the participants...there are no refunds in this case.

NORTHWEST GEORGIA REGIONAL FAIR PATRIOT DAY PARADE: 11 A.M.

The Northwest Georgia Fair’s Patriot Day Parade is on for this Saturday, Sept. 11 at 11 a.m. in downtown Calhoun. Line up will begin at 10 a.m. on North Park Avenue and the Parade will travel west on Line Street, turn south onto Wall Street and travel to Hicks Street where the parade will turn again and end on Park Avenue near Court Street.

This is the 20th anniversary of 9/11 when terrorist attacked our homeland. Immediately prior to the parade start, local community advocate Kim Watters and high school students will lead a ceremony at the Gordon County Courthouse. A Moment of Silence will be observed to commemorate and remember the events on September 11, 2001. The National Anthem will be sung to start the parade, which will feature fair participants and local High School Marching Bands. All of our local and state public safety agencies will be traveling through the parade route in honor of the many heroes, officers, firefighters and EMS personnel who responded and lost their lives, as well as those who worked tirelessly afterwards. Military vehicles and National Guardsmen, along with several local veterans organizations will be represented in the parade as we salute their service to our nation.

Parade participants and spectators are urged to stay COVID Safe and use precautions by social distancing and other opportunities to keep safe. Bring your lawn chairs out, your US flags and lets safely line the streets of Calhoun to remember the sacrifices of 9/11 and to cheer on those who serve us and those who have given much.

'TOGETHER WE STAND' AT BB&T PARK: IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING PARADE

A special community outreach event by City of Refuge Calhoun will be held Saturday, Sept. 11 at BB&T Park in downtown Calhoun immediately following that morning’s Patriot Day Parade. ‘Together We Stand’ will offer music, food, fun and fellowship to the public and free of charge. 

ANNUAL NORTHWEST GEORGIA REGIONAL FAIR: GATES OPEN AT 5 P.M.

The 2nd night of this year’s Northwest Georgia Regional Fair, which will be held at the Cherokee Capital Fairgrounds on Hwy 53/Rome Road in Calhoun will go on as planned, but with a few changes. Organizers say top priority will be given to assure attendees can have fun on rides and enjoy all of the great entertainment but still be able to make safe choices. Saturday evening, all public safety officers and all veterans will receive free admission to the Northwest Georgia Fair by showing proper identification at the gate. The fair will feature rides and attractions for all ages, fair foods, games and fun. Unlimited Rides $25. 

Full schedule of events for the 2021 Northwest Georgia Regional Fair

Monday, September 7, 2021

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The Northwest Georgia Regional Fair, scheduled for Sept. 10-18, will be held with a few modifications to address the uptick in COVID cases locally. Organizers of the Northwest Georgia Fair in Calhoun said “the show will go on . . . but with a few changes to better protect all attendees.”

 

This year’s Northwest Georgia Regional Fair, which will be held at the Cherokee Capital Fairgrounds on Hwy 53/Rome Road in Calhoun will go on as planned, but with a few changes. Organizers say top priority will be given to assure attendees can have fun on rides and enjoy all of the great entertainment but still be able to make safe choices.

 

The fair will feature rides and attractions for all ages, fair foods, games and fun. The Circus Incredible Show, featuring Lyric Wallenda of the world famous Wallenda family and Simon Arestov of the famous Moscow Circus Arestov family will perform two shows of fear tingling feats nightly. The All American Educational Zoo will be open nightly with over 100 animals to learn about, enjoy and feed. Stage performances will be held nightly featuring local dance groups and performers, all following safety standards.

 

The event is held all outdoors, which is the best scenario for gathered crowds. Attendees will have numerous stations throughout the park for handwashing and sanitizing. Social distancing will be encouraged and wait lines will encourage distancing between patrons. Reminder signage will be placed throughout the park. All carnival rides, game and food staff are

vaccinated, as well as entertainers and fair volunteers. Masks are encouraged but at this time will not be mandatory since the venue is open air. Masks will be available at all entrances.

 

Due to the resurgence of COVID, the fair has cancelled several normal activities to attempt to prevent potential spread. The decisions were very difficult due to the history of the fair but are not difficult when matched against keeping everyone safe. Due to the limited seating indoors and tight indoor dressing room space, there will not be pageants this year. Blue ribbon contests such as canned goods, homemaker items, quilts, art, photography, flowers and others will not be held since they are registered, displayed and viewed indoors. Seniors Day and Kids Morning Out Field Trip events will not be held this year due to the close proximity of keeping the children in groups.

 

At this time, livestock and animal competitions will continue this year, but will be spaced and limited to local entries only. 4-H, FFA and Young Farmers will all be participating.

 

Gordon County 4-H will host Scarecrow and Pumpkin Decorating contests. Information is available for entries through the local 4-H.

 

Food and commercial vendors will be set up nightly outdoors and will have ample space for display. Registration forms for vendors are available at nwgafair.com.

 

Helicopter rides will be offered nightly by Chattanooga Helicopter Tours. The helicopter will be sanitized between each ride to assure safety.

The fair will be honoring active military, veterans and public safety officials with free gate admission on Saturday, Sept. 11 after 5:00 p.m. opening.

 

Gates will open nightly at 5 p.m. Admission is $5.00 per person age 6 and up. Unlimited ride armbands may be purchased every night.

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Northwest Georgia health care facilities urge action

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Friday, September 3, 2021

(Sept. 3, 2021) — We need your help like never before. The pandemic—its current surge driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant—continues to spread throughout Northwest Georgia and is quickly becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Most new cases, hospitalizations and people in our critical care units on ventilators and advanced oxygen support are unvaccinated.

 

Today, only 35 percent of citizens in Northwest Georgia are fully vaccinated, leaving the unvaccinated highly vulnerable to contracting and spreading COVID-19.

 

While a few municipalities have declared a state of emergency, if you look across the regional health care landscape, there is no mistaking that we are experiencing a public health crisis.

 

COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased dramatically and are straining our hospitals. Deaths, which can lag hospitalizations by a few weeks, are increasing significantly, leaving families broken and torn apart and frontline workers physically and emotionally exhausted.

 

Breakthrough infections—fully vaccinated individuals becoming infected—do happen, but most cases are relatively mild. Studies of over 4.5 million fully vaccinated Georgians show that the fully vaccinated are at low risk of becoming infected and at almost no risk of being hospitalized or dying.

 

Cases and hospitalizations among school-aged children have increased to levels not yet seen in the pandemic. We are seeing the highest number of weekly outbreaks in our schools since the pandemic began. This is preventable because many in this group are eligible for vaccination.

 

Individuals only seeking COVID-19 testing should not go to hospital emergency departments or call EMS unless experiencing urgent or emergent symptoms such as severe respiratory distress, stroke symptoms, trauma, etc. Please help us keep our hospital emergency departments open so we can treat medical emergencies.

 

COVID-19 testing is currently available at different sites across Northwest Georgia. Information about these facilities, including address and hours of operation, can be found at www.DPH.Georgia.gov and www.NGHD.org. Testing is also available at most urgent care, primary care and pharmacy locations.

 

Let’s work together to stop the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19. We strongly urge everyone age 12 and older to get vaccinated, wear a mask in public settings where social distancing is not possible and wash their hands frequently. The vaccines work. They are safe and they prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death. If you haven’t been vaccinated, please protect yourself, your loved ones and your community by doing so.

 

COVID-19 vaccination is our best tool for reducing the overwhelming strain on our health care system, health care providers and EMS personnel. To find a vaccination location, visit www.Vaccines.gov.

Dancing with the Stars coming back to Calhoun in June 2022 thanks to group of community partners

Monday, August 30, 2021

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All good things come to an end, but great things come back, and Calhoun’s Dancing with the Stars is doing exactly that. It’s coming back.

 

When United Way of Gordon County decided to pursue other fundraising opportunities earlier this year, they left the door open for a group of community partners to present a reinvention of the record-breaking fundraiser.

 

In response to public outreach, the group will debut their version of the Calhoun Classic, infusing it with new energy and features while providing student scholarships and generating funds for different non-profit organizations in the area.

 

Coming to the Calhoun Performing Arts Center in early June 2022, the show will bring back some features of the earliest productions and introduce some exciting new ones, such as live music provided by the Dexter Thomas Band (pictured below) and the introduction of a new event emcee. The signature sponsor for the debut competition will be The Fountains Calhoun.

“The Fountains Calhoun Assisted Living is so proud and honored to be the Presenting Sponsor of Calhoun’s Dancing with the Stars for 2022. We are also excited to be able to offer our local seniors and families exceptional care in this great community. It is great to support our town in a way that honors our local talent and residents,” said Kay Sims, Executive Director.

 

Fundraising success will determine the number of scholarships awarded, but the group hopes to offer every dancer a college scholarship. The non-profit beneficiary of the 2022 show will be the Alzheimer’s Association, a cause that is obviously important to the mission of The Fountains Calhoun. Corporate sponsorships will be solicited while students also plan and present their own fundraising campaigns. All sponsorships will be tax-deductible. Student audition videos will be due on December 27 and the team selections will be announced on New Year’s Day. The event will be promoted across social media and in local news outlets.

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County leaders plead for community to take safety measures to combat rise in COVID locally

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

At Tuesday night’s meeting of the Gordon County Board of Commissioners, the topic of public safety was discussed in concerns to the rise in COVID-19 cases across Gordon County.


As of Wednesday morning, Aug. 18, 2021, there have been 308 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the last two weeks.  Since March 2020, there have been 7,009 cases of coronavirus in Gordon County, with 108 COVID related deaths reported.


“I think you’re all aware we’re experiencing a surge in COVID cases,” said County Administrator Jim Ledbetter. “Our numbers are going way up and are almost at historic proportions as far as hospitalizations are concerned.”


Ledbetter then addressed the controversial topic of COVID vaccination.


Ledbetter told the Board that AdventHealth reported that through their entire network of hospitals nationwide, that 98 percent of the hospitalizations due to COVID are unvaccinated patients and that all deaths due to COVID were unvaccinated patients.


“This week, AdventHealth (Gordon) is at 109 percent capacity,” said Ledbetter. “The (Monday) census indicated 40 patients hospitalized, which is an all-time high number for Gordon hospital; 10 patients in intensive care with 8 on ventilators and 10 patients on hold in the ER waiting for a bed. So our hospital is under stress right now due to the surge in COVID. What this means is they’ve cut out elective surgeries right now. And if you have a car wreck, break your leg, have a stroke or heart attack, you’re still going to need care but they’re 9 percent over capacity.”


“I spoke with their Chief Operating Officer Karen Steely today and asked her what I should share,” continued Ledbetter. “What she thought would be most important to share is that although vaccines are a controversial subject and although people will argue that it’s experimental, she also points out that the treatments for COVID that they are using and are effective are also experimental. She would encourage people to be vaccinated; we all know it’s not going to keep you from getting COVID, you can still get COVID if you’re been vaccinated and it’s not going to keep you from spreading COVID, but I consultation with all the medical staff at Advent, it reduces the severity of COVID and keeps us from straining our health system. So that’s the message that she wanted me to convey. I know it’s a controversial subject but I think the data is fairly compelling. It’s a personal choice, I get that. But I think that we need to consider our medical options and consultation with medical advice. I think the data coming out now is clearly consistently demonstrating the vaccine reduces the severity of the virus and maybe can keep our medical system from being overwhelmed.”


Gordon County Commissioner Bud Owens read a prepared statement during his Commissioner Report:


“I would like to take just a moment to address the current healthcare crisis – and it is a crisis. As a regional and state leader in pre-hospital healthcare and a county commissioner, I am highly concerned about the current COVID19 hospitalizations. The Delta Variant is raging and our area hospitals are above capacity, which makes it very difficult for those who are experiencing other medical and traumatic emergencies. Many of the hospitals across our state, now inundated with coronavirus patients, have warned they simply don’t have enough beds and staff to take any more.


“The number of COVID-19 patients in Georgia’s hospitals has climbed to nearly 4,500, with nearly 90% of the state’s ICU beds in use. In this region – we are full with some overextended. Many hospitals are diverting patients headed for their emergency rooms and ICUs to other facilities that also unfortunately have no beds.


“The vast majority (actually approximately 98%) of the new hospitalized patients have not taken the vaccine. Only 41% of Georgia’s population is fully vaccinated, well below the national average.


“Hospitals are short on nurses, respiratory therapists, ICU staff. EMS agencies already facing a national workforce shortage are now struggling even more to keep up with the high demands. Today I learned that in North Carolina they have national guardsmen driving their ambulances in order to keep them running.


“If you are not in the “healthcare world” you may not be visually seeing this crisis. Let me tell you – it is more real than you can imagine. Just over the last few days we have lost several key healthy and active EMS workers and firefighters across the state to this virus. Many of us are losing family and friends again – this time it is including younger and healthier people.


“Hospitals are dealing with more patients in their 30s, 40s and 50s than during previous surges — likely a reflection that many older residents have gotten vaccinated, Georgia’s Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey said yesterday.
“Schools are now open; teachers and students are getting sick. The reality is this virus is back with a vengeance and the only protection we have is common sense usage of personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and sanitizers; frequent hand washing; and yes – vaccination. The vaccine is working. It doesn’t prevent coronavirus but it is providing the human body with the ability to fight off the virus and hopefully will keep many from the hospital ventilators or the hearse ride to the funeral home.
“We just came from vacation and in one town we visited; they are nearing 80% of the population who have been vaccinated. That town had no COVID cases while we were there. That tells me the vaccine is working to protect.


“My message to you is simple – I implore our citizens to take the time to research for yourself the facts of this vaccine, not the junk – the politics – and the misinformation that is being spread – not the advice from a well-meaning friend on Facebook or some conspiracy theorist from across the country. There are reputable places with factual information so you can learn the facts. Please listen to the scientists and experts, pray and ask God to open your eyes, talk to your doctor that you know and trust. Please make the decision to do this for your family, your friends, yourself. Make the decision to live.


“I am sickened and heartbroken over what I see people experiencing everyday – our ER doctors are tired of having to intubate patients that had a full life ahead of them.


“Please take this seriously and prepare. I am not only worried about what is happening today, but I also fear what the near future holds.


“I care about my community and I care about each of you.”

Community information meeting on proposed Evergreen poultry operation held ahead of this Monday’s Planning & Zoning meeting

Saturday, August 7, 2021

The Environmental Defense of Georgia, or EDOG, held a community impact information meeting on Thursday night, July 29, to discuss concerns about an industrial-sized chicken operation proposed on close to 600 acres on Evergreen Road. The group met ahead of this Monday night’s meeting of the Gordon County Planning & Zoning Committee who is expected to take action and either recommend or not recommend the proposal to the Gordon County Board of Commissioners.

In the first meeting before Planning & Zoning, the committee tabled the chicken operation request in order to have an Environmental Impact Study completed, along with historical research.

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At the community impact information meeting, more than 75 members of the community, mostly mom-and-pop chicken farmers, shared their concerns over the proposed operation, which would begin with 24-26 mega chicken houses. Known formally as a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation), the proposed operation will house millions of chickens near the banks of the Coosawatee River.

 

Amy Massey, who has a background in science with a degree in Biology, has spent more than two decades in the Pharmaceutical and Biotech industry. Along with her husband, Larry, she owns a small farm near the proposed chicken operation site. Her father, Jimmy Johnson, owns land on Evergreen Road and is on the Board of EDOG.

 

“I’m really concerned about this proposed use of land on Evergreen Road,” said Massey. “There are numerous public health and environmental issues from CAFO. We’re not talking about families with chicken farms, or Georgians who earn a living raising chickens. We are not talking about responsible Gordon County citizens who we know run good businesses. This is the total opposite of the family chicken farms we all know. CAFO’s are industrial-sized livestock operations. It could be for dairy cattle or hogs; tonight we’re talking about chickens. This property we’re discussing is a 24-plus chicken house operation which will classify it as a CAFO as defined by the US Department of Agriculture. The applicant has stated ’24 houses to begin with then as many as will comply.’ We’re talking millions of chickens. These are animal factories. They produce huge amounts of animal sewage and other pollutants.”

 

Massey then shared some research she has discovered on CAFOs.

 

“This CAFO will emit hundreds of gases including hazardous ammonia, methane, Hydrogen sulfide and airborne particles that will travel for miles. This is why it affects the entire county. It has the potential for 60 different human communal diseases. Currently, the EPA provides no regulation of air pollution problems from CAFOs. They just trust that the CAFO will report emissions of gases, especially ammonia. So your health is at risk here; (there is an) increased risk of respiratory issues, asthma, and gases such as Hydrogen sulfide lead to neurological and brain damage.

 

Massey said that, especially with this CAFO, there is an increased chance of water pollution.

 

“The proposed CAFO on the Evergreen property is already known to have a shallow water table,” said Massey. “The Coosawattee River is located only 600 feet from the southeast corner of the property. There are many tributaries and creeks that feed directly into the Coosawattee. This runoff would all go downstream, negatively impacting our (portion of the) county, other portions of the county and other counties, possibly into other states. While this proposed CAFO is subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act, this operation is so intensive, an industrial-sized operation with industrial-sized side effects such as ground pollution and effects to drinking water and the water system. It all ties into together. The waste alone is staggering; when you look at the amount of urine and feces this produces, it would equate to 135,000 humans per day. There’s nothing positive about a CAFO for our county or our environment. And if there is a poor design or poor management once this goes in, the environmental impact will be irreversible.

 

“Again, this is not our local chicken farms as we know them. This is a CAFO, and it’s a big difference,” said Massey.

 

Rucker McDonald, a Georgia Tech graduate who is a former Global Quality Manager at DuPont and now owns a cattle farm in the area, spoke to the people in attendance about how important Gordon County is to him.

 

“Many of you here tonight live in Gordon County because you grew up here,” said an emotional McDonald. “I’m here because I picked it. I chose Gordon County.”

 

A former president of the Red Carpet Cattle Association, McDonald grew up in Roswell, Georgia. He said that his farm has two miles along the Coosawatee River.

 

“My granddaughter got married on the bank two months ago. She insisted on being married at her favorite tree,” said McDonald. “What I don’t want is 24 mega chicken houses upstream from me. I want Gordon County to continue to be a place people choose. Gordon County is changing and we can’t change that, but we can influence it. Like most counties, what we have is because of what people did and what they do. It’s up to us to decide what kind of county we’d like to have.”

 

McDonald spoke about the infrastructure issues he’s concerned the CAFO would bring to the area.

 

“Evergreen Road is a narrow, curvy country road,” said McDonald. “Owens Gin Road is a narrow road. (These roads now have) bike riders, runners, local cars, trucks and tractors. What happens when we have the big trucks running day and night? Chicken houses run 24-hours a day. The big trucks require turn lanes; they’re going to have to have expanded radiuses to make turns in certain locations. Also, about the structure: the construction that takes place will be big and it’s partially situated on a flood plain. That’s going to influence what it takes to build it and how strong the structure is.”

 

Al Stone said he and his wife were traveling in the western United States when the news broke of the proposed CAFO, and they came back to organize the citizen concern group.

 

“I received a phone call (while out west) from two men that said, ‘we’ve got a problem,’ then they said something that took my breath away. They said, ‘you’ve got a problem.’ What I heard on that call made me drive night and day to get back home.”

 

Stone stressed that as a group, they are not against poultry farming.

 

“We have become a community. We are concerned citizens who are not saying that we don’t want chicken houses; we are saying that we don’t want foreign owned chicken houses and we don’t want them to take over Calhoun. We want to help and protect the local farmer,” said Stone.

 

He also stressed that the Gordon County government is not the enemy.

 

“The commissioners and county leadership is not the enemy; (the enemy) is across the Pacific,” said Stone. “There is an organizational movement trying to take over the chicken industry, just like the beef industry, just like the port industry. There are foreign powers that have billions of dollars to make that happen. In the process, we don’t want our county to become toxic. And we don’t want to lose half of everything we own.”

 

Stone said that EDOG paid for a report (which can be found at http://edog.site/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Zoning-Application-Z21-13-Analysis-1.pdf) that was presented to the County that shows in addition to the environmental issues, that there will be a decrease in property value county-wide.

 

“We have a big business here growing broilers,” said Stone. “That’s part of our revenue source. But if somebody else comes and takes it over, those birds aren’t going to end up at Chick-fil-A.”

 

A question and answer session was held, where many of the local chicken farmers voiced concerns of the proposed poultry development.

 

According to one local farmer, close to 50 mega chicken houses would be able to go on the property, which is a major concern.

 

Stone said that he showed the proposal of the layout of the mega chicken houses to industry insiders at major poultry corporations.

 

“When I showed the drawing of the proposal to representatives in the poultry industry, they said that the layout of the property was ‘stupid.’ And they told me ‘we’d never (lay it out like) that and we’d never contract with anybody who would do that.’ Then they said, ‘That’s suicide.’ They said they’d never put that many chickens in one spot,” said Stone.

 

Another farmer brought up the close proximity of the initial two-dozen chicken houses proposed on the property and a disease outbreak, including Bird Flu. He noted that if Bird Flu was to break out at the proposed development, farms in a five-mile radius would have to shut down.

 

“It’s a five-mile radius if there’s a breakout of the Bird Flu,” said the farmer. “Everybody around that has to stop production for six months. So I’m going to lose my pay for six months. Then what’s going to happen to those chicken houses? Because they will not put chickens back in the houses (after an outbreak).”

 

Another farmer said that these types of CAFO’s are never managed correctly; that the people who bring them into the small communities are not concerned about having a nice farm and keeping up the property’s appearance or taking care of the farm, that they only care about the money they are making.

 

Members of EDOG and the concerned citizens plan on being at Monday night’s (Aug. 9, 2021) meeting of the Gordon County Planning & Zoning Committee, which will begin at 6 p.m. at the GEM Theatre in downtown Calhoun. After a vote at the Planning and Zoning Committee, where it will be either recommended or not recommended, it will go to the Gordon County Board of Commissioners for a vote at a future date.

 

Anyone interested in more information on EDOG, visit www.EDOG.site or email 1825EDOG@gmail.com. They can also be found on Facebook at Environmental Defense of Georgia https://www.facebook.com/groups/963257797788502

Local C.A.S.T. for Kids chapter hosting free fishing event near Chattanooga this September

Saturday, June 12, 2021

An organization has formed to help enrich the lives of special needs children through fishing is hosting a free event in September.


The C.A.S.T. (Catch a Special Thrill) for Kids Foundation is a nation-wide organization that enriches the lives of children with special needs, supports their families and strengthens communities through the sport of fishing, empowering families and communities to celebrate children with special needs, making these children feel valued and loved so they can overcome limitations and be successful.


The local C.A.S.T. for Kids event will be held Saturday, Sept. 25 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at

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Harrison Bay near Chattanooga, Tenn. The event is coordinated by Shanna Eaton, a special education teacher in Dalton, and she hopes that children, and volunteers, from throughout Northwest Georgia will take advantage of the free event. 


“Four years ago, my husband and I started a small boat business. We had talked about finding something as a way to give back and get our kids involved. My husband told me to try to find something that involved fishing and kids. I did a Google search, and C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation was the first thing that showed up,” said Eaton. “I called my husband and told him about what I’d found, then I called C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation and had a lengthy conversation with them and discussed what we were looking forward to doing and we ended up marrying our two favorite things: kids and fishing.”


Eaton said that Harrison Bay is conveniently located and offers a large enough lake for the dozens of boats needed for the event. 
“We eventually want to do an event here (at Carter’s Lake), but it would have to be a shore event,” said Eaton, saying that the kids could fish from the shoreline instead of a boat. “There is also a pond at Miracle Field in Dalton that we would like to do a shore event at as well.”


The free event offers a day of fun for both the children and their families.


“The Foundation allows up to 30 differently-abled kids,” said Eaton. “They are usually between the ages of 5-17. They sign up with their family, and through both our shore volunteers and boat volunteers, the kids and their family come to the event, we give them a free day of fishing, a free tackle box, fishing rod, t-shirt and a hat. Chick-fil-A provides breakfast, and then the kids go out on the lake with one parent and a boat captain to fish. At lunch, a youth group from a local church provides a home-cooked meal for everyone. After lunch, we have an awards ceremony, where every kid gets a plaque. It’s truly life-changing if you ever attend. The parents tell us that their child has talked about the event all year, and just to see their faces and know that they are celebrated; they are there to have fun and they don’t have to think about what they have to deal with on a daily basis.”


The event takes the first 30 children who apply; due to the large number of participants who attend, volunteers are always needed.
“We need volunteers, mostly volunteer boaters,” said Eaton. “We like to have 40 volunteer boaters at the event. We accept any type of boat and get a lot of Bass boats, but we would like to have a couple of pontoons for the children participating who are wheelchair-bound, and it’s easier to get a wheelchair on a pontoon. A parent does have to go on the boat with the child; that’s a requirement, so the volunteer boaters are not alone with the child.”


It is suggested that anyone who participates sign up online.


“We ask that they do sign up through the link,” said Eaton. “Anyone who attends the event and doesn’t sign up will not be able to participate. You can sign up at the event, but it’s easier to sign up prior through the link.”


C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation is also looking to expand throughout the area by adding chapters. For more information on C.A.S.T. for Kids and how to start a chapter, visit www.castforkids.org.


For more information on C.A.S.T for Kids Harrison Bay, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2329717217261554.


To register your child for the C.A.S.T. for Kids Harrison Bay event, or to register as a volunteer boater or shore volunteer, visit https://castforkids.org/event/harrisonbay/?fbclid=IwAR3iTV60WQQfYOnDoyK4Xw4zw_7tJw8rqvxNH394J9rQDeU6l5l3ZptEKD4

Local VFW holds special community event; Post recognized for 75 years of service to Calhoun

Monday, April 11, 2021

On Sunday, April 11, the community gathered for a family-fun event to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Veterans of Foreign Wars Renis Barrett Post 5376 in Calhoun.

During the event, the members of the Post served lunch and provided a petting zoo, bounce houses, face painting and an exhibition of military vehicles for children and their families to enjoy.

During a special ceremony, the Post was presented a special certificate by the National VFW in honor of the 75th anniversary of the post on April 4, 2021.

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“The VFW National Commander Hal Roesch’s motto is ‘20/20 Vision for Veterans,’ and is a great one as it reflects the mission of our great organization and the philosophy of the VFW at every level. The VFW and Auxiliary members know that absolutely no one is more deserving to assist our American Veterans, service members and their families,” said Tony Dobbins, VFW State Adjutant. “Our Post anniversary is a celebration; not just for the post but for the entire VFW family in Calhoun. Seventy-five years might seem like yesterday, but we are talking about nearly a century. A lot has changed; the world when this Post was established is entirely different from the one that we live in today, yet some things remain the same…the men and women who served together, fought together and came home together to establish this post together. I’m talking about comradeship. This momentous occasion should not stand for just the 75 years behind it, it should stand for the next 75 years as well. It should point the way to the future and carry a story of commitment to those who are serving today and to those who will serve tomorrow.”

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The certificate was then presented to Post Commander John Brown by Willie Guzman, VFW District 1 Commander. The certificate read in part, “In special commemoration and grateful recognition of the 75 years of exceptional service of dedicated support for programs of the purposes to serve the Veterans of Foreign Wars.”

After the ceremony, the Post held a Cornhole Tournament, where the team of Jesse Bagley and Christopher Fincher took first place and $50 gift cards to Duke’s each.

The VFW Post 5376 in Calhoun was established on April 4, 1946 in honor of its namesake Pvt. Renis W. Barrett, a soldier from Calhoun who was killed in action on July 27, 1945 in the Philippines. Barrett’s family donated the land that the VFW, and the land across the street where the National Guard Armory, sits.

Over the years, the local VFW, a branch of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, served the community in various capacities, having ball fields for youth to play on and hosting event for local veterans but interest has waned in the last few years as an age gap between the Vietnam-era Veterans and the more recent Afghanistan-era Veterans left a hole in participation.

These days, some of the younger Veterans of our community, many still serving with the 1-108th Cavalry located at the National Guard here in Calhoun, have made it their mission to reinvent the local Post, bringing it into the modern era, with the goal of bridging the gap between the different Veteran groups.

 

The special event was held on Sunday as a way to reintroduce the local Post to the community. The Post is receiving a major overhaul, bringing the building up to the modern era, while additional programs to serve Veterans and the community are being planned.

 

Anyone who would like to donate to the renovation project or find out ways they can volunteer their time, can email VFW5376@gmail.comVFW5376@gmail.com or the Post now has a Venmo account set up where donations can be made: @VFWCalhoun

To learn more about the local VFW, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VFWCalhoun/?ref=page_internalhttps://www.facebook.com/VFWCalhoun/?ref=page_internal

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Local VFW undergoing renovations; to hold special community event on April 11 in honor of 75th anniversary

Sunday, March 7, 2021

The local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post is receiving a major overhaul, a fitting tribute to the establishment marking its 75th anniversary in Gordon County in April. And on Sunday, April 11, 2021, the VFW will be hosting a special community event to celebrate at their Post, located at 406 West Line Street in Calhoun, from 12 – 4 p.m. There will be a Cornhole Tournament from 2 - 4 p.m. that day with prizes, a Petting Zoo, Pallet Board Painting, a Water Balloon Toss contest, Cookie Decorating and other family-friendly activities that day. The public is invited to attend.


In addition that day, the Post will receive a special plaque commemorating 75 years since their charter. 

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“We just wanted to invite the community out to celebrate and see the new direction we’re taking this Post and explain what we do,” said Post Commander Pro-tem John Brown.


The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is a nonprofit Veterans service organization with roots back to 1899 when veterans of the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902) founded local organizations to secure rights and benefits for their service. Many arrived home wounded or sick. There was no medical care or veterans’ pension for them, and they were left to care for themselves. These groups would eventually band together and become known as the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. After chapters were formed in Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania, the movement quickly gained momentum. Today, membership stands at more than 1.5 million members of the VFW and its Auxiliary.


The VFW was instrumental in establishing the Veterans Administration, development of the national cemetery system, in the fight for compensation for Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange and for veterans diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome. In 2008, the VFW won a long-fought victory with the passing of a GI Bill for the 21st Century, giving expanded educational benefits to America’s active duty service members, and members of the guard and reserves, fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the VFW was the driving force behind the Veterans Access and Accountability Act of 2014, and continually fights for improved VA medical centers services for women veterans.


The VFW Post 5376 in Calhoun was established on April 4, 1946 in honor of its namesake Pvt. Renis W. Barrett, a soldier from Calhoun who was killed in action on July 27, 1945 in the Philippines. Barrett’s family donated the land that the VFW, and the land across the street where the National Guard Armory, sits.


Over the years, the local VFW, a branch of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, served the community in various capacities, having ball fields for youth to play on and hosting event for local veterans but interest has waned in the last few years as an age gap between the Vietnam-era Veterans and the more recent Afghanistan-era Veterans left a hole in participation.

Now, some of the younger Veterans of our community, many still serving with the 1-108th Cavalry located at the National Guard here in Calhoun, have made it their mission to reinvent the local Post, bringing it into the modern era, with the goal of bridging the gap between the different Veteran groups.

“A lot of VFW posts are run by Vietnam vets, which is perfectly fine, but Vietnam-era vets and Afghanistan-era vets have two different lifestyles,” said Brown. “So previously, a lot of the younger Veterans did not want to come into the posts because things were geared toward an older audience. The biggest thing we’re trying to conquer is the 50-year age difference between the current era Veterans and the Vietnam-era Veterans. We’re trying to bridge that gap.”

In bridging the gap at the local post, massive changes have already taken place, including a still-in-process renovation project of the building and grounds, and plans for a major community outreach.

“The local post opened in 1946 in a small, wooden shed,” said Brown. “This land frequently flooded until Carter’s Dam was constructed and fixed the flooding issue. Members have slowly added onto the building, becoming what it is today.”

Today, the brick building is receiving a major overhaul, with new electrical and updated decorating throughout, including a new bar area.

“This is a fairly old building and it has been labor intensive getting this place up to code,” said Randy Boatner, Post Quartermaster Pro-tem. “We’ve had some donations of both labor and supplies, and we’re looking for others in the community who would like to help volunteer.”

“We had a company donate about a full week of his entire electrical company, donating all of the materials for the electrical work, bringing everything up to code,” said Brown. “We are extremely appreciative of this company for their donation. And Coloso Construction, which is owned by a Guatemalan immigrant, has donated labor to help us fix a big roof leak on the back of the building. His entire goal is to make sure the veterans and the community knows he appreciates our service and that he wants to be a part of this.”

Queens Tree Service has also donated a lot of labor-intensive hours to helping clean off the outside, as well as owner Travis Queen building a beautiful the new bar for the post.

While in the past the VFW has been known as a place for its members to unwind at the bar, that service is no longer a main offering of the Post.

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“The bar will not be the main focus of the Post,” said Brown. “We probably won’t open the bar during the week until 4 p.m. each day. The bar on post is used to generate revenue to put back into the community; this is a business but it is not-for-profit. Everything we make will be generated back into the community.” 

Another change is that the Post is a smoke-free facility at this time; anyone interested in smoking cannot do so inside the building but there will be an area outside for smokers.

In addition to the building rehab, internally there are many programs the Post is working to implement in the future.

One of the major programs the Post is wishing to implement is Veteran assistance with VA Claims.

“The VFW itself has a position called a Service Officer; that position is specifically for serving Veterans with those types of needs,” said Brown. “We want to have someone in our Post fully dedicated to that service.”

Another program the Post would like to implement is counseling and job assistance services to vets.

“We’d like to partner with counseling students, who need volunteer hours to get their license, to offer free counseling for Veterans out of the Post. That’s obviously a big issue in the Veteran community, with Veteran suicide and Veteran substance abuse and arrests on the rise,” said Brown.

“We’d also like to offer a Veteran job fair,” said Boatner. “As we get Veterans in, get them housed, get them counseling and get their benefits set up, we can also help them find a job.”

“Most of the people who are coming into the VFW are still serving,” said Brown. “We’re able to keep up on the current issues because we’re seeing them. We can take a lot of resources from mandatory briefings that we get and bring those resources, like Work for Warriors or family support, here (to the VFW).”

In addition, the Post wants to address Veteran homelessness by being able to partner with local hotels to provide that segment of the population a place to stay until more permanent residency can be obtained, and offer funeral service assistance to Veterans.
   
The members of the Post also look forward to holding special ceremonies and events on Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day and Independence Day, as well as holding a holiday outreach for Veteran families and low income families in November and December.

For non-members, the Post wants to hold community events, such as Saturday morning family movies in their event hall and Movies Under the Stars events, as well as giving access to their event hall to local church groups as needed for meetings.

These programs are in the planning stages and will be implemented as funds are raised for the Post.

In addition, the local VFW is interested in letting local teams use their ball fields as needed and on March 27, anyone who would like to volunteer is welcomed to join in a property clean-up on the site, where the Post will be getting their ball fields in shape.

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Members of the local VFW give a tour and update to Calhoun Mayor Jimmy Palmer and City Administrator Paul Worley. Pictured left to right: Randy Boatner, John Brown, Mayor Palmer, Paul Worley, Travis Queen and Joe Federico.

“I met the coach of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes that play out here, and we want to do a partnership with them, get the back field cleaned up so they can start having tournaments here without having to pay for a field,” said Brown.

Some of the land will also be cleared to be used as a practice field for the North Georgia Cardinals, a local semi-professional football team whose roster is made up of many Veteran players.

“We’d like to use some of our land, as we develop our future programs by doing a garden for the Veterans, which can be therapeutic,” said Boatner. “Then as we open up our kitchen, we have our own garden center, all home grown, farm-to-table offerings. That’s a type of program we’d like to initiate in the future, and it would be supplied by the Department of Agriculture.”

Some of the old activities of the Post will be reincorporated as well.

“I think, historically, this place has been known for Bingo every Thursday night, so bringing that back and even incorporating things like trivia and karaoke night, so this can be a hangout spot,” said Rachel Brown, wife of John who is heavily involved in the renovation. “There is the Auxiliary as well, which is for spouses and family members. We want to grow the Auxiliary side of the Post to provide the support group to those members as well.”

“The VFW Auxiliary is a huge part of what we do here, and it’s not just women,” said Brown. “It is comprised of spouses and it encompasses two generations on each side. My service makes my parents and grandparents eligible to join the Auxiliary and my future children and grandchildren can join because of my service, along with my siblings. You can have five generations of family members join VFW.”

Boatner said that the Post would also like to be available to students as well.

“We’d like to have a place for our local students to hang out on a Friday night and enjoy playing corn hole or horseshoes, buying food from the concession stands and just having a safe place for them.”

“We want the Post to be a staple of the Calhoun community,” said Rachel Brown. 

While the Post is accepting donations and volunteers, several companies have already stepped up to help out.

Brown said the Post is very appreciative of the folks at Samantha Lusk & Associates Realty, especially Samantha Lusk and her father, Joey, who have been supportive of the group, helping the Post provide a meal to the Calhoun Police Department recently.

The Post is also thankful for Coloso Construction and Queens Tree Service for all their help in the renovation.

During the clean-up, the Post has recovered some disability-assistance items, such as electric wheelchairs, walkers and other items, while cleaning, that need a little TLC, but the Post said the community can reach out to them if those items are needed by emailing VFW5376@gmail.com


On Sunday, April 11, the Cornhole Tournament will consist of 16 teams; there is a $20 entry fee per team. The winning team will receive two $50 gift cards. The tournament is scheduled from 2 – 4 p.m.

Pallet Board Painting is $2 per board and Cookie Decorating is $2 each for 3 for $5. There will also be a water balloon toss that day, where the winning team gets two $20 gift cards to a local business. Various food items will be available for purchase as well.


While the community event will be held outside, the building will be open for tours so the community can see the progress being made.

Anyone who would like to donate to the renovation project or find out ways they can volunteer their time, can email VFW5376@gmail.com or the Post now has a Venmo account set up where donations can be made: @VFWCalhoun

To learn more about the local VFW, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VFWCalhoun/?ref=page_internal
 

Mayor, City officials mourn loss of former
City administrator Eddie Peterson

Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021

Many in the Calhoun community, especially in the City government, are mourning the loss of former City administrator Eddie Peterson, who retired from his position last year. He died at his residence Tuesday, Feb. 16. He was 70.

 

Peterson was hired by then Mayor John Meadows in the early 90’s as assistant administrator. He moved into the administrator role after Cathy Harrison retired from the position.

 

“He followed in Cathy’s footsteps of good financial management of the city,” said Mayor Jimmy Palmer. “I think we reap those benefits today with the low mileage rate and the success we have as a city. He worked with each department head in general government, trying to strengthen that department, and was very successful in strengthening those departments, not only for today, but for the future.”

 

Palmer also said that Peterson was a major part of working with the County on SPLOST projects, which was beneficial for both the City and County.

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“He benefitted not only the City, but also the tax payer,” said Palmer.

 

“I worked with him for a number of years, and he was certainly more than a coworker, he was a friend and will certainly be missed by myself and the City. It’s a sad day,” said Palmer.

 

Current City administrator Paul Worley, who took Peterson’s position after his retirement, said “Eddie will be missed by many of us at the City of Calhoun.  Eddie worked for the City for almost 30 years and he had a positive impacted on a lot of people over the years.  I was fortunate to work with Eddie for almost 10 years.  I learned a lot from him and would truly not be in the position that I am today without his help and guidance.  Eddie’s family will be in our thoughts and prayers.”

 

According to Palmer, Peterson was also a major help with Downtown Development grants, which helped finance many of the beautification projects around the City.

 

“Eddie was a major part of this community. For many years he was committed to his job and serving the citizens of Calhoun and Gordon County,” said Downtown Development Director Suzanne Roberts. “He was an intelligent, kind, loyal man with a quick wit and dry sense of humor.  He will be deeply missed by his close friends and family. “

 

Peterson was born June 5, 1950 in Marietta, son of the late Luther Peterson and Pauline Seabolt Peterson. He is survived by his daughter, Dr. Sally Peterson Wyatt and her husband Dr. Josh Wyatt of Greenville, S.C. Funeral arrangements are incomplete and will be announced later. Funeral will be handled by Thomas Funeral Home of Calhoun