YEAR IN REVIEW 2021
3RD QUARTER

Wednesday, January 5 2022

The 3rd quarter of 2021 saw continued progress in Gordon County, with the opening of Buc-ee’s at Union Grove Road and I-75; Juliuse Jones was also found guilty in the shooting death of his wife, while Laura Pullum was honored with a key to the City of Calhoun in honor of her 90th birthday and the Harris Arts Center received a special piece of long-lost history.

JULY 2021

Group of business owners requesting Sunday alcohol sales for County to be put on ballot: At the Tuesday night, July 6, meeting of the Gordon County Board of Commissioners, a group of business owners in the unincorporated areas of Gordon County addressed the Board, asking for Sunday alcohol sales to be put back out for voters to decide on in an upcoming election, either a special election or in next year’s midterm elections. The last

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time Sunday alcohol sales was on the ballot locally was in 2012. At that time, the residents of the City of Calhoun voted in favor of Sunday alcohol sales, which can be sold between the hours of 12:30 – 11 p.m. on Sundays within the city limits of Calhoun. During the same election, voters in unincorporated Gordon County voted against Sunday alcohol sales. 

 

Board approves zoning requests for new chicken houses in Ranger; industrial on South 41: The Gordon County Board of Commissioners approved a zoning request to pave the way for eight new chicken houses in the Ranger area at Tuesday night’s meeting (July 6). The request was made by Devin Oesterle for a rezone from A-1 to Conditional Use of 111 acres of land at Hightower Loop and Jim Tom Road in Ranger. Gordon County Administrator Jim Ledbetter said that Oesterle plans to put in eight chicken houses that are 42 feet by 600 feet, and that Oesterle plans to build his residential home on the land as well. The Board approved a request from OWR, LLC to rezone property on the west side of the South Hwy. 41 development area, owned by Hulsey Trust, from A-1 to I-1 Heavy Industrial. The property is 48.51 additional acres that will be developed near Hulsey property that was previously approved for zoning. OWR attorney Terry Brumlow said that while they hope to get more manufacturing in the area, the 48-plus acres could be used for warehousing.

Reps from Republic give commissioners update on Gordon County landfill: Representatives from Republic Services, who now operate and manage Gordon County’s Redbone Ridges Landfill, were on hand at the Tuesday night, July 20 meeting of the Gordon County Board of Commissioners to address their operation and management of landfill service. Republic’s acquisition of Santek Waste Services LLC was announced in May of 2021. Santek Environmental of Georgia had managed Gordon County’s Redbone Ridges Landfill, the six manned collection sites/public convenience centers, and the recycling center since February 2006. Originally a 20-year contract with Santek, the County extended the term of the agreement to 40 years in November 2010. The acquisition of Santek by Republic included the management of the local landfill. Republic Services covers 41 states and manages 186 landfills, 372 hauling divisions and employees about 35,000 employees. Locally, the hauling division is in Adairsville.

Gordon BOE votes 6-1 in favor of contracting new Athletic Program Planning, Development position: The Gordon County Board of Education voted Monday night, July 19 by a margin of 6-1 to bring in former high school and college football coach Tim Glanton as a consultant in a newly created contract position of Athletic Program and Planning Development for Gordon County Schools. Glanton, who coached and taught locally at Calhoun High School early in his career, will be used on a consultant-basis. Board Chair Charlie Walraven was the lone vote against the request, which came from Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Fraker, who wants to strengthen and improve the athletic programs at the school systems, along with putting a plan in place for the athletic facilities. 

City Council approves alcohol license for local Cracker Barrel: At the Monday night,  July 26 meeting of the Calhoun City Council, a public hearing was held for a request of a beer and wine pouring license at Cracker Barrel, located at 100 Cracker Barrel Drive in Calhoun. No one spoke at the public hearing, and the Council unanimously passed the request. The request came after an announcement in September 2020 by the popular home cooking chain that 100 Cracker Barrel stores would be adding alcohol, beer and wine to be exact, to the menu, with almost 600 additional stores to add beer and wine by the end of fiscal year 2021, which is the vast majority of the chain’s roughly 660 stores in the United States.

One dead, several injured in Tuesday morning wreck on I-75: A single-vehicle accident on I-75 North in Gordon County just north of the Flying J Exit early Tuesday left one dead and several transported to AdventHealth Gordon with injuries. According to the Georgia State Patrol’s preliminary release, just before 7 a.m. on Tuesday morning, July 27, a trooper responded to a single-vehicle crash on I-75 North at mile marker 321 in Gordon County. Upon arrival, the trooper was notified by first responders on scene that the driver of the vehicle had suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced dead on scene. The trooper determined the driver’s identification was Juan Carlos Cruz Macias, 23, from Scottsdale. Macias was ejected from the driver’s seat during the rollover crash. According to the GSP, the three other passengers in the vehicle were transported to AdventHealth Gordon for treatment of injuries. Updates on their condition are not available at press time.

AUGUST 2021


Calhoun Police officers recognized for heroism after nursing home evacuation: Several officers with the Calhoun Police Department were recognized on Monday for their heroism, after more than 15 residents of a local nursing home had to be evacuated when a fire broke out at the facility earlier in July. As the Gordon Gazette reported on Saturday, July 11, at around 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 4, personnel with the multiple public safety agencies responded to a call of a fire at Calhoun Health Care Center, located at 1387 North Highway 41 in Calhoun. According to the incident report provided by the Calhoun Fire Department, upon fire personnel’s arrival, the command coordinated an evacuation of patients on Hallway 3 with the Calhoun Police Department along with assistance from EMS. Personnel searched the attic in a crawl space of the 15,000 sq. ft. building for the source of smoke, where crew members found a vent fan that had caused smoke due to build-up of dust around the motor. The motor was cleaned and fire personnel allowed patients to go back inside. No injuries were reported. 

 

AdventHealth Gordon’s gift shop named in honor of Marsha McDaniel: On Tuesday, Aug. 3, family and friends of the late Marsha McDaniel joined together in a small dedication with the renaming the gift shop at AdventHealth Gordon to “Marsha’s Mercantile.” Marsha McDaniel was the longtime manager of the Gift Shop at AdventHealth Gordon until her untimely death in August 2020 due to complications from COVID-19.

One seriously injured after early Monday morning house fire: An occupant of a home that caught on fire early Monday morning was transported by air for burns received in the fire. According to Gordon County Fire & Rescue, just before 2 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 9, fire personnel responded to a structure fire at 148 Lovebridge Drive SE in Calhoun. Upon arrival, firefighters observed smoke coming from the structure and extinguished a fire that was contained to one bedroom. The rest of the structure received smoke and water damage. One occupant of the home was airlifted to Grady Hospital in Atlanta for treatment for burns. According to GCF&R, the estimated cost of property loss is $40,000.

Gordon County Child Advocacy Center opens new location: The Gordon County Child Advocacy Center held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 12, to officially open its new location at 189 Professional Court, Suite 200, in Calhoun. Staff and members of the Gordon Chamber, as well as elected officials and representatives from local public service agencies were on hand to tour the new facility. The Gordon County Child Advocacy Center was established in 2014 to combat child sexual abuse, physical abuse and sexual assault by the coordination, education and provision of services to alleged victims and their non-offending caregivers. The center offers forensic interviews; advocacy services which include crisis intervention, individual support and referrals to counseling services; and therapy services for children ages 3 to 18.

Ellis named Assistant Utility Administrator at latest City Council meeting: At the Monday night, Aug. 16 meeting of the Calhoun City Council, the members voted unanimously to make current Water and Sewer Director Kyle Ellis the Assistant Utility Administrator, working under Utility Administrator Larry Vickery for the next 15 months until Vickery’s planned retirement in December 2022. A Calhoun native and Auburn graduate, Ellis has been with the City of Calhoun for about eight years, working in water and sewer engineering. He was promoted to director of Water and Sewer in 2019. He earned Professional Engineering License several years ago. Vickery is retiring in December 2022 after more than 30 years serving the City’s Utilities Department.

 

County places 60 day emergency moratorium on new poultry operations: The Gordon County Board of Commissioners on Friday afternoon, Aug. 20, held a special called meeting to pass a temporary emergency moratorium on the acceptance of applications for zoning approvals, issuing building permits, land disturbance permits and any other approvals or permits for new commercial poultry operations or expansion of existing commercial operations.

Community welcomes Bentley as new director of HAC:  On Thursday afternoon, Aug. 19, the Board of Directors of the Harris Arts Center held a reception in honor of new HAC Director Miranda Bentley, and to celebrate the fall events that have been scheduled at the arts center now that it is fully reopened after shuttering for nearly a year due to COVID. In her position at the Harris Arts Center, Bentley said she plans to continue the work that other strong, accomplished women before her, including Joanne Owens, Marci Porter, Toni Molleson and Jennifer Dudley have done: bringing national awareness to the unique artistic history of this community and implementing new and exciting artistic ventures. 

Buc-ee’s Calhoun is officially open for business: Local elected officials, staff and members of the Gordon Chamber and staff and management of Buc-ee’s were on hand Monday, Aug. 23 for the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for Buc-ee’s, a Texas-based gas station/convenience store.


Located at 601 Union Grove Road SE just off of I-75, this is the second Buc-ee’s in Georgia; the first opened in Warner Robbins in late 2020. The 53,000-square-foot store sells everything from gifts, household items and décor, clothing, snacks and food such as their popular smoked brisket, jerk, fudge and Beaver nuggets.

SEPTEMBER 2021


JONES GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS: The murder trial for Dwight Juliuse “Ju Ju” Jones in connection to the overnight incident on Sept. 11-12, 2019 was held in early September 2021. The incident in 2019 resulted in the shooting death of Krystal Jones, his 37-year-old estranged wife, at her home located at 558 Mt. Zion Road in Resaca. At the time of the incident, Krystal Jones had recently left her husband, who she had been in a relationship with for 20 years. Gordon County District Attorney Samir Patel and Assistant DA Sharon Fox shared three days’ worth of compelling evidence and testimony in their case against Jones, who was found guilty on all 20-plus counts he faced, including Malice Murder, Felony Murder, Aggravated Assault, False Imprisonment, Cruelty to Children in the 1st Degree, Possession of A Firearm in the Commission of a Felony, Aggravated Stalking, Aggravated Battery, Criminal Damage to Property, Simple Assault, Harassing Communications, Criminal Trespass and Aggravated Battery. Jones held his wife hostage in her bedroom the night of Sept. 11; deputies were called to the scene and as one attempted to enter the residence, Jones opened fire from the bedroom towards the deputy. Body camera footage from the deputy showed Krystal Jones running from the bedroom towards the deputies. Krystal Jones fled toward the deputies, who moved her to a safe location; she died on scene. The medical examiner testified that the multiple bruising, scratches and marks she found upon examining Krystal Jones during autopsy was consistent with being beaten in the time just before the shooting, including a large mark on her forehead that was consistent with being pistol whipped. The medical examiner also testified that Krystal Jones had four gunshot wounds that entered her back; the gunshots were determined to be from Jones’ guns. Two of the four gunshots that Krystal Jones suffered were fatal.

Comcast wins bid to provide broadband services to underserved areas of Gordon County: At the Tuesday night, Sept. 7 meeting of the Gordon County Board of Commissioners, the Board awarded a proposal from Comcast to bring broadband services to the underserved areas to Gordon County. Gordon County Administrator Jim Ledbetter announced that Comcast was the sole proposal of the request for proposal (RFP) for broadband service. Ledbetter explained that this was in the beginning phases; Comcast is 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. The County plans to pay for the service through grants; if there is not enough grant money to take care of the local share, the County can use America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds they are receiving.

A LONG LOST TREASURE ARRIVES AT THE ROLAND HAYES MUSEUM: For the Board of Directors of the Roland Hayes Museum at the Harris Arts Center, the letter dated June 7, 2020 was, while unexpected, an extremely pleasant surprise. “Dear Ladies and Gentleman,” the letter began. “My name is Sabine Lenssen-Fuchs from Germany.” Lenssen-Fuchs’ father owned a small private historical coach museum in Germany, which had closed after his death. During a clearance of the museum, Lenssen-Fuchs came across what she described as a “very old, large leather suitcase.” The suitcase, well over three feet tall, housed drawers on one side, with an area to hang clothing on the other. Inside some of the drawers, Lenssen-Fuchs found a men’s formal shirt, which appeared to be similar to a tuxedo shirt, with the initials “RH” embroidered in blue. The shirt was from Barclays in Paris. Upon further examination of the drawers, there was a letter addressed from a sender in Brookline, Massachusetts, dated Dec. 2, 1941…five days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The recipient of the letter was Mr. Roland Hayes, Angelmo Farm, Curryville, Georgia, Route 2. On Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 14, members of the Harris Arts Center Board of Directors, including Adrian Lyles, Kathy Davis, Maude Chattam, Richard Wilson and HAC Director Miranda Bentley along with Angela Owens, were all on hand as John Sullivan, brother of former HAC Director Jennifer Dudley, unveiled the luggage that had arrived in Calhoun earlier that day.

“It’s exciting to have this piece of history here at the Roland Hayes Museum,” said Bentley.

Ms. Laura Pullum honored at City Council meeting; presented Key to the City: The Calhoun City Council on Monday night presented a proclamation honoring retired Calhoun City Schools’ teacher Laura Pullum, recognizing her 90th birthday, which was Sunday, Sept. 26. She was presented with a Key to the City by Mayor Jimmy Palmer for her accomplishments and service to the Calhoun-Gordon County community. Pullum was born on Sept. 26, 1931 in Calhoun. After graduating from the Stephens High School in1948, she attended Tuskegee Institute, graduating with honors with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and English. She furthered her education with graduate work at several colleges, including the University of Georgia and Berry College. She taught at Stephens School from 1956-1966. She then spent three years at Walker County Schools and 33 years at Calhoun City Schools teaching at Eastside School, Calhoun Elementary and Calhoun Middle School. She was the Calhoun City Schools’ Teacher of the Year in 1982, and was the State of Georgia’s Teacher of the Year for 1982-83.

YEAR IN REVIEW 2021
2ND QUARTER

Saturday, January 1, 2022

As COVID numbers dropped in the spring of 2021, the community resumed a somewhat normal existence with businesses holding public celebrations, fundraisers taking place and new recreation options coming to the area.

 

APRIL 2021

 

Family Resource Center launches fundraiser in observance of National Child Abuse Prevention Month: The Family Resource Center of Gordon County announced a new fundraiser to help bring awareness to child abuse prevention. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to recognize the importance of families and communities working together to strengthen families as a way to prevent child abuse and neglect. Through this collaboration, prevention services and supports help protect children and produce thriving families. The Family Resource Center held Partners in Prevention through April 30, asking the community to come together to be a Partner in Prevention by raising $200 either individually or as a group. The goal was to raise a total of $20,000 for the Family Resource Center.

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Kings/B&B Skating Palace liquidation sale set: Long remembered as the place to socialize with friends and hold children’s birthday parties, a part of Calhoun history will be gone soon with the liquidation sale of the contents inside the old Kings/B&B Skating Palace, located at 115 Kenmoreland Circle near Dairy Queen. The sale will be held April 16-17 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the former rink. According to owner Thierry (Terry) Flamant, who bought the building and contents in late 2019, he’s had several offers to keep the skating rink alive but none have panned out. He said that he has no experience running a skating rink, and plans to lease the building once everything inside has been liquidated.

 

Gov. Kemp Appoints Patel as DA to Cherokee Judicial Circuit: Governor Brian P. Kemp announced his appointment of Samir Patel to fill the District Attorney vacancy in the Cherokee Circuit Court. Patel will fill the vacancy created by the appointment of the Honorable Rosemary Greene as Superior Court Judge of the Cherokee Judicial Circuit. The Cherokee Judicial Circuit is comprised of Bartow and Gordon Counties.

 

I-75/Union Grove Interchange dedicated as the Johnny Meadows Memorial Interchange: It was a special time of remembrance at Monday night’s meeting of the Calhoun City Council, as State Rep. Rick Jasperse and State Rep. Matt Barton were on hand to announce that the Georgia General Assembly has dedicated the interchange of I-75 at Union Grove Road as the Johnny Meadows Memorial Interchange. The renaming of the area of road is fitting, as one of the most integral projects Meadows saw to fruition was the Union Grove Road Exit, which officially opened in November 2015. The project began in July 2012 after more than 10 years of planning. Meadows died three years after the opening of the exit, on Nov. 13, 2018.

 

New Foundations Development holds Open House for its first new home construction: Calhoun Housing Authority’s non-profit, New Foundations Development, Inc. has successfully completed its first home build, located at 116 McConnell Road in Calhoun. A public Open House was held on Thursday, April 15, 2021 to celebrate NFD’s accomplishment. New Foundations Development was created by the Calhoun Housing Authority as a non-profit to perform home rehabilitations within Gordon County to upgrade and expand the local housing inventory.

 

MAY 2021

 

County discusses sale of Santek Waste to Republic at latest meeting: Republic’s acquisition of Santek Waste Services LLC could come as early as May 4, 2021, according to the news from the latest meeting of the Gordon County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night. “I have been told that Santek will sell to Republic tomorrow; that the closing will be consummated,” said County Administrator Jim Ledbetter.

The sale of Santek to Republic has been in the works for nearly a year but was slowed by the need of DOJ approval. Santek Environmental of Georgia has managed Gordon County’s Redbone Ridges Landfill, the six manned collection sites/public convenience centers, and the recycling center since Feb. 2006. Originally a 20 year contract with Santek, the County extended the term of the agreement to 40 years in November 2010.

 

City's solar panel project now operational; to be used for educational purposes: According to Calhoun City Utilities Administrator Larry Vickery, the solar panel unit that the City received through a grant from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) is now operational and producing energy. The panels are installed on the grassy area in front of the Calhoun Utilities building on West Line Street.At the most recent meeting of the Calhoun City Council Monday night, May 10, Vickery said that the project, a collaboration with Calhoun City Schools, City of Calhoun and GEFA, will be used for educational purposes and as a test project. Students at Calhoun City Schools, including Calhoun’s College and Career Academy and various math classes will be able to utilize the unit to learn about solar energy.

 

AdventHealth enters into an agreement to acquire Redmond Regional Medical Center: On May 13, AdventHealth, a faith-based health system, announced it had signed a definitive agreement to purchase 230-bed Redmond Regional Medical Center in Rome, Georgia from HCA Healthcare. The agreement also includes the hospital’s related businesses, physician clinic operations, outpatient services and all issued and outstanding equity interests.

 

Two arrested on murder charges in connection with Dalton shooting after victim ended up in Calhoun: One adult and one 17-year-old has been charged with the December 2020 shooting that occurred in Dalton, where the shooting victim was transported and dropped off at AdventHealth Gordon in Calhoun to die.According to the Dalton Police Department, 27-year-old Gregory Brent Grier of Campbellton Road, Atlanta, was extradited to Whitfield County Jail earlier this week and charged with one count of murder in the death of 22-year-old Jordon McDougle, of Bartow County. Already in custody, 17-year-old Issac Hickman is waiting to be transferred to Whitfield County from Fulton County. According to the incident report from the Dalton Police Department, around 2 a.m. on Dec. 24, Dalton Police officers responded to 626 4th Avenue, Apt. 4 in Dalton, to a ‘shots fired’ call after several calls were received by Whitfield County 911. Officers on scene observed holes that appeared to have been caused by a firearm; there were several holes on the lower level of the apartment complex and what appeared to be bullet fragments outside the apartment with damage to the wooden railing and vinyl siding by the gunshots. The report notes that the entire south side of the 626 4th Avenue building had what appeared to be bullet holes ranging from the top to the bottom of the building, and from the left to the right of the building and caused damage to the apartments’ windows, walls and appliances. Meanwhile, around 2:45 a.m. the morning of Thursday, Dec. 24, officers with the Calhoun Police Department responded to an incident at AdventHealth Gordon where two male subjects brought McDougle, who had a gunshot wound, into the hospital and dumped him, then took off in what appeared to be a dark, four door sedan, possibly a Ford. McDougle, who was raised in the southern Gordon/ northern Bartow-Adairsville area, had a gunshot wound to his abdomen and succumbed to that injury shortly after being dropped off at the hospital.

 

‘Make a Dream Come True’ Day held for Murray teen; multiple local agencies involved: Each year, when Nathaniel Drake’s teachers at Murray County High School ask him about a future career path, Drake always responds that he wants to be a Georgia State Trooper. Despite suffering from Friedreich ataxia, also known as FA, Drake’s career path has been certain for at least the past six years. FA is a rare inherited disease that causes progressive nervous system damage and movement problems. It usually begins in childhood and leads to impaired muscle coordination that worsens over time.

But FA hasn’t stopped the MCHS junior’s dream, and earlier this year, a few of Drake’s teachers reached out to the Georgia State Patrol, and the troopers of Post 43 in Calhoun went to work, planning for months, a special day for Drake that would utilize multiple law enforcement agencies throughout Northwest Georgia. Make A Dream Come True Day was organized by Calhoun’s Mike Reynolds. Reynolds has conducted several events of this magnitude in the past. According to Reynolds, the special day for Drake began at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 25, when Senior Trooper Shaun Sutherland arrived at Drake’s house with a freshly pressed Georgia State Patrol Trooper uniform and their signature campaign hat. From there, Drake traveled to Atlanta, where he met Governor Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp at the Governor’s Mansion. Later in the morning, Drake and a group of Troopers met with Georgia Department of Public Safety Commissioner, Colonel Chris Wright, where Drake was charged with his duties as an Honorary Trooper for the day by his new Commissioner.

Gordon County 12-year-old succumbs to shooting injury: A 12-year-old Gordon County boy died from an injury he sustained in what authorities are calling an accidental shooting in Rome over the weekend. According to Floyd County Deputy Coroner Chris Giles, the accident happened on Sunday afternoon, May 30. The 12-year-old boy and his sister were staying at the home of their 26-year-old brother when the accident occurred. According to Giles, the brother was cleaning up his residence and was putting away a gun that had been in its holster; the brother took the gun, which he thought was unloaded, and transferred it out of the holster to a gun rack on the wall when the gun went off. One bullet struck the 12-year-old in the sternum. The brother called Floyd County 911 and immediately began CPR until EMS arrived. EMS transported the boy to Floyd Medical Center, where the boy died from his injury shortly after 6 p.m. on Sunday. Because the boy was under 18 years of age, his body has been transported to the GBI crime lab, but no foul play was expected in the incident.

JUNE 2021

Oothcaloga Lodge #154 recognizes members with 60 and 70 years of membership: On Tuesday, June 1, Oothcaloga Lodge #154 honored five of their members, presenting them with 60-year or 70-year membership aprons. Founded in 1851, Oothcaloga Masonic Lodge F & AM #154 is a proud fraternal organization in the city of Calhoun, where Faith, Hope and Charity is the foundation of the Lodge's zeal in working to help the community. The motto of the Lodge is "Making Good Men, Great Men." The following gentlemen were honored for their service on Tuesday night: 60-year honors: Bobby Joe Dodd, who was initiated and raised in 1959; Alfred Ernest Knight, who was initiated and raised in 1959; Samuel (Sam) David Thomas, who was initiated and raised in 1958; Matthew Wilson Baxley (not present), who was initiated and raised in 1960 and 70-year honors: Robert “Red” Edsel Robbins, who was initiated in 1950 and raised in 1951.

 

GSP investigates Thursday afternoon rollover crash on Dews Pond: A Calhoun man suffered only minor injuries after a single-vehicle wreck on Dews Pond Road Thursday afternoon. According to the Georgia State Patrol’s Motor Vehicle Crash Report, a 2003 GMC Sierra, driven by George Edmund Graham, 48, of Park Drive, Calhoun, was traveling west on Dews Pond Road around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 9, when the driver, “nodded off.” The GMC traveled off the north side of the roadway. Graham attempted to regain control of the vehicle and bring it back onto the roadway, but began rotating across Dews Pond Road in a counterclockwise direction. The GMC traveled off the south side of the roadway, crashing through a fence and overturning on its top into a pond. According to the report, Graham suffered minor injuries but was not transported for treatment. The suspected operator condition was fatigue, and Graham was cited for Failure to Maintain Lane.

 

Calhoun Elks host annual Flag Day Ceremony: Calhoun Elks Lodge #1883 held their annual Flag Day Ceremony on Monday, June 14 at the Gordon County Sheriff’s Office. Gordon County Sheriff Mitch Ralston opened the ceremony, saying “We’ve teamed up with the Calhoun Elks Club over the last several years for the Flag Day ceremony, and I really appreciate the work the Elks Club does in our community and for the Gordon County Sheriff’s Office.”

 

Board votes to revoke beer, wine license of Rainbow Corner after arrest from selling to minors: The Gordon County Board of Commissioners Tuesday night, June 15 voted unanimously to revoke the beer and wine license of Rainbow Corner, located at 4594 Dews Pond Road, after the early June 2021 arrest of Bhilhabhai “Bob” Patel, husband of the license holder Krupal Patel, on charges of selling alcohol to minors. According to statements at the meeting, this was at least the fourth time in recent years that an employee of Rainbow had been caught selling alcoholic beverages to minors.

 

Successful start for New Foundations for Gordon County: New Foundations of Gordon County GICH (Georgia Initiative for Community Housing) has kicked off their freshman year, and things are moving ahead with bringing affordable, attractive housing options for lower income families in Calhoun-Gordon County by way of both new housing and home rehabilitations.“The reason I was so excited to apply to be a GICH community is simply because I believe whole-heartedly that the vision of the Calhoun Housing Authority and New Foundations Development, Inc.’s outstanding vision, coupled with GICH’s excellent vision for helping communities improve their quality of life and economic vitality, is a perfect match,” said Carol Hatch, the Team Leader of the local GICH and Program Manager of the Calhoun Housing Authority’s New Foundations Development, Inc. “When a previous revenue stream ran out, I was certain that the GICH Vision was the right fit for Calhoun Housing Authority and its nonprofit, New Foundations Development.”  It was announced in October 2020 that the Calhoun Housing Authority was one of five communities selected to receive assistance with their housing needs through the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing (GICH), a public-private program that helps communities strategically grow their economies through housing-related solutions.

 

Ribbon Cutting held Friday evening for Greater Community Bank: Now celebrating 10 years in the Calhoun community, Greater Community Bank held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday evening, June 18, and hosted a private viewing of their newly remodeled office on West Belmont Drive, which offered a “sneak peak” into Calhoun’s next generation of banking. Local officials, State officials, GCB customers and members of the Gordon Chamber were on hand for the private event, touring the state-of-the-art facility.

 

CHS graduate Wright named 2021 Miss Georgia's Outstanding Teen: Miss Cobb County’s Outstanding Teen Megan Wright, a Calhoun native and 2021 graduate of Calhoun High School, has been named the 2021 Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen. The job comes with a $5,000 scholarship for winning Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen. On the third night of preliminary competition, Wright won the talent category for her vocal performance of the song “Astonishing,” earning her an additional $100 scholarship.

 

Construction on Disc Golf Course at Calhoun Rec begins: Improvements to the Calhoun Recreation Center keep coming with the announcement of construction beginning this week on the new Disc Golf course. According to the Calhoun Recreation Department, the construction of their Disc Golf Course has begun. The first 10 holes will be located around Palmer Memorial Park. The first hole will start at the pedestrian bridge that connects Palmer Memorial Park to the Calhoun City Recreation Park.

 

CPD’s Uniformed Patrol Officers now equipped with body cams: The Calhoun Police Department announced in late June that all uniformed patrol officers, including Police Officers, Sergeants, Lieutenants and the Emergency Services Unit are now equipped with body-worn cameras. According to Chief Tony Pyle, the department had been utilizing 10 cameras and recently purchased 20 more, at a cost of $1,821 which came from the Mayor’s Office Contingency Fund, to make sure all of the Uniformed Patrol division had body cams.

YEAR IN REVIEW 2021
1ST QUARTER

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

After a pandemic-filled 2020, many in Gordon County were hoping for reprieve from bad news in 2021, but the pandemic raged on the first part of the year, with record numbers of cases, and deaths related to COVID, in our community. There was some progress made the first quarter of 2021, with ground being broken on both the new police station and Harbin’s new Heart Center located in Calhoun.

 

January 2021
 

Police investigate puppies discarded in dumpster; pups placed with ARL and are recovering: Calhoun Police announced they were looking for the person who packed six puppies into a small crate, one described as much was too small for all of the puppies, then stuffed the crate in the trash dumpster behind Food Lion. The officer investigating took the puppies to the Calhoun Animal Shelter, giving them an initial dose of de-wormer and water. The Calhoun Animal Shelter then made the call to Animal Rescue League of Northwest Georgia, who took over care of the pups.

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Gordon County Juvenile Court Judge Bearden retires: Judge Lane Bearden, the longtime judge over Gordon County Juvenile Court officially announced his retirement as of Jan. 1, 2021. Sitting on the bench as the Gordon County Juvenile Court Judge for more than 30 years, Judge Bearden saw an abundance of growth and plenty of change in the way the Court handles juvenile hearings during his decades of service, more than rising to the occasion in 2020 with changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic closings of the court system; changes that the judge and his staff handled with resolve and professionalism.
 
Historic gym at Red Bud renamed Freda Hunt Gymnasium in honor of legendary Lady Cardinals player: At the Monday night, Jan. 11, 2021 meeting of the Gordon County Board of Education, GCS renamed the gym at Red Bud Elementary School the Freda Hunt Gymnasium, in honor of the legendary athlete that defined Red Bud High School athletics when she played in the gymnasium at what was then Red Bud High School, and who continues to be an integral part of the Red Bud-Gordon County community today.

 

Veterinary clinic opening doors in Calhoun Walmart with contact-free visits on Jan. 19: Essentials PetCare arrived in Calhoun on January 19 with the goal to offer affordable veterinary services to more pet families in Georgia. The innovative chain of veterinary clinics, located in Walmart stores, already has a clinic in the Atlanta area, at the Walmart Health Center in Dallas. Pet parents living in or near Calhoun are able to takeg their dogs and cats to the Essentials PetCare clinic located in the Walmart at 450 W Belmont Drive, for routine veterinary care, such as vaccinations, minor illness exams, and lab testing. During the pandemic, the clinic is offered safe, contact-free visits. Pet parents can feel at ease dropping their pets off at the front of the new clinic, then join a video call with the doctor to watch the exam.

DOT visits latest County meeting to discuss issues, wrecks at the new Bypass at Hwy. 53: Representatives with the Georgia Department of Transportation were on hand Tuesday night, Jan. 19, at the latest meeting of the Gordon County Board of Commissioners to discuss issues with the new South Calhoun Bypass at the Hwy. 53 East intersection.


When traveling the Hwy. 53 East/Fairmount Highway area heading west toward Fairmount in the area of the bypass, which has been totally overhauled, a traveler must make a stop to turn left onto Hwy. 53 East to travel toward Fairmount or turn right onto Hwy. 53 to head toward the other end of the bypass onto Hwy. 53 West/Rome Road just west of the Fairgrounds. The project, which just needed final touches such as stripping, has already opened to traffic in the last couple of months, but 10 wrecks had occurred at the South Calhoun Bypass at Hwy. 53 East since Dec. 14, 2020, according to Gordon County E-911 Director Debbie Vance. One of the wrecks included a school bus in the early morning hours of a recent Saturday, where luckily no children were on board. Some of the wrecks were caused by travelers not seeing the stop sign and running straight through the intersection into the woods across the highway; others have had t-bone type wrecks where they did not have good sight turning east due to various reasons.


Homegoing Service for Garigan set: The Homegoing Service was set for Capt. Mike Garigan, 56, of the Gordon County Sheriff’s Office, who died early Sunday, Jan. 24, from complications of COVID-19. The Homegoing Service was held at 11 a.m. this Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021 at Hal Lamb Field at Phil Reeve Stadium on the campus of Calhoun High School, 355 S River St, Calhoun, GA 30701.

Gordon County Sheriff Mitch Ralston announced Garigan’s death.

“I am heartbroken today to inform the people of Calhoun and Gordon County that we have lost a great man and a wonderful public servant,” said Sheriff Ralston. “Captain Michael D. (Mike) Garigan passed away this morning from COVID 19 related medical complications. Captain Garigan served in the Sheriff’s Office for over three decades, as a uniformed deputy, a detective, and most recently as the Jail Division Commander. 

“He was extraordinarily popular in the community. Mike battled tenaciously and bravely for several weeks with the illness. He was a fighter. He was known for his love of sports, and he dedicated countless hours to coaching young people’s teams. Mike loved children. He loved people. He was a dedicated peace officer, a devoted Christian, and a loving family man. My staff and I loved Mike and we will miss him very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mike’s family at this trying time.”

 

LORENE POTTS - A LEGACY OF LOVE AND SERVICE: Lorene Potts, the first woman ever elected as a member of the Calhoun City Council and longtime businesswoman in the community, died Thursday, Jan. 27, after several months of declining health. She was 81. A lover of all sports, Lorene played softball, basketball and golf throughout the years, beginning with high school and through the rec leagues, and coached at the Calhoun Recreation Department. Taking her love of sports to the next level, Lorene and her husband, Ronald “Pee Wee” Potts, officially opened Pokey’s in 1982, and it quickly became the go-to place in Calhoun-Gordon County to get sports uniforms and equipment. After serving the community for decades with Pokey’s, Lorene ran for a position on the Calhoun City Council in 1999, becoming the first woman to be elected as a council member. She served for two terms, and was voted as Mayor Pro Tem during her time on the Council. She was heavily involved with the Downtown Development Authority and the Historic Preservation Committee.

 

One man arrested, another dead of self-inflicted gunshot wound after Walmart shoplifting incident: A Floyd County man remained in Gordon County Jail after a shoplifting incident at Walmart Sunday afternoon spurred a traffic stop where the driver of the car he was fleeing in succumbed to a self-inflicted gunshot wound he suffered after being pulled over. According to the incident report from the Calhoun Police Department, around 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 31, an officer was dispatched to Walmart, located on West Belmont Drive, concerning a shoplifting in progress. While en route, the officer was advised that the male suspect in the shoplifting, later identified as Matthew Roberts, 30, of Silver Creek, Ga., was getting into a black Dodge Dart with a Texas license plate, and was sitting at the traffic light entering Hwy. 53. Dispatch advised the officer that the vehicle was traveling west on Hwy. 53 towards Rome. The vehicle was pulled over by officers on Hwy. 53 east around the bridge close to River Street. While the vehicle was stopping, the officer noticed the driver of the vehicle making furtive movements inside the vehicle. The driver was leaning down and back up. The officer exited his patrol car and walked behind his vehicle to make a passenger-side approach of the Dodge. As the officer began walking up the passenger side of his vehicle, he heard a gunshot from the Dodge. The officer took cover behind his vehicle, thinking the shot was directed at him. The officer notified dispatch to have other units enroute, pointed his department issued gun at the Dodge and began giving the verbal commands for the occupants to show their hands. The officer noticed the driver of the vehicle begin to slump over the center console. The passenger, Matthew Roberts, opened the door to the vehicle and got on the ground as the officer was commanding. The report notes that Roberts was screaming. Dispatch was notified to have EMS come to the scene. The officer asked Matthew Roberts if the driver had just shot himself, and Roberts stated that he did. The officer called Roberts to the back of his vehicle and Roberts was placed in handcuffs.
 

FEBRUARY 2021:
 

Identity released of homeless man found dead behind Walgreens; second homeless death in 6 weeks: The Calhoun Police Department released the identity of the homeless man who was found dead in a tent behind Walgreens on South Wall Street on Wednesday, Feb. 3. The CPD said the man was identified as Bobby Commander, age 62. Officers with the CPD responded to Walgreens, located at 910 South Wall Street, around 4 p.m. on Wednesday in response to a deceased male behind the business. Two witnesses advised the officers they had gone to the area to check on their friend, Commander, who was living in a tent behind the pharmacy. Both witnesses reported they had seen Commander on Tuesday evening, Feb. 2. No foul play was suspected.

City gets approval of soil and erosion plans for new police station: The Calhoun City Council announced at their Monday, Feb. 8, 2021 meeting that they received approval of the soil erosion plans for the new Calhoun Police Station and Recreation facility on McDaniel Station Road and that hopefully begin the project beings moving forward in the near future. The plans were needed due to the close proximity of the creek that runs through the Recreation Department campus.

The new Police Station, Vehicle Service Building and the Calhoun Recreation Parks Maintenance Building, a 2018 SPLOST project, was bid out in late 2020 with the base bid amount of $4,802,490. The winning bid was provided by Felder Construction Co., Inc., a commercial construction company based in Dalton, who has built a variety of office buildings, strip malls and industrial buildings in the North Georgia area, including MAPEI, Brown Printing and the turf field at Dalton State College. The new police station campus will be located at the corner of McDaniel Station Road and Recreation Drive. 

The new police department building is a 13,754 s.f. facility. The vehicle service building on the campus will be a 5,000 s.f. building that will have a maintenance shop, wash bay and indoor and outdoor kennel space for the K-9 Unit. Included in the project is the Recreational Maintenance Facility, which is a 4,000 s.f. building.

Early morning Valentine’s Day wreck on I-75 at Exit 320 claims life of 11-year-old: An early morning wreck on I-75 Valentine’s Day claimed the life of an 11-year-old from Arrington, Tenn.


According to the Georgia State Patrol Motor Vehicle Crash Report, just after 4 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 14, a 2020 Cadillac Escalade driven by 41-year-old Meghan Underwood of Arrington, Tenn., was traveling on I-75 north around Exit 320 – Resaca/LaFayette in Gordon County, when it ran off the roadway on the east shoulder into the ditch before traveling up the embankment. 

The vehicle then vaulted before striking a concrete bridge support pillar with its front and left side; the vehicle continued traveling north and struck a second concrete support pillar with its left side. The Cadillac then struck a third concrete bridge support pillar, causing it to rotate counterclockwise. The GSP said in the report that the area of impact was determined by tire marks in the grass, ditch, furrow marks, embankment, tire marks on concrete support pillar, fluids, debris and final rest. 

After impact, the SUV came to an uncontrolled rest facing west between two concrete bridge support pillars. 

Underwood had to be extricated from the car and was transported by AdventHealth Gordon EMS to Hamilton Medical in Dalton with serious injuries. Four minors were in the vehicle: a 16-year-old male from Murfreesboro, Tenn.; a 13-year-old male from Arrington, Tenn.; a 13-year-old female from Murfreesboro, Tenn.; and an 11-year-old female from Arrington, Tenn. 

According to the report, the 16-year-old male suffered minor injuries but was transported to Hamilton Medical via AdventHealth Gordon EMS. The 13-year-old male suffered serious injuries and was also transported to Hamilton Medical by AdventHealth Gordon EMS. The 13-year-old female had minor injuries and was transported to Hamilton Medical by AdventHealth Gordon EMS. The 11-year-old female was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead on scene. 

Gazette, community mourns death of photographer Greeson: When it came to taking photos of local students, Larry “JR” Greeson could not say ‘no.’ “Uncle Larry” was known to drop anything he was doing to run and take a photo of any of the kids from the three local high schools. Greeson died Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021 after a brief illness. Greeson was a loyal friend of the Gordon Gazette, a member of our staff, having taken event and sports photography for the online news agency in recent years. Some of his most memorable photos were of President Donald Trump’s visit to Rome in November 2020, air shows and political rallies. One of the last photography requests he’d made was to cover the annual Smoker/Culberson Golf Classic, which held last weekend.

“Obviously he was a tremendously talented photographer, one of the best in the business, but his loyalty and friendship are what will forever remain etched in my memory,” said Gazette Owner and Publisher Brandi Owczarz. “Larry’s photography was so relied upon and requested by our community because he honestly cared; he never met a stranger, he instantly loved you and he always wanted the best for everyone. He wasn’t just a good one…he was a great one…and his presence in Gordon County will be missed for many, many years. It was an honor to call him, not just my best friend, but my brother…my family.”

Calhoun man dies from accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound in Kroger parking lot: A Calhoun man is dead after an incident in the Kroger parking lot Saturday night, where he accidentally shot himself with a gun that was on his person.

According to the Calhoun Police Department’s Incident Report, just after 11 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, officers were dispatched to Kroger at 136 West Belmont Drive in Calhoun in response to a victim with a gunshot wound to his leg. 

Upon arrival, officers noticed a man lying on the ground in the Kroger parking lot beside a gray Nissan Pathfinder, with several people around him. The man lying on the ground was identified as Michael Lee Rhodes, 41, of Woodland Terrace, Calhoun.

 

Officers noted that Rhodes was bleeding from his left thigh. 

An officer began rendering first aid to Rhodes to control the bleeding until EMS arrived. Once EMS arrived on scene, they took over first aid and officers began questioning six witnesses on scene.

Officers found a .380 handgun in the front floorboard of Rhodes vehicle that was jammed with an empty shell casing. 

Rhodes was transported to AdventHealth Gordon where he succumbed to his injury. Investigators believe the man accidentally shot himself.

Harbin Clinic holds Groundbreaking Ceremony for new Heart Center in Calhoun: Celebrating 150 years of healthcare and physician services in Northwest Georgia, Harbin Clinic, Georgia’s privately-owned, multi-specialty physician group held a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, Feb. 25, for its future Harbin Clinic Heart Center Calhoun, which will be located on the Harbin campus in Calhoun at 855 Curtis Parkway. The existing facility is receiving an 11,600 square foot addition that will feature a Lab, Imaging Center and Heart Center.

MARCH 2021:
 

City approves annexation, rezoning that paves way for large subdivision on Dews Pond: It was a full house at Monday night’s City Council meeting downtown due to a public hearing for annexation and rezoning requests on two related pieces of property that will combine to become a large subdivision on Dews Pond Road. The development by Brent Stepp Construction consists of 37 acres on Dews Pond and 4.22 acres at Amakanata Road. There will be over 120 houses in the subdivision, with four homes per acre. The Council approved the annexation and rezone.

Gordon BOE votes 6-1 on superintendent contract extension, raise: At a special called meeting of the Gordon County Board of Education for budget discussions and personnel matters held on Tuesday, March 16, the members of the Board voted 6 to 1 to give Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Fraker a three-year contract extension and $23,000 per year raise.


Board Chair Charlie Walraven said that the terms of the contract of the previous superintendent, Dr. Susan Remillard, allowed the Board to extend her contract yearly by one year; Fraker’s original contract began on June 17, 2019 and wasn’t set to expire until June 16, 2022 but the terms of that contract stated that at the two year mark, the Board would begin the review process.


Included in the contract was a raise from the $152,000 stated in the original contract to $178,000 with across-the-board pay increase, longevity pay, market adjustments and other increases or compensations as determined by the Board of Education, State of Georgia or otherwise applicable to employees of the Gordon County School District.

“We did give her a raise because she’s doing an excellent job,” said Walraven, saying that she’s now making about the average of systems their size.

Gordon County Schools consists of 10 schools and about 6,600 students. Murray County Schools has 11 schools and around 7,400 students, and their superintendent, Steve Loughridge, makes $138,210 per year as of 2020, according to the transparency Open.Georgia.gov. Whitfield County Schools’ Superintendent Judy Gilreath made just over $180,000 in 2020. That school system has more than 13,000 students and 24 schools.


In addition to Walraven, Board members Bobby Hall, Jason Hendrix, Dana Stewart, Kacee Smith and Christie Fox all voted for the contract extension. Eddie Hall was the lone “No” vote.


Officers nab suspect who fled with help of K-9 Sido: Calhoun Police on Tuesday, March 23, 2021 arrested a man with the help of K-9 Sido after the man fled an officer and ended up in the creek off the Oostanaula River off of CL Moss Parkway near the soccer complex. According to the Incident Report, officers were dispatched to 601 Harlan Street in reference to a possible domestic in progress. Upon arrival, officers spoke with the female complainant and determined no crime had been committed. The officer learned the male half of the domestic, identified as Rusty Holbert, 34, of 2382 Miller Ferry Road, had let the scene prior to the officers’ arrival. Dispatch ran Holbert’s information and learned he had an outstanding warrant arrest through the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office for probation violation. The complainant told officers she had last seen Holbert going towards CL Moss Parkway from Harlan Street on a blue bicycle. Officers began looking for Holbert and observed a male subject walking towards the back of the roped-off area of the substation off of CL Moss. The man matched Holbert’s description and an officer pulled beside the man and asked for his name. The man told him his name was Rusty. The officer then instructed Holbert to step in front of his patrol car, in front of the camera. Holbert asked the officer, “Why, what did I do?” The officer again instructed Holbert to step in front of the vehicle so he could speak to him. Holbert then turned away from the officer, and began running beside the fence towards the woods. The officer got out of his vehicle and pursued on foot.


The officer chased Holbert down the fence line towards the Oostanaula River. The officer was giving Holbert loud verbal commands to stop, but he ignored the commands. Holbert ran through the tree line and the officer lost sight of him. 


The officer began directing responding units to the last seen location. K-9 Sido was deployed on a track and began tracking from the last known location of Holbert. Sido tracked towards the river and down an embankment directly beside the river at the creek. The officer noticed slide marks in the mud that appeared someone down at that location. 


Other officers arrived on scene in the area of the soccer fields on Mauldin Road and searched the area. Those officers found the tracks where it appeared someone had slid down the creek bank. Two officers crossed the foot bridge and searched the opposite creek bank and found Holbert under the creek bank directly in front of where K-9 Sido had tracked to. The officers drew their weapons and gave commands for Holbert to exit the creek. The man climbed out of the creek and was ordered to the ground, but refused to comply. One of the officers attempted to take Holbert to the ground, but the man pulled away and the officer ended up giving compliance strikes to Holbert’s ribs. After a brief struggle, Holbert was handcuffed.


Holbert was taken into custody. EMS was called to the scene and transported Holbert to AdventHealth Gordon due to him complaining of a broken leg. The officer asked Holbert why he ran; Holbert told the officer he’d had bad experiences with law enforcement in Floyd County.


After being treated, Holbert was transported to Gordon County Jail. He was charged with Obstruction/Hindering of Officer and a served warrant out of Floyd County for Probation Violation.


6-year-old boy succumbs to injuries received in Thursday’s tractor trailer crash on I-75 at the 312: Investigators with the Georgia State Patrol were notified on Sunday, March 28 that a 6-year-old boy has succumbed to injuries he received in a single-vehicle transfer truck accident that occurred around Exit 312 in Gordon County on Thursday morning. 


According to the Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report, just before 10 a.m. on Thursday, March 25, 2021, a 2016 Freightliner Goldcoast Logitistics tractor trailer, driven by Corey Demetrice Smith, 46, of Spring, Texas, was traveling north on I-75 North near Exit 312, in the center lane. For reasons unknown, the tractor trailer traveled off the left (west) edge of the roadway, struck a guardrail and then struck the GA 53 bridge support in the median of the road.


Smith told investigators at the scene that he was traveling north when a “car cut [him] off.” Smith was later interviewed at Floyd Medical Center and said that an unknown vehicle changed lanes in front of his tractor trailer from the right travel lane. He told investigators he “jerked the wheel” to avoid being struck by the car. When asked if he was sure the unknown vehicle came from the right travel lane, he stated that “[He] can’t really remember.”


The unrestrained front right passenger, identified as 33-year-old Chanell Scott of Mesquite, Texas, told investigators she was looking down at her phone at the time the crash occurred and looked up to see the tractor trailer traveling toward the guardrail. She told investigators that two juvenile passengers were seated in the sleeper berth at the time of the crash.


Two witnesses said that they were also traveling north on I-75 several car-lengths behind the tractor trailer. Both stated the tractor trailer appeared to veer toward the bridge support before seeing the crash occur.


According to the report, Smith and Scott suffered serious injuries and were transported to Floyd Medical Center by AdventHealth EMS. Two juveniles, a 6-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl, were also transported to the hospital with serious injuries. On Sunday, March 28, the Hamilton County, Tenn. Medical Examiner’s Office notified investigating troopers that the 6-year-old boy involved in the crash had died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the crash.
 

Application to rezone 131 acres for more than 500 residences withdrawn; developers to reapply once plans for 2nd subdivision entrance set

Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021

At Tuesday night’s meeting of the Gordon County Board of Commissioners, the five members agreed to let the developers of a proposed large subdivision resubmit their application for the project in order to get another entrance worked into the development.

The request for the more than 500 mixed-use home subdivision, R-4 zoning for 360 single family homes and 165 multi-family townhomes, arrived at the Board of Commissioners on Oct. 19 with a recommendation for denial from the Planning and Zoning Commission due to a slew of issues, including possible traffic issues at the property,  which consists of 131 acres on Highway 53 East in the Farmville/Sonoraville community. One of the main concerns was the installation of a left turn lane from the west, and the single entry/exit into the subdivision from Hwy. 53. It was disclosed Tuesday night that the Board had learned there would be DOT approval for the left turn lane into the property.

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In addition to several land owners addressing the Board with concerns on how the new development would affect their nearby property, Gordon County Schools Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Fraker addressed the Board to discuss how the new subdivision would affect the school system.

Fraker told the Board that while the school system has already contracted with a firm to help plan for growth, that the sudden growth the schools for that subdivision – Sonoraville Elementary, Red Bud Middle and Sonoraville High School – would feel the strain of a large influx of additional students.

“We welcome the growth and know the growth is coming, but we planned for incremental growth. When you saturate one area is when it becomes a concern for us,” said Fraker.

According to Fraker, all three of that proposed subdivision’s schools are currently at or over capacity. Sonoraville Elementary School has room (according to state projections) for about 100 more students. Red Bud Middle School’s capacity is at 800; the school currently has 868 students. The actual Sonoraville High School building’s 49 classroom capacity is 900 students; the system uses some of the former middle school building for student class needs, as well as . SHS currently has 1,147 students.

“We have plans for adding classrooms at a couple of the schools; Sonoraville Elementary is a little more challenging because of issues with that property when it was being built. But at Red Bud Middle and Sonoraville High School we do have plans in the future where we can add additional space,” said Fraker.

The problem with adding room is the time frame; the E-SPLOST that was passed last year already has set projects in place that have to be completed by law. Those projects include renovations at the older schools that feed the west side of the county: W.L. Swain, Ashworth Middle and Gordon Central. That SPLOST cycle begins in July 2022.

“We use (E-SPLOST) for building so we don’t go into debt and so that we don’t put a burden on the tax payers,” said Fraker. “Once we finish those projects, we can start on projects that would add additional space or add some additional amenities that we need at our current schools. Typically, we will earn $28 million to $30 million dollars on a SPLOST over a five-year period. If SPLOST collections remain up, it’ll be great and we can do things. With the current SPLOST, we had additional funds because we were able to come in under budget on some of our projects.

“If we build a new high school, and we build it exactly the same way we built Sonoraville High School; when we built it, the cost was about $19 million dollars. Today the cost would be $45 million dollars. If we added that to a new SPLOST cycle of $28 to $30 million dollars, you can see there is a concern.”

Fraker said that the cost of a school today for a school the same square footage as Red Bud Middle School would be $37 million, and a comparably sized school as Sonoraville Elementary would run about $25 million.

“We would not embark on building a new school until all of our schools are full,” said Fraker. “That’s where you have to make decisions about districts and where kids attend schools.”

Fraker also gave the Board their current student teacher ratios for the schools, saying that information provided by the developers at the last meeting, a 15-to-1 ratio, was inaccurate. For grades K-2, the student to teacher ratio is 19-to-1; 3rd – 5th grade is 23-to-1; 6th – 8th grade is 24-to-1 and 9th-12th grade is 25 or 26-to-1.

Fraker also mentioned transportation issues for the school system with a new subdivision that size.

According to Fraker, the system would use at least three buses for that subdivision when fully built out.

At this time, the state funds about 35 percent of the system’s transportation cost; the rest is picked up by tax payers.

“We’re going to need to add a bus for that one subdivision. If you look at the potential tax revenue for homes that range from $175,000 to $250,000, we would earn (for 100 homes) about $150,000 (in tax revenue). A bus is going to cost us $100,000, not including the cost of a driver, the benefits for the driver and fuel costs. We don’t stand to make a lot of money as a school system just off (of tax revenue),” said Fraker.

Fraker said another concern with transportation would be safety, including the one way in and out of the subdivision and the additional traffic it will add to Hwy. 53 in that area.

Fraker did reiterate to the Board that with such saturated growth in one area that the Board of Education would have to consider larger class sizes, portable classroom spaces and redistricting.

“It isn’t just this development going in but there are other developments in the area,” said Fraker. “We got saturated there (at Sonoraville) but have empty classrooms at other schools, we would have to strongly look at redistricting as an option.”

After several in the community spoke about their concerns for the subdivision, developer Darin Hardin told the Board they were still working on a way to get a second entrance added to the subdivision and had two options to go about getting it added, including an additional entrance on the east side of the property.

The plan submitted to the Board from Hardin did not include the second entrance and would be the only plan the Board could vote on.

Commissioner Chad Steward made a motion to deny the rezone request for the subdivision but did not get a second to carry it to vote.

Commissioner Bruce Potts then made a motion to table the request due to needing more answers concerning the second entrance.

“The developers have brought up things here that are not on the plan (presented in the application),” said Potts.

“If there are changes to this (plan), then a lot of people out there are going to want to have a chance to have a say again,” said County Administrator Jim Ledbetter. “If you’re going to try to put an additional entrance on the east side of the property, then people on the side east of the property are going to want to have a say.”

It was decided that the developers would withdraw the application for the rezone and resubmit their application once the second entrance is planned and put into the plan renderings. At that time, another public hearing will be held at both the Zoning Commission and before the Board of Commissioners.

“This is the first DRI (Development of Regional Impact for subdivision) like this that’s been brought before the Board for our community,” said Commissioner Bud Owens. “We’re sure there’s going to be more to come. So we want to be very careful as we set precedence for the future in making good, sound decisions. If it takes a little bit longer to get things worked out, it’s probably the best thing to do. For example, we were given information tonight that we had not received and have not had a chance to read. Information continues to come to us and it’s very difficult when you come into a meeting and you have information handed to you that you haven’t had an opportunity to review to make a fair and just decision.”

No timeline was given for when the application will be resubmitted.

Tiny House Hand Up suing City of Calhoun after recent variance ban preventing tiny homes

Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021

Tiny House Hand Up, Inc., a Calhoun non-profit that is wanting to use donated land at the corner of Beamer Road and Harris Beamer Road for a tiny home village, is being represented by the Institute for Justice (IJ) in a lawsuit they submitted earlier this week to Gordon County Superior Court fighting the City of Calhoun's recent lack of motion to push a variance request that asked to reduce the City's ordinance of 1,150 sq. ft. minimum per home to 540 sq. ft. per home


 

For information on the lawsuit, click HERE


 

"The City’s irrational ban on homes smaller than 1,150 square feet thus denies THHU due process of law, in violation of Article I, Section I, Paragraph I of the Georgia Constitution, because it does not bear a substantial relationship to the public health, safety, or general

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welfare," said the court petition. "This Court should therefore declare that the Minimum Floor Area Requirement is unconstitutional both as applied to THHU and on its face, and enjoin the City from enforcing the requirement. Alternatively, or in addition, this Court should grant a Writ of Certiorari and find that the Defendants’ denial of THHU’s application for a variance from the Minimum Floor Area Requirement was based on errors of law and was not supported by substantial evidence."


"Your home is your castle. But in cities and towns throughout Georgia, the kind of home you are allowed to buy is limited not just by the price tag but by something unexpected: the government," said IJ in a press release this morning, saying that Tiny House Hand Up is challenging Calhoun's "arbitrary restriction for violating the Georgia Constitution."

“There is no health or safety reason to ban smaller homes,” said IJ Senior Attorney Erica Smith Ewing. “People around the country live in smaller homes without any issues, even in Calhoun in homes built before the ban.”


According to the release, Tiny House Hand Up is ready to break ground on the “Cottages at King Corner,” a community of Southern Living-styled cottages with 540 to 600 square feet of living space each. They have housing plans, support from a financial institution to help finance mortgages, and contractors lined up.


“We know that the market is there. We know that people are interested in purchasing these homes,” said Tucker. “I don’t care if it’s one percent, if we can help that one percent, we need to do that.”

At the Monday night, Oct. 11 meeting of the Calhoun City Council, the variance request to go from 1,150 sq. ft. per home to 540 sq. ft. per home by Tiny House Hand Up, Inc. to build the tiny home community the corner of Beamer Road and Harris Beamer Road lacked a motion to continue forward with a vote.


Haley Stephens with Tiny House Hand Up, Inc. spoke before the Council at that meeting saying that stable, safe and affordable housing was an issue in Gordon County.


“Too many of our working neighbors and friends are under-housed or doubled up due to lack of reasonably priced housing,” said Stephens.


Stephens said in the meeting that due to the poverty rate in Gordon County going from 9.9 percent to 17.8 percent in a 15 year period from 1999 to 2014, that a group got together in 2016 to draft a petition to do something to address the need for affordable housing. That was when they originally addressed the City Council on the subject of tiny homes. He conceded that tiny homes are not for everybody.

Mayor Jimmy Palmer addressed some of Stephens’ statements during the meeting, saying that according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty level in Gordon County was 12.3 percent in 2019, lower than Bartow, Whitfield and Floyd counties.

“We do a lot of things through the City to address some of the affordable housing issues,” said Palmer. “There are six income-based housing units currently and one under construction. We also have an income-based senior building under construction.”

Palmer told Stephens that the Calhoun Housing Authority’s GICH (Georgia Initiative for Community Housing) community, New Foundations for Gordon County, is currently working on the housing situation in the community by rehabbing many homes and looking for opportunities to provide more affordable housing to Calhoun and suggested Stephens to reach out and find ways to partner with the group.

Tucker told the Council that the group has spoken with the Housing Authority and New Foundations but that what the tiny home group is attempting to do is to fill a gap in community housing.

“We are not subsidized housing in any shape, form or fashion,” said Tucker. “But we fit in a gap between what they are doing and what Habitat (for Humanity) is doing. We are not trying to step on anyone’s toes or compete with anyone, but we saw a gap that we fit in.”

Many in the community spoke against the tiny home project at the meeting. One gentleman, whose son developed a subdivision across the street from the proposed tiny home community, said he is concerned with the variance request.


“I served on the planning commission for the county for eight years; had to read and research a huge volume of rules and regulations and each one had a reason. The square footage at 1150, to ask it to be cut in half is like creating a whole new classification and asking for a variance is not the way to do it. If we drop it to 540 sq ft is out of the realm of the variance. I’m all for affordable housing but the idea of this small of a house as a stand-alone unit just doesn’t make sense to me. I can’t picture the resale value (of the tiny homes) helping somebody. I think it’s going to drop. My biggest concern is you’re going to put these very, very small houses into a neighborhood area that is going to hurt the value of the surrounding owners.”


One lady said that the smaller houses will bring down the value of her larger home that’s located across from the proposed development.


Another neighbor asked why the 7-plus acres of the proposed development couldn’t hold a regular-sized home, and voiced concerns with the HOA proposed, wondering who would run the HOA long-term.


One person wanted to know what happened if a young couple owned one of the tiny homes, made for one to two people, and decided to have children.


“Are they going to make the people move out of these little houses, because the house, at that time, is not going to be sized for a family? Will there be an age limit or how many cars can be allowed? I’ve not seen any of the covenants they say they’re going to have. I am curious of what’s in the fine print.”


Since failing to secure the variance request, Tiny House Hand Up has partnered with IJ to get their project built.


"Calhoun is not alone among Georgia cities with unreasonably high square footage requirements," said IJ in the press release. "Marietta and College Park, for example, have square footage minimums for single-family homes of 1,200 and 1,600 square feet respectively. Their median housing prices have risen 14.6% and 55% from September 2020 to September 2021."


“People have different reasons for wanting to live in a smaller house, from downsizing and simplicity to affordability,” said IJ Attorney Joe Gay. “Calhoun shouldn’t make these personal choices illegal.”


According to IJ, the lawsuit will challenge Calhoun’s ban for violating the Due Process Clause of the Georgia Constitution; under the Due Process Clause, zoning restrictions that limit the use of private property are only permissible if they bear a substantial relation to public health, safety or general welfare. Banning beautiful homes just because they are small serves none of these purposes.

Tiny House Hand Up is also represented by Atlanta attorney Aaron Block, who, like IJ, is providing his services pro bono. Block serves as local counsel in this case.


In their press release, IJ said they have "successfully challenged arbitrary laws that prohibit people from using their property in ways that people have always used their property: to grow vegetables on their front lawn, to run small home businesses, and to bake and sell food from a home kitchen. Government busybodies increasingly want to dictate not only what you may do on your property, but also what kind of home you are allowed to live in. IJ stands ready to continue to help property owners fight these increasingly intrusive and irrational regulations."

The Gordon Gazette has reached out to the City of Calhoun for comment.  On Wednesday morning, Tucker and Ewing held a press conference to discuss the filing for the lawsuit.

Ewing explained that IJ is a non-profit law firm, representing all of their clients for free, suing state and local governments that prevent people from using their property in common sense ways.

“That’s exactly what’s going on in Calhoun, Georgia,” said Ewing. “Calhoun has banned people from building small houses. If you want to build a house in Calhoun, it has to be at least 1150 square feet. In fact, in some parts of town, it has to be at least 1800 square feet. This doesn’t make any sense. People have lived in small homes for generations and it’s a very personal choice to do so. The city should not take that choice away. Requiring homes to be bigger just makes homes more expensive and artificially inflates the cost of housing.”

Ewing said that preventing the building of tiny homes isn’t just bad policy, but also unconstitutional.

“That’s why we’re suing on behalf of Tiny House Hand Up,” said Ewing. “Tiny House Hand Up is a non-profit organization that wants to build a small community of beautiful cottages for low income people but the city won’t let them just because it says the homes are too small. But the size of the homes is exactly what would make them affordable. Unaffordable houses is a national crisis but it has local causes. When cities pass laws that make it harder for people to build, it’s no surprise that housing stays unaffordable.

Ewing said the next step is for the judge to approve the paperwork for the lawsuit and move forward, and that the ultimate goal of the lawsuit is for the court to strike down the minimum square footage requirement for everyone in Calhoun because it’s unfair to everyone.

“We’ve been trying for five and a half years to get permission from the City to build some smaller houses,” said Tucker during the press conference. “There is a housing crisis in Calhoun; affordable housing is hard to come by. Generally rent is going to run at least $1,000 or more, and for people making $10 and $12 per hour, that’s a large chunk of their paycheck every month.”

Tucker said that the group has worked with the City for more than five years, taking all of their input and concerns into their plans, applying risk management and every kind of best business practice to this project to come up with a plan for the small subdivision of affordable housing.

“We have been turned down every time we’ve gone before the City,” said Tucker. “We have adjusted our plans to accommodate all of their concerns. It has become necessary to take this step because we promised the people of Calhoun that we could do everything we could to bring them affordable housing.”

GETTING TO KNOW THIS YEAR’S MUNICIPAL CANDIDATES IN CALHOUN, RESACA

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Early voting in this year’s Municipal General Elections is underway, and both the City of Calhoun and Town of Resaca have contested races on their local councils. Below is information about the candidates for the contested races.

Calhoun City Council Post #3

George Crowley, Incumbent

Bio of Candidate:  Crowley moved to Calhoun when he was 6-years old, attended the public schools and graduated from Calhoun High School in 1968.  After high school, he attended the University of Georgia and graduated as a Phi Beta Kappa in 1972.  He served in the Georgia Army National Guard for six years.  He was the president of Calhoun

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First National Bank until it was purchased by BB&T, and later retired from North Georgia National Bank as its president and CEO. As part of his community service, he spent 16 years on the Calhoun City School Board, with 15 years as Chairman.  He has served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Gordon County Hospital Authority, Founding Chairman of the Boys and Girls Club and Chairman of the Investment Committee for the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. He and his wife Ann have been married for 48 years, and have three children: Neal – an attorney in Baltimore, Maryland; Anna – a teacher in the Calhoun City School System, and Will – owner of Crowley Drug Company. Crowley also has four grandchildren – Grady, Boland, Elizabeth and Katherine.  They are members of Calhoun First United Methodist Church.


Reason you are you running for office: “The most important thing you should ask in any political election is ‘Why do you want to run for this office?’ The first political office that I ran for was for a position on the Board of Education in the late 1980’s.  I ran because I wanted the best school system for my children. That experience led me to believe that the only reason to run is because you care about your community. No agendas, no egos, just hard work in understanding the issues and making informed decisions for the public good. That’s been my position for 32 years in City government,” said Crowley.


What do you love about your community that you want to see more of or grow? “I have said before that I feel like I have won the lottery, because I was born in the United States of America and live in Calhoun, Georgia.  We have been lucky to have had, for the most part, leadership that has been both compassionate and visionary. In government, we have had patient and thoughtful leaders who have prepared us for the future by funding infrastructure that improved our standard of living and brought economic development to our City and County. Lastly, we have two great school systems that provide the opportunity for our children to be successful,” said Crowley.


What changes do you feel need to be made in the city/town? “Stephen Hawking once said, ‘I have noticed that even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.’ Our City and County are changing quickly.  I think the speed of the changes requires us to be diligent in our study of the effect of the changes on our ordnances. For example, we have had a record number of building permits this year. What are the effects on schools, fire and police, traffic, etc.?  I think we need to constantly look to see if changes are needed to existing ordnances and regulations and procedures. I don’t know if this is really a change to what we do, but the frequency of change requires us to examine ourselves more regularly,” said Crowley.


What do you hope to implement if elected for office both short term and long term: “For both the short and long term, it is important to have trust, not only between the elected officials and employees of the City, but between elected officials and the public.  There will never be a time when this trust is 100 percent, but it is important to work toward that goal,” said Crowley. 

Ed Moyer

Bio of Candidate: Moyer has been a resident of Calhoun for 17 total years. He is employed by AdventHealth Gordon/Murray. He’s had 32 years of healthcare executive experience; he’s a Registered Nurse and holds a Master’s degree in Business. He’s also a Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality and Licensed Nursing Home Administrator. He’s been married to his wife Lori for 36 years.

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They have two adult children: Rachel Johnson and her husband, Brad, who lives in Calhoun and Adam and Jeni Moyer, who live in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. Moyer has four grandchildren. Moyer has served the Calhoun-Gordon County community in a variety of capacities: as a former member and Board Chair Calhoun City Board of Education; Past President of United Way – Gordon County; Past President Boys and Girls Club of Northwest Georgia; Board Member of the Harris Arts Center; Board Member of the Gordon County Hospital Authority; Graduate of Leadership Calhoun-Gordon County; Graduate of Leadership Cobb County. 


Reason you are running for office: “Public service is a responsibility that we all share, and we should all be willing to contribute our time and best effort toward the well-being of our community in which we live, work and play. Mohammed Ali said it well – ‘Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth,’” said Moyer.


What do you love about your community that you want to see more of or grow? “We have a beautiful community that we can be proud of.  But we must plan that growth.  We have an excellent school system as well as healthcare system in our community that we can be proud of.  In addition, we have growing recreation areas.  I would like to see more downtown development,” said Moyer.


What changes do you feel need to be made in the city/town? “We need to plan for our growth versus letting it just happen. As the only unattached county between Atlanta and Chattanooga, we have people seeking us out to live here.  A city planner is needed to help with this growth,” said Moyer.
What do you hope to implement if elected for office both short term and long term: “Work with Fire and Police on recruitment and retention of staff to include pay scales and retirement. (I’d also work with) Downtown Development to bring more businesses and events to our city. (I’d also like to bring a) city planner that can help with the needs of the community for a more unified growth plan.

Calhoun City Council Post #4

Ray Denmon, Incumbent

Alvin Long

Bio of Candidate: Ray Denmon was born and raised in Calhoun. He’s currently finishing his first term on the Calhoun City Council. Ray and his wife, Deborah, are the parents of Scope, the director of the local Boys & Girls Club; Tamakia and LaShonda. They have three grandchildren: Kennedy, in her first year at Kennesaw State; Devon and Reagan, a 3rd grader.

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Bio of Candidate:  Alvin Norman Long is a lifelong resident of Calhoun - Gordon County and traces his family back as settlers in Gordon County 1820s. His parents are Christine Roland Watkins and the late Norman Long. Long has been married to Patricia Hammontree for over 45 years. Together they have two daughters, Leslie Greeson and Nicki Smith, are blessed with

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seven grandchildren. Alvin and his wife are members of Trinity Baptist Church and have recently attended Rockbridge Community Church. A lifelong public servant, Long has served the community in many capacities serving as: the Chairman of the County Commissioners, the Chairman of the Gordon County Planning Commission, a graduate and sponsor of Calhoun-Gordon County Leadership Program, a board member with the Calhoun City School Board, a board member of the Calhoun-Gordon County Library Board, a board member with the Board of Directors for the Gordon County Historical Society, a board member with GordonCounty Historical Preservation Society, a board member on the Gordon County Board of Health, and a board member on the Gordon County Hospital Foundation Board. Long is a graduate of Calhoun High School, where four generations of his family have also attended school. He graduated from Gupton-Jones College of Science with a degree in mortuary science. For more than 50 years, he has served families in the funeral services profession. Long holds certifications through the Carl Vincent Institute of Government. 


Reason Running for Office: “The City Council operates as the backbone of our infrastructure in Calhoun. The Council makes critical decisions that directly impact our lives, from the electricity in your homes to first responders like police and fire. Because of the importance of these services, I believe a Council member needs a variety of experiences to balance the immediate needs of the community while also having the wisdom to foresee potential areas of investment or obstacles that impede our growth. As a public servant, I have served in diverse capacities; from healthcare to history, I understand the importance of balancing our growth while preserving our unique community. Through my experiences, I understand folks need an advocate – sometimes an advocate listens, and sometimes an advocate takes action. I am prepared and confident that I can be your voice, and I will do my best to advocate for you through policies and decisions. I have a proven record of leadership, teamwork, and devotion that I will bring to you and the City Council,” said Long.


What I love About My Community: “When folks move to Calhoun, they are often struck by how open and welcoming our community can be. As a lifelong resident, I know that Gordon County is a wonderful place to raise a family. Even when folks move away, fate has a way of leading them back home. We share an incredible heritage: whether we are related through families or related by our interests in serving the community, Gordon County residents honor our past and look forward to our future. We are so fortunate to have a diverse community, from local businesses to international corporations; we have created a space where we thrive together. As we continue to grow, it’s vital to our future that we grow together.  Like many of my fellow residents, I enjoy walking with my wife, Pat, in the beautiful parks and public spaces. It is a joy to take in the natural beauty of Calhoun, while also recognizing that these spaces require stewardship to stay beautiful,” said Long.


What changes do you feel need to be made? “It is the responsibility of a Council member to value the contributions of those who protect, maintain and serve our community. Growth is inevitable, progress is not. As one of the fastest growing counties on the I-75 corridor, we should investigate investing in roles to plan for our future community. We want to prepare for new friends and family to join our community, but we also need to prepare our local infrastructure for that growth. There is so much opportunity in Calhoun-Gordon County, but we want to make sure that our resources support our growing community. From everyday necessities like trash pick-up or road maintenance to more sophisticated resources like internet bandwidth or commercial space, we will need to plan thoughtfully to keep Calhoun a community that is welcoming and supportive.” 


What do you hope to implement if elected for office, both short term and long term? “In my experience, it is important to understand how the immediate needs of the community intersect with the abilities of the Council. In the short term, I would like to focus on building relationships with those most directly impacted by the Council’s immediate decisions, while also developing long term relationships with my fellow Council members to work collaboratively on community efforts. It is so important to me that we support our locally owned retailers and service providers while also attracting new and diverse businesses to the City of Calhoun. My prior responsibilities in the community demonstrate that I will work tirelessly to promote our local businesses first, on balance with the benefits of larger businesses. Our community has a proven industrious record, from small companies that grew into companies with global reach; I will work for that opportunity to be available to all our businesses. This November, you will have the opportunity to select a new City Council Member. I hope that you will join me in looking to a progressive future while maintaining our home-grown community,” said Long.

Resaca Town Council Post #3

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Bio of Candidate: Cunningham grew up in Calhoun and been here most of his life.

Christopher Kit Cunningham

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Bio of Candidate: Brant Talley has lived in Resaca since 1987. He was married to the late Connie

Brant Talley

Reason you are running for office: “I’ve always wanted to run and hold an elected office way back to high school,” said Cunningham.


What do you love about your community that you want to see more of or grow? “Resaca is a small community compared some of the surrounding like Calhoun or Gordon County.  We do know each other in the area and is a good place to start and learn more of the system so that I can be of great help,” said Cunningham.


What changes do you feel need to be made in the city/town? “Resaca needs growth in general and be able to have more services (sewage, water, etc.) available.  We also need more businesses on this side of town/county,” said Cunningham.


What do you hope to implement if elected for office both short term and long term: “I hope that I’ll be able to work together so that we can help improve conditions in some of the neighborhoods to make them safer and more family friendly.  We need to have more for Resaca and quit letting it be taken away/advantage of.  If you look at the property map, you will see that our area has been carved up so that Calhoun takes all the high value/income businesses like the Pilot truck stop.  This area needs to come back to Resaca so that it can grow properly,” said Cunningham.
 

Austin has two children and four grandchildren. He’s been employed with Shaw Industries for 36 years and attends Temple Baptist Church. Talley has more than 20 years local government experience, previously spending three terms on the Resaca Town Council from 1993-2001 and 2012-2015. He served as Mayor Pro-Tem for several of those years. Talley has also served on the Gordon County Planning Commission for two 4-year terms and served as its chairman during the second term.


Reason you are running for office: “I am running for office because I want to give back to the community that has been kind and gracious to me and my family. I consider it an honor to serve and will do the best I can to ensure a brighter future for it,” said Talley. 


What do you love about your community that you want to see more of or grow? “Resaca is known for its history. We are blessed to have two parks that serve as a reminder of what took place and the sacrifice that was made. I feel whatever the town can do to further its preservation, should be a definite priority,” said Talley.


What changes do you feel need to be made in the city/town? “There should be an effort to include more community involvement in our government. Perhaps committees could be established to make suggestions in various areas. Some examples could be beautification, historical preservation or a zoning board,” said Talley.


What do you hope to implement if elected for office both short term and long term: “Short term, I would like to see a study commissioned to solve the rail crossing problem at Highways 136/41. Long Term, I support recreation expansion. This could be new fields, gymnasium and a system of walking trails that connect all the Resaca area historical sites,” said Talley.

Reason you are running for office: “I want Calhoun to continue to be a great place to live, work, play, worship and prosper. I’m proud to represent the people of Calhoun, listening to their ideas to come up with ways to make Calhoun an even better place to live,” said Denmon.

What do you love about your community that you want to see more of or grow? “I’d like to see continued growth in our recreation department, because the kids are our future. I want them to be happy, entertained and get exercise. I love our school system, it’s a great one. I’d like to see Georgia Northwestern continue to grow and offer more as our kids leave after high school,” said Demon.

What changes do you feel need to be made in the city/town? “Most of the changes I’d like to see are already in the works. Right now, we are working on the recreation department and the construction of the new police station. Our water and sewer services are in great shape as we move forward with expansion for the growth we are looking at. We are doing roadwork and I’d like to see that continue,” said Denmon.

What do you hope to implement if elected for office both short term and long term: “We just finished the Peter Street SPLOST project, and I’d like to see more street beautification projects with future SPLOST monies,” said Denmon.

County extends poultry moratorium to Nov. 16

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

At the most recent meeting of the Gordon County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night, the Board voted to extend the moratorium in place for applications for zoning approvals, issuing building permits, land disturbance permits and any other approvals or permits for new commercial poultry operations until Nov. 16.

The Board held a special called meeting on Aug. 20 to pass the temporary emergency moratorium on the acceptance of applications for zoning approvals, issuing building permits, land disturbance permits and any other approvals or permits for new commercial poultry operations or expansion of existing commercial operations. The move was made after protests of a proposed CAFO operation of at least 24 mega chicken houses on Evergreen Road in unincorporated Gordon County, near the banks of the Coosawatee River; however, the moratorium did not affect that pending applications for new or expanding poultry operations; under the Georgia Supreme Court law, pending applications have the right to be heard on their merit.

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The application was denied by the Zoning and Planning Committee in September due to, in part, the change in the number of chicken houses requested on the application to the number the applicant actually wanted to build. The applicant ended up withdrawing the application after that decision.

 

EDOG organizer Al Stone spoke during a discussion Tuesday night, to continue the fight against the larger chicken operation on Evergreen, wanting to historically preserve the property EDOG claims is connected to the Cherokee.

“We as a group, Environmental Defense of Georgia (EDOG), with over 700 private citizens; and the full support of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, and public businesses in our county, starting with Mohawk Industries, and private companies as well, local governments, our five adjacent counties, our state representatives, past congressmen from the state of Georgia, current congressmen from the state of Georgia, federal agencies…I’m talking about the ‘we.’ This is the ‘we’ I’ve worked 126 days on and 1,000 man hours…the ‘we.’ The Chamber of Commerce of our great county, Gordon, the Chamber of Commerce of the five adjacent counties to our county, our state Chamber of Commerce, the poultry industry leaders, the president of the Georgia Federation of Poultry Growers, local farmers, cattlemen, producers whether they be giant or small, poultry integrators-Tyson, Pilgrims, Koch, Perdue. You say, ‘They’re not with you. You’re against poultry.’ No, we are not against poultry. We’re actually for the farmer. Chick-fil-A has actually asked all their Chick-fil-A stores in Northwest Georgia to serve Mississippi chicken because Chick-fil-A doesn’t want chicken grown near an Indian historic site. The same reason Mohawk doesn’t want anything to do with Indian historic sites. The Federal Historic Preservation Agencies, our own Gordon County Preservation Commission, the Trail of Tears Association and the Cherokee National History Society and what humbles me to this day, the Cherokee people, the Cherokee Nation are part of the ‘we’ that stands here tonight. We would simply ask you, Gordon County commissioners, to turn this potential poultry environmental disaster into a blessing to protect our most sacred area and its water while looking at the possibility of making this place a distinguished and financial benefit to Gordon County, Northwest Georgia and the United States of America. Please join us and make Gordon County a proud home of the Cherokee.”

Local chicken farmer Jacob Williams also spoke before the Board, asking them to consider lifting the moratorium on the construction of chicken houses.

“Poultry is important to Gordon County and land owners who want to make a living farming on their land in the future,” said Williams. “A family working a farm full time needs an income-producing agriculture entity to provide a steady income. In the Southeastern United States, a poultry farm is perfect for this need. Poultry can be and is produced in a way that protects our natural resources while providing a living for landowners and food for all of us to enjoy. These operations are dry litter operations and do not have runoff because of the way they are designed. Please be fair for all in deciding the direction to go after the moratorium is lifted in Gordon County. We have many professionals in our industry to guide you in this process. We shouldn’t overact to situations that possibly were misunderstood. Decisions need to be based on facts.

 

“A CAFO is not a bad thing like it’s been made out to be,’ continued Williams. “CAFOs help keep food prices low, they improve efficiency in animal agriculture; oftentimes land not suitable for other types of farming can be used to build a poultry farm. According to the USDA, the average American eats 96 pounds of chicken per year. It is impossible to produce this amount of chicken in our backyard. We must have CAFOs. In 2020, chicken was the most consumed meat in the United States. The demand is only going to increase. The per capita consumption is expected to be about 101 pounds by 2030. Again you can’t feed America with free-range chickens. There are no CAFOs that have 10-15 million birds on site at any given time like has been advertised. An average sized farm today is 120,000 – 180,000 birds. The largest farms in Northwest Georgia would have around 400,000 chickens at a time; nowhere in the millions. If someone is building a farm in a location approved by a poultry company, it isn’t going to be harmful to other farmers in the area. A poultry farm being located a mile from a river will have no adverse effects on the river. Saying a poultry farm is putting the public health at risk is certainly a statement that has been made that is simply ridiculous. We do not need to drive our farmers out of business. We have the cheapest and safest food in the world.”

With the Evergreen Road project, the applicant proposed to initially build 24 houses sized “approximately 50 by 600 sq. ft.” on the 577 acres then as many as allowed; at 125,000 birds per house, that equates to up to 3 million birds for the 24 houses.    

Williams then posed several questions to the Board, asking them what their rationale was for the necessity of issuing an emergency moratorium and an ordinance change, and what verifiable evidence they had for taking the action of placing the moratorium.

“When I drafted a moratorium back in August, the Evergreen Road project was in process and it could not apply to that. That wasn’t the impetus of the moratorium. The impetus of the moratorium was to address a loophole that we ran into by having a farmer who had an attorney figure out they could do six chicken houses on one tract, then six on another and end up with more than 125,000 birds just by separating the parcels,” said County Administrator Jim Ledbetter. “Closing that loophole is on the forefront of my mind. How does the poultry industry react to that if we say ‘every commercial chicken operation is going to need a conditional use permit?’”

“I don’t think they’ll have a problem with that,” said Williams. “One thing that has occurred in the industry is they have to be economies of size. Chicken farms are having to be larger for people like me and my brothers and other farmers to be able to stay in the business and survive. We have to build more houses. My brothers and I own eight 66’ by 600’s, which are the largest chicken houses around, in Floyd County. We have about 400,000 chickens on our farm at any given time. We had to build that size farm for it to work for our family and operation. So the days of the smaller farms are behind us.”

“Farmers are vital,” said Ledbetter. “I see an interplay between the large corporate farm organizations versus our mom and pop farmers. What I’m trying to figure out is how can I protect our local mom and pop farms, our citizens who farm versus mega farms? How do we protect our farmers that are here and working now? I want to do that if possible in a recommended ordinance.”

“You don’t have what you’re speaking of,” said Williams. “Every farm I know of is a family working in the chicken business. It’s not a corporation. The only corporations involved are Koch Foods, Tyson, Pilgrims; they provide the chickens for us to grow. That’s the involvement of the corporation. Everyone else is individuals trying to buy land to build chicken houses. The difference is, sometimes they have to build 8 chicken houses whereas 10 years ago they’d have to build four or six houses. But it’s taking more houses to make it work.”

“Do you know of any family farms building 25 houses on it?” asked Commissioner Chad Steward.

“I’m not aware of any,” said Williams. “And I’m in the equipment business, so I put equipment in the chicken houses for a living in addition to growing chickens so I’m certainly not aware of anybody building 25 chicken houses.”

“I wouldn’t consider that a family farm,” said Steward.

“We’ve got eight 66’ by 600’s, which is the equivalent of 16 houses like you’re talking about and that’s a large farm but it was necessary for me and my two brothers and their families to make a living farming and keep our family farm alive” said Williams.

“This Board has been supportive of family farmers, and since we’ve created our new ordinance every family farm that’s come before us wanting to build chicken houses we’ve said yes,” said Steward. “No one has come before us that we’ve said no.”

“Just recognize a family farm may not be as small as it used to be,” said Williams. “It may be 8 houses, it may be 12.”

“More than 12?” asked Ledbetter.

“It depends on the size of the (chicken) house” said Williams. “There’s different size of the houses. We have got a lot of people in the poultry industry from the Georgia Poultry Federation to the chicken companies that we can meet and help guide the information. The University of Georgia is definitely there as a resource too.”

Williams said that just because an applicant comes before the Board and applies for a particular number of chicken houses doesn’t mean the chicken company has approved the applicant for that number of houses.

“Your chicken companies aren’t going to want an individual to have 100 chicken houses that’s for sure,” said Williams.

In the Evergreen Road project, the applicant specifically applied for “24 houses to begin with then as many as allowed by the ULDC (Unified Land Development Code).”

“But when it comes to this body, we have to figure out where the balance is in it,” said Commissioner Bruce Potts. “It’s a totally different dynamic than what you just described.”

“That’s why we created our new ordinance, so we’d have more control,” said Steward. “Before you just had set backs and zoned agriculture, you could put it right beside an elementary school and have the fans facing it. We have a little more control to protect homeowners and farmers.”

“I think the ordinance you put in place is fair,” said Williams.

David Macknight then spoke before the Board and pointed out the Joint Comprehensive Plan, which is in place to apply for state grants.

“These are not my words but from your Comprehensive Plan from 2018-2028,” said Macknight. “The State of Georgia encourages local governments to incorporate protective measures for natural resources during planning efforts. This is to ensure the quality of life is not diminished for future generations through degradation of resources like air, water and soil. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has created environmental planning criteria which cover five areas of concern including wetlands, mountains, watersheds, river corridors and groundwater recharge areas. The County as a whole has small areas of wetlands particularly located along creeks, streams and rivers. (Wetlands) typically occur in the flood plains and should see minimal development for passive use. Trails are a good example of this type of development. There is also large water supply water shed that exists in the northern central area of the county into the north and east of the City of Calhoun. These are areas where rainfall runs downhill from high ground into the creeks and streams that run into large rivers. Since rainfall is also absorbed into the soil and makes its way underground to nearby rivers, the development in these areas should be minimal. The DNR reports that the Coosawatee River watershed is greater than 100 square miles and serves as the water supply for the City of Calhoun. Gordon County has smaller groundwater recharge areas all over the county, the biggest occurring in central Gordon County east of the City of Calhoun, located near creeks, streams and rivers. Gordon County is also home to the Conasauga, Coosawatee and Oostanaula River corridors all of which are designated as protected river corridors by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. They have deemed these rivers, amongst others that are of vital importance to the state of Georgia, and to help preserve these qualities that make the river suitable for habitat and wildlife, a site for recreation and a source for clean drinking water.”

The southeast corner of the Evergreen Road property, which consists of 577 acres, is located only 600 feet from the Coosawattee River. And as noted by the Gordon County Building Inspection Office in the rezone application for the poultry operation, portions for the property are located in a flood plain.

“So out of the 180 pages of this Comprehensive Plan, there are only two sentences that refer to the poultry industry,” said Macknight. “There are numerous sections that talk about recreational use, passive use, large-lot residential areas, not depleting the resources that we all enjoy. I just ask that this document, put together by you so that you can submit for funds by the state and federal government, have a hard look at when you make decisions about approving ‘agriculture use.’”

After the discussion, the Board voted to extend the current moratorium until Nov. 16, 2021 based off of the information provided in order for the County to review the information and be fair in any actions they take concerning poultry operations.

In other news from the meeting, the Board approved several purchases for the new Judicial Building being constructed on Piedmont Street behind the courthouse.

The Board approved two X-Ray machines from Auto Clear in the amount of $14,200 each; Information Technology FFE for offices and courtrooms in the amount of $38,604.48 and desks and furniture from Ernie Morris for $264,175.45.

The next meeting of the Gordon County Board of Commissioners will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 19 at the Administration Building on North Wall Street in downtown Calhoun.

HERO Agriculture debuts plans for Veteran Learning Center

Saturday, October 2, 2021

On Saturday, Oct. 2, HERO Agriculture, located at 1392 Roland Hayes Parkway in Calhoun, held a special revealing of the upcoming Veteran Learning Center that will be located on the farm owned by veteran Mike Reynolds.


Reynolds founded HERO Agriculture as a non-profit that provides network and support for veterans, including education to help them achieve a personalized agriculture operation, after his time in the military. The goal is to prevent veteran suicides by helping veterans find renewed purpose through farming.

Reynolds is very familiar with finding renewed purpose after service: while deployed to Iraq in 2009, he sustained multiple injuries and was forced to retire from the military. After returning home, he was unable to return to public service as a medic or firefighter, which was his career before military service, due to his injuries. As he explained on Saturday, he was ready to give up but found a renewed purpose after reaching out to Eddie Brannon, of Max Brannon and Sons Funeral Home, who himself is a farmer. After training under Brannon for several years, Reynolds began working on his vision of HERO Agriculture.

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HERO Agriculture Board members from left, Stacy Campbell, Matt Mirtes, Anissa Mirtes, Nate Tyre, Bill Gleaton and owner/Chief Farming Officer Mike Reynolds stand on the plot of land where the new Veteran Learning Center is planned.  (Photos: BRANDI OWCZARZ/Staff)

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ABOVE: The plans for the VLC. (Photos: BRANDI OWCZARZ/Staff)

“You don’t have to come from a farming family to be a farmer. I knew nothing when I returned from Iraq. I became a farmer because farming gave me the purpose and direction I needed,” said Reynolds.
 
Located on his 83-acre farm, HERO Agriculture supports veterans by providing opportunities to rediscover their purpose through farming. As Reynolds said, his goal is to take these men and women and get their minds off of the emotional anxiety they have and refocus their attention on a new mission: farming. By offering training and mentorship, HERO Agriculture helps these veterans succeed at their new mission.

“Your brain can process 30 thoughts per minute,” said Reynolds.  “We have veterans who have never farmed in their life. I’m going to put them on a tractor and tell them that they need to watch the fuel, the RPMs, the hydraulic pressure and temperature, listen to the engine and bailer… there’s all this stuff that you have to pay attention to. You’ve got this veteran who has all of these intrusive thoughts. When I put you in the cabin of the tractor and all of a sudden you are going to do something you have never done before, it is going to take 28 of those 30 thoughts that you have. Believe it or not, at the end of a six-hour day, that veteran’s brain got a break. I know there are guys out there that need medication an counseling, but when you come here, it’s different. I want you to come out here to farm; I want to talk to you about farming. If I can give your brain a six-hour break today, maybe tomorrow it can be a seven-hour break. Then go home and think about what you did here.”

HERO is an acronym for Honoring those who have served and recognizing the sacrifice they have made; Educating these veterans and helping them rediscover their purpose; encouraging the Resilience of the veterans and that they can master their new normal; and seeing this mission a an Obligation, making sure that the current statistic of 22 veteran suicides per day ends.

Over the last several years, HERO Agriculture has developed program goals to help the veterans begin a career in farming. The program begins with Basic Training, by helping the veterans identify their specific farming pathway. The veteran then moves on the 1st Enlistment, where they find a mentor in their area of interest to help them identify goals and create their personal development plan. In the next phase, 2nd Enlistment, the veterans collaborate with their mentors and begin working independently, volunteering on a farm, learning to use equipment and tools and transitioning into independent work. In the 3rd Enlistment phase, the veterans actually start their business, coming up with a business plan, receiving financial management training and other steps to get their farm going.

“I met Mike two years ago when he came down to our law offices for free legal counseling for veterans,” said Nate Tyre, who serves on the HERO Agriculture Board of Directors. “Mike’s story is amazing, and he told me about his history growing up around (Gordon County), about becoming a medic and a firefighter and being really good at what he did. He was the best at what he did. As a guy full of service and love for his country, he signed up and served our country in uniform over in Iraq and was crucially injured in battle. He came back home and knew he couldn’t be soldier Mike; he couldn’t be paramedic or firefighter Mike anymore. If tomorrow you had to wake up and reinvent yourself, that’s a tall task even for somebody as talented and infectious as Mike is. He had the ability to find a new purpose through farming. After a lot of work, he saw that farming helped him with his purpose, and knew he needed to help other veterans as well. (By the time he came to my office), he was already helping so many veterans, working with them and farming, that he needed additional help.

“We started talking right then about setting up an organization to support that mission, to support Mike, so we can help as many veterans as we can for those who want to learn about agriculture,” said Tyre.

 “I was in the Army and injured in Afghanistan in 2013 in a suicide bombing incident,” said Perry, a veteran who is in the beginning stages of working with HERO Agriculture. “I have had a C4-C5 spinal cord injury. I’m still trying to find myself and rebuild myself and have done that over the last several years. I moved back to my hometown and met Mike through Home Depot’s Pro Center. Mike came out to my house one day and told me about his plans for HERO Ag. I’ve been out here to the farm a couple of times to get an idea with what to do with me and how to help me. We’ve got a lot of ideas; it’s all about rebuilding a community. There is a connection between military service members and farmers; local farmers help each other and lean on each other and share knowledge. You do the same in the military. I think that’s why it works for Mike. There’s a real purpose for this; people need it. It’s a good thing.”

State Rep. Matt Barton is impressed with Reynold’s vision and HERO Agriculture, and said he plans to help with the program anyway he can.

“Hopefully, I can be an advocate on the state and federal level,” said Barton. “It’s a special project that I support.”

Over the last several years, HERO Agriculture has developed program goals to help the veterans begin a career in farming. The

On Saturday, Reynolds gave those in attendance a tour of his farm and a synopsis of how the program works. It included exhibitions from local 4-H’ers and live work being performed on the farm. 

“Eddie Brannon taught me how to farm but unfortunately, especially these days, Eddie Brannon doesn’t have a lot of time (to teach farming). What we found was that when we partner with the 4-H and FFA programs, then we can pair those (members) with our veterans to help them with learning skills,” said Reynolds.

HERO Agriculture’s Board of Directors also introduced the plans for the new Veteran Learning Center, which is being built in partnership with Home Depot, Yellawood and Veterans Advocates. The facility will greatly aid HERO Agriculture in fulfilling their mission of helping veterans find purpose through farming. The VLC is located in a centralized location on the farm for support, networking and education; there is a meeting room, prep kitchen area and veteran rooms for those veterans who travel to Gordon County for the training to have a place to stay while receiving the training.

“(The Veteran Learning Center) will house the training center, a prep kitchen to teach veterans how to can vegetables or prep honey,” said Gleaton. “And on one side, there will be a store front for the veterans to be able to sale the product they produce at their farm.”

The overall cost of the facility is $106,000; luckily, all but $48,969.50 has been paid for by partners. The $48,969.50 still needed will cover the pad and pad finishing, trusses, metal roof and septic tank.

HERO Agriculture is accepting those in the community interested in volunteering, either by financial donation or by using a skill or resource to support the veterans. To find out ore, visit Facebook.com/HEROagriculture or HeroAg.com.

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ABOVE: Rep. Matt Barton (Photos: BRANDI OWCZARZ/Staff)

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Local business owner and farmer Eddie Brannon mentored Mike Reynolds for years on all the aspects of successful farming. He was on hand Saturday, Oct. 2, to show those in attendance some of the farming chores he taught Reynolds.

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Mike Reynolds

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Perry, a veterans who was injured in 2013 during service in the Middle East, has recently began working with the HERO Agriculture program to learn about farming.