There was a wide-range of news stories in Gordon County in 2017...from winter weather causing accidents to a local politician being indicted on financial fraud charges, the first quarter of 2017 was busy in local news. Due to the number of events that took place this year, this is part two of a four part series on the events that had Gordon County talking throughout 2017.
Investigation underway to determine cause of animal shelter fire
A fire Wednesday night, April 12, at the Gordon County Animal Shelter resulted in a total structure loss. Around 8 p.m., Gordon County Fire & Rescue responded to a reported structure fire at the shelter, located at 790 Harris Beamer Road in Calhoun. Dispatch reported that the caller could see flames and smoke in the building. When GCF&R Engine 1 arrived at the scene, the front side of the structure was fully engulfed in flames and the roof over the kennel area in the back of the building had heavy, thick black smoke showing, according to the fire report. Engine 1 took command and called for defensive operations and began rescue operations of the animals that could be rescued from the outside kennels. The total loss of property and contents, according to the fire report, is valued at $250,000. Gordon County Animal Shelter Director Sue Henson said that there were 20 dogs and two cats at the shelter; all of the dogs were rescued but the two cats perished in the blaze. The dogs were placed with City of Calhoun Animal Control and other animal rescue groups. The Georgia State Fire Marshal’s Office was called to investigate the cause of the fire who determined that it was an unintentional fire with an undetermined cause. According to the fire marshal, the fire definitely started in the attic area of the shelter and that while the cause of the blaze was undetermined, electrical issues could not be ruled out.
Homeless man arrested after standoff with police at Calhoun Walmart
A homeless man was arrested on reckless conduct and possession of firearm by a convicted felon charges after firing a shotgun at Walmart on Sunday evening, April 16. According to the official incident report, Calhoun Police responded to an RV sitting near the wood line of the grocery store side of the building in reference to a man firing a gun into the woods. Upon arrival, officers spoke with the owner of the RV identified as Patricia Fey. She told officers that her boyfriend, Douglas Calvin Hastings, 52, listed as homeless, had fired his shotgun into the wood line to clear the gun. Officers asked to talk to Hastings but he barricaded himself in the back bedroom of the RV, which is registered in Florida. According to the report, Hastings stayed barricaded in the back room for approximately five hours.
Noah marches through Gordon to raise awareness, funds for diabetes research
On Friday, April 14, Noah Barnes and his father, Robert, marched into Gordon County on Highway 41 to raise awareness for diabetes research. Noah, an 11-year-old from Jupiter, Fla., was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as an infant. Noah began planning this march months ago with his dad, so he could, in his own words, “Bring awareness to diabetes.”
King resigns as Administrator of Gordon County
Gordon County Administrator John King, who has served in the position since February 2014, turned in his resignation during an executive session of the Gordon County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, April 18. “It is with great sadness to this Board that after three years of working with Mr. King, he has turned in a resignation letter to the County,” said Board Chair Becky Hood. “Nobody is leaving on ill terms. We love John and we hate to see him go. It’s been a pleasure serving with him.”
“You guys have given me a wonderful opportunity,” King told the Board. “It has been great and I really enjoyed working with you.”
Gordon Central brings two prestigious Shuler Awards home to Gordon County
Gordon Central High School’s Performing Arts department, along with the Gordon County community, continues to celebrate the two Shuler Awards at the 9th annual Georgia High School Musical Theatre Awards that they brought home on Thursday, April 20 for their production of “The Spitfire Grill.” The awards were created in the same vein as Broadway’s Tony Awards, celebrating excellence in high school musical theater. The Gordon County community had the chance to see Gordon Central’s Dr. Kim Watters, Mike Earnest and Richard Bristow win the award for Best Direction for their work on “The Spitfire Grill,” and see Watters accept the award on behalf of the performers for their award for Best Ensemble for “The Spitfire Grill.”
Commissioners discuss proposed changes to poultry operations ordinance
The Gordon County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, May 2 met and reviewed a proposed ordinance for changes to the local poultry ordinance. The commissioners held a first reading of the ordinance changes, which will affect Concentrated Poultry Feeding Operations, and discussed them at length. A second reading of the ordinance and public hearing will be scheduled in upcoming weeks.
City holds first public hearing on budget, brings general fund into balance
The administration within the City of Calhoun has put in a lot of hard work the past couple of weeks, crunching numbers for the city’s General Fund budget to overcome what was initially a shortfall of approximately $457,000. According to officials in Monday night’s (May 8) Council meeting, many cuts have been made over the past two weeks, overcoming the shortfall and giving the general fund a surplus. Some of the changes made to the General Fund to tackle the $457,000 shortfall included: Eliminating the salary portion of the City Planner position, which will save $68,000; Reduce the Mayor and Council Contingency Fund from $100,000 to $10,000, which will save $90,000; Cut a position in Court Services, which will save $58,000; Proposed increase in franchise fees and transfers from water and sewer: $57,000; Decrease in Downtown Development Authority advertising budget: $3,000; Local Option Sales Tax revenue increase: $30,000; Anticipated back tax increase: $20,000; Five-percent decrease in property and liability insurance: $5,000; Proposed increase of 10 percent in all building permit fees: $11,000; Proposal to remove contributions to local non-profit agencies including Voluntary Action Center, Harris Arts Center, Winner’s Club, Boys & Girls Club of Gordon County and Domestic Violence: $26,500; An additional decrease in health insurance coverage. Coverage, which had originally increased by 10 percent has been renegotiated to only a 7.25 percent increase, which adds $44,000 back to the general fund; Maintaining current levels of staffing: $43,000; Reducing transfer to recreation: $2,300; Decreasing transfer to Fields Ferry golf: $75,000. The proposal is to increase green fees by $2 and cart fees by $1; Proposed decrease in overtime for fire department, street department and police department: $30,000. To make this realistic, the City will probably have to cut some of the festivals and downtown activities, such as the Fall Festival, to make sure these departments do not incur overtime; Decrease in street patching: $5,000; Decrease in fuel cost: $9,400.
Sheriff’s Office responds to home invasion, two in custody
Deputy sheriff’s with the Gordon County Sheriff’s Office were called to a private residence in the Pine Chapel community shortly after 8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 17, in response to a reported home invasion. When deputies arrived, they found one suspect, described as “incapacitated,” inside the home. A second suspect had been chased into nearby woods by a group of armed neighbors. Responding officers reported that Dustin Eugene Freeman, 17, of 421 Beamer Circle, Calhoun, was placed under arrest and taken to Gordon County Jail, where he remains at press time. Alex Alcantar, also age 17, of 200 Spring Valley Boulevard, Apt. 25, Calhoun, was found inside the home seriously injured. He was airlifted to Erlanger Medical Center.
City Council discusses Utility Rate Resolution, downtown caboose
The Calhoun City Council met Monday night and discussed the Calhoun Utility Rate Resolution, along with what will become of the historic caboose in downtown Calhoun. A motion regarding amendments to the Calhoun Utility Rate Resolution was presented. Changes include a 14 percent rate increase for outside the city water and sewer rates, a 5 percent wholesale accounts increase and includes that all water meters are subject to the appropriate monthly minimum charges. The proposed increase will be effective June 1, 2017. The Council then voted and approved the rate increases. Also at the meeting, Mayor Jimmy Palmer mentioned that he had spoken with City Administrator Eddie Peterson and Councilwoman Jackie Palazzolo about the downtown caboose, feeling it would be a good idea to become a place for a book swap. “I had the opportunity to look at a concept of where you would put some pieces of railroad history and some Plexiglas containers and have an area for a book swap. You could have children’s books, there’s the opportunity to sit outside under the covered shelter (beside the caboose) and read the books. As close as (the caboose is) to the library, my thought was we take the opportunity to get Nyala (Edwards, branch manager of the library) involved and see if the library and library board would join in and make it more than just sharing the history. Having a book swap helps in a lot of ways: you get children involved and that may draw more people from (the caboose) to the library and get more usage there. Plus, I was thinking it might generate more traffic through the caboose than maybe than just a standalone history, because (the caboose) is space-limited.”
Kmart in Calhoun to close doors in September
Sears Holdings confirmed with the Calhoun Times that they will be shutting the doors of Kmart, located on WC Bryant Parkway in Calhoun, in early September. “We can confirm that we are making the difficult, but necessary decision to close this Kmart store,” said Howard Riefs, director of Corporate Communications for Sears Holdings. “The store will close to the public in early September. Until then, the store will remain open for customers.” Sears Holdings, which owns Kmart, is closing a total 72 stores this year; 16 Sears stores, 49 Kmart stores and seven auto service centers.
Smith arrested again; charged with felony possession, misdemeanor traffic violations
Embattled Gordon County Board of Education member Ricky E. Smith has been arrested again, booked in Gordon County Jail at press time, on felony charges of possession of Schedule IV and V controlled substances and misdemeanor traffic violations. According to the Gordon County Sheriff’s Office, Smith was arrested late Sunday night, June 18 and booked into the Gordon County Jail shortly after 1 a.m. on Monday, June 19 following a minor traffic offense in Calhoun. A deputy ran a check of Smiths’ driver’s license after pulling him over for a minor traffic offense, which revealed the license was suspended. The arresting deputy, according to GCSO, also found a container of what is believed to be Schedule IV and Schedule V prescription drugs in the car. Smith was arrested without incident. The arrest comes as Smith is awaiting trials in both Gordon and Whitfield Counties after an August 2016 incident where he was arrested on felony charges of financial transaction card theft, financial identity fraud and misdemeanor charges of theft by taking.
Bramlett, City of Calhoun Finance receive Excellence in Financial Reporting award
The Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting was awarded to City of Calhoun by Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) for its comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR). The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management. An Award of Financial Reporting Achievement has been awarded to Andrea K. Bramlett and the Finance Department of the City of Calhoun for preparing the award-winning CAFR. The CAFR was judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program, which includes demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the CAFR.
Calhoun City Schools recognized as Outstanding Charter System
Calhoun City Schools was recently recognized as an outstanding charter system at the third annual Charter System Foundation Awards Luncheon. Lt. Governor Casey Cagle presented Superintendent Dr. Michele Taylor and Mrs. Kelli Kendrick, director of School Improvement, with a plaque to recognize the district’s achievements in leadership, governance and innovation. CCS was selected as Charter System of the Year in 2016.