Calhoun Times Year in Review 2016 Part IV

The Calhoun City Council was the talk of the community in the fourth quarter of 2016, with the vote on reorganizing the city’s administrative structure, eliminating the position of General Manager of Utilities, held by Larry Vickery. It’s a story that’s still a hot topic going into 2017, with Municipal General Elections being held later this year.

October 2016

Deputies catch fugitive after chase: A fugitive was apprehended early Monday, Oct. 3, after rolling a truck in the Blackwood community off of Highway 53 East, fleeing and leading Gordon County Sheriff deputies on a foot chase. According to Sheriff Mitch Ralston, deputy sheriffs were in the Blackwood community searching for Buren Nicholas “Nick” Poole, 28, of 107 Creekview Drive in Calhoun, a fugitive wanted on a methamphetamine as well as traffic related charges. A deputy sheriff witnessed Poole leaving a home on Blackwood Place in a pickup truck. Poole was driving at a high rate of speed, so the deputy began to follow him. Poole increased his speed for about 150 yards, traveling through private yards before losing control of the truck, striking a tree. According to Ralston, Poole was quickly apprehended by deputy sheriffs and GSP troopers, who had been called in to assist in the pursuit. Poole’s companion was not arrested. Poole was booked into Gordon County jail on new charges of possession of methamphetamine, possession of Schedule II narcotics, obstruction of officers, fleeing and attempting to elude officers, and a number of other traffic related charges.

Sentenced- Life without parole: Gordon County Superior Court Judge Carey Nelson on Thursday, Oct. 6 sentenced Christopher Scoggins, 30, and Fred Jason Charles, 36, to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2015 murder of Stephanie Daniel. Scoggins and Charles were found guilty the previous week of charges including felony murder, theft by taking and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in the shooting death and robbery of 35-year-old Daniel, a mother of two, in the Dews Pond community. Daniel, originally from Calhoun and a former student of Gordon Central High School, had moved back to Gordon County three days prior to her death, after having lived in the Hixon area of Tennessee. She was found dead in the early morning hours of Monday, July 6, 2015.

After 200 years, Bethesda Baptist plans ahead to serve the community: The 200 year history of Bethesda Baptist Church, located at 146 Bethesda Road in the Red Bud community, was celebrated throughout October. In 200 years, the church has come a long way from its humble roots under a brush arbor at the top of the hill where the church is currently located. During its 200 years, the church has been committed to sharing the news of Jesus and serving the Gordon County community.

Walk the Walk: The local Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, a popular men’s march to stop rape, sexual assault and domestic violence, was held Friday, Oct. 7 with more than 100 men, women and children marching to bring awareness of the domestic violence situation in Gordon County.

Signage unveiled to mark Purple Heart designation at local Shoney’s: An official ceremony was held Wednesday, Oct. 19 to recognize Shoney’s restaurant, located at 1205 Red Bud Road NE in Calhoun, as a Purple Heart restaurant by the Military Order of the Purple Heart. The restaurant now sports signage in special parking spaces designated especially for veterans.

Investigation continues into Kirby Road brushfire: An investigation was underway into the cause of a brushfire that occurred in the late afternoon hours of Thursday, Oct. 20, in the city of Calhoun. According to Calhoun Fire Deputy Chief Terry Mills, CFD responded to a brushfire on Kirby Road at the City of Calhoun Mountain Bike Trail. Due to terrain issues, CFD requested Georgia Forestry to respond to the scene. The fire burned approximately five acres of land, along with the overlook gazebo at the trail.

Gov. Deal names Gordon Sheriff Mitch Ralston to law enforcement task force: Gov. Nathan Deal today announced in late October the members of the law enforcement task force who will examine the Basic Law Enforcement Officer Training Course and establish competency-based standards for any course revisions deemed appropriate. Gordon County Sheriff Mitch Ralston was named to the task force. The task force is comprised of law enforcement officials, judges, legislators and community leaders throughout the state and will equip officers with the critical thinking and tactical skills needed to face the challenges of policing in a modern society.

City has first reading on reorganization of Municipal Operations: The City of Calhoun on Monday night, Oct. 24, held a first reading of an ordinance change of Chapter 2: Administration, Article IV: Organizational Structure and Administration of Municipal Operations and Departments. The change will reorganize the management structure of the City and eliminate the position of General Manager of Utilities, currently held by Larry Vickery. If the ordinance passes, the elimination of the position would result in the Utilities Department reporting directly to the City Administrator, Eddie Peterson.

November 2016

Gordon County imposes immediate burn ban: The Gordon County Board of Commissioners met in an emergency session on Nov. 4 to impose a burn ban that went into effect immediately. The ban remained in effect until the extreme drought conditions and risk to life and property were diminished in December. The ban covered the entire county.

In record election, Trump takes Gordon County: At the end of the night on Tuesday, Nov. 8, more than 76 percent of Gordon County’s registered voters - or 19,100 people - turned out for the 2016 General Election and voted for Republican Donald Trump as their choice for the next president of the United States. Trump took 79.71 percent of the votes in Gordon County, followed by Democrat Hillary Clinton with 16.69 percent of the vote and Libertarian Gary Johnson with .96 percent of the vote.

GCHS brings home AA State Championship One Act Play title for “Godspell”: “Godspell,” the popular Broadway musical that the Gordon Central Performing Arts Alliance performed in the fall of 2016 under the direction of Dr. Kim Watters, won the AA State Championship One Act Play title on Saturday, Nov. 12 at Baldwin High School in Milledgeville.

City votes “yes” by 3-1 margin on ordinance change that eliminates GM of Utilities position: The City Council of Calhoun met on Monday, Nov. 14 in an anticipated meeting with the second reading of an ordinance change of Chapter 2: Administration and Chapter 70: Personnel, Organizational Structure and Administration of Municipal Operations and Departments, which resulted in a 3-1 vote by the Council to move ahead with ordinance changes to the organizational structure of the City government, with the biggest change coming in the elimination of the position of General Manager of Utilities (sometimes referred to as Director of Utilities), which is currently held by Larry Vickery. Council members David Hammond, Matt Barton and Jackie Palazzolo voted for the change.

Mrs. Kirby goes to City Council: During the Monday, Nov. 14 meeting of the Calhoun City Council, local businesswoman Dianne Kirby addressed the Council, bringing up concerns with the downtown Caboose that had more than $30,000 worth of construction yet still sat empty. The project was never brought before the City Council. Originally planned as an ice cream shop, the Caboose has not been finished and still sits empty today. She also mentioned concerns with Councilwoman Jackie Palazzolo having personal interests in the sale of alcohol, which is not allowed by City employees, elected officials and their immediate family, according to local City ordinance. Kirby brought up the fact that she had been denied an alcohol license when her husband worked for the City, yet Palazzolo, who openly admitted in the meeting that “It is my constitutional right to make a living,” has been, according to Kirby allowed to have personal interests in the sale of alcohol through the Velo Vineyard. Velo Vineyard, an event space that hosts parties and events where alcohol is served, houses Wall Street Catering, which now holds the alcohol license, a license that was paid for in 2016 with a personal check from Palazzolo, tagging it as payment “For Velo Beer/Wine license.” In previous years, Velo Vineyard held the alcohol license.

Bambi made it out safely- Deer crashes through window of Applebee’s: Calhoun Police said a deer left on his own accord the morning of Nov. 19 after crashing through Applebee’s Restaurant, located at 1009 Highway 53 in Calhoun. According to an incident report, Applebee’s General Manager Eric Tanner called in a deer crashing through the window of the restaurant shortly after 9 a.m. The responding officer said it is suspected that the deer saw his own reflection and attempted to fight it, which resulted in the deer breaking through the window.

Construction begins on South Calhoun Bypass: Construction recently began on the new South Calhoun Bypass, which will run from Highway 53 East near the Farmville community to Highway 53 West just west of the Northwest Georgia Regional Fairgrounds. According to Mohamed Arafa, communications officer with the Georgia Department of Transportation, the significant state project is intended to improve mobility, east congestion and enhance safety in the area. The bypass will be 6.24-miles long and will realign US 41/SR53. It includes the construction of three bridges and their approaches within the limits of the project.

Calhoun Mayor Palmer vetoes changes to City’s organizational chart: At the Nov. 28 meeting of the Calhoun City Council, Mayor Jimmy Palmer gave his veto of the restructuring of the City’s organizational chart to the Council in writing. “I vetoed the ordinance on November 22,” said Mayor Palmer. “It is with great concern that I have come to the conclusion that I must veto the action by the Calhoun City Council,” continued Mayor Palmer. “My love for the City and the hope for its future requires that I take this action. I do not take this action lightly, as I am not aware of any other veto occurring; I know that I have never taken this action. The Council, by a 3 to 1 vote, has taken action to reorganize the City government and eliminate the position of General Manager of Utilities. I see nothing to be gained and much to lose with the proposed structure.”

December 2016

Domestic dispute results in aggravated assault charge after wheelchair-bound man beaten with food can: According to Gordon County Sheriff Mitch Ralston, on Dec. 2, deputy sheriffs were dispatched to a private residence in the Spring Valley neighborhood near Calhoun in response to a report of a domestic disturbance involving a serious injury. The responding deputies met with the victim, who’d suffered a large laceration to the back of his head. The victim reported that he and his wife were watching television when she became upset over his choice of programming. The victim said that after drinking a quantity of beer, his wife hit him a number of times, overturned him from his wheelchair, and beat him about the back of his head with a full can of food. The victim’s wife, Carlita Sussane Lamb, fled the scene before the arrival of deputies and was captured later. She was charged with aggravated assault.

Gordon County Special Olympics had busy week with Winter Games: Gordon County Special Olympics had a busy week with many activities throughout the area to recognize the wonderful residents that offer so much to our community. On Tuesday, Dec. 6, athletes from Calhoun City Schools, Gordon County Schools, George Chambers Resource Center and Gordon County Masters all gathered at the Calhoun Bowling Center to participate in the Winter Olympics. The Olympians then were treated to a dinner and Christmas party at American Legion Post 47 in Calhoun.

City Council votes to override Mayor’s veto of city’s organizational restructure: In the Dec. 12 meeting of the Calhoun City Council, a 3-1 vote passed in favor to override the Mayor’s veto of the City’s organizational restructure. Several residents addressed the Council at the meeting, with the majority not agreeing with the change; however, Council members Matt Barton, David Hammond and Jackie Palazzolo voted to override the Mayor’s veto.

Williams begins Dalton Expansion Project construction on natural gas pipeline: In an effort to provide additional affordable natural gas to utility companies in the Northwest Georgia region, the Williams infrastructure company has recently started construction on the Dalton Expansion Project, according to company spokesperson Chris Stockton. Per the Williams’ website, Dalton Expansion Project will “involve the construction of a new pipeline lateral connecting Williams’ existing Transco natural gas pipeline to an existing electric generating facility in northern Georgia operated by Oglethorpe Power Corp. as well as a local distribution company operated by Atlanta Gas Light Company and the municipality of Cartersville, Georgia.”

Local utility experts clarify issues concerning recent Calhoun Times editorial submission: Concerns were brought to the Calhoun Times in late December when one of our weekly columnists sent us an editorial on the reorganization of the City of Calhoun’s administrative and management structure. The columnist had met with one of the Calhoun City Council members who approved of the change to the organizational structure and voted to implement it. Red flags were raised when the council member brought up points to our columnist that have never been raised in any previous City Council meetings. In previous meetings, only points such as simplifying the structure and raising new leadership have been mentioned by this council member, and have been mentioned many times. “There are young leaders willing and ready to step up, but we don’t need to complicate that. We need simplicity,” said the council member in question during one meeting. The Calhoun Times went straight to the experts and interviewed City of Calhoun General Manager of Utilities Larry Vickery and Jerry Crawford, Water and Waste Water director for the City of Calhoun to learn the truth about the points raised by the council member.

Commissioners approve amendments to several county ordinances at recent meeting: The Gordon County Board of Commissioners approved several amendments to county ordinances after holding a public hearing and second reading of the amendments at a late December Commission meeting. The majority of concern among citizens included changes to the Chicken and Poultry Ordinance, which included dropping the land requirement from five acres to two acres, with a 24 bird maximum with no more than two roosters in the 24 bird allotment. The property line set back will be 30 feet from the property line and 50 feet from neighboring residential structures. The consensus is also to have the birds fenced and contained to the property. The other ordinance amendments that were presented concerned the Shooting Range Ordinances and the Soil Erosion Sedimentation and Pollution Control Ordinance.