It's been long-rumored that the popular Publix supermarket chain has been planning to open a store in Fort Oglethorpe, and representatives from the chain confirmed that plan this week.
Official signage was recently erected at the lot near the corner of Dietz Road and Battlefield Parkway, revealing the planned development for Boynton Ridge Plaza, which includes the Publix logo.
On Friday, Publix Media & Community Relations Manager Brenda Reid spoke about the new location, a possible timetable, and the creation of jobs in the area.
"We do have a site confirmed there in Fort Oglethorpe. It's a 45,000-square-foot site," Reid said. "From what I'm looking at, it has a target opening date of late August or early September."
In addition to creating job opportunities within the city, Reid says the company will also put a strong emphasis on becoming a big part of the community.
"Traditionally we're talking about 125 jobs with our stores," Reid said. "When we open a store, we look for it to become a great community partner through youth programs, hunger programs, and education. We look forward to being a new partner in the market and hopefully supporting those types of programs in the community."
While Reid couldn't give an exact date for a possible groundbreaking, Fort Oglethorpe city officials say they're preparing for the chains arrival in town.
"We expect a building permit to be pulled by the developer for Publix within the next week or so," said Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins.
Publix, a Florida-based supermarket chain, already has stores in neighboring Tennessee in East Brainerd, North Chattanooga, Hixson, Ooltewah, and Cleveland.
A judge has temporarily halted the county's attempt to transfer The Catoosa County News' legal organ status to an out-of-state newspaper.
Senior Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs of Marietta issued an injunction Wednesday, Dec. 27, effectively stopping the transfer, which was scheduled to take place Jan. 1, 2018.
Three Catoosa County constitutional officers — Sheriff Gary Sisk, Probate Court Judge Jeff Hullender and Superior Court Clerk Tracy Brown — want to turn CCN's legal advertising over to the Times Free Press (TFP), a newspaper in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Grubbs was brought in to hear the case because Georgia law prohibits a county's judge from presiding when it involves another judge in the circuit.
CCN's attorney, Bob Berry of Rome, Ga., argued during a hearing Friday, Dec. 22, that granting legal organ status to TFP would cause ""irreparable harm" to the CCN. "Within a short period of time, ... The Catoosa County News would go out of business," Berry told the judge.
Legal ads are a major source of revenue for most local newspapers. They include notices such as sheriff's sales, probate court citations, bankruptcies, foreclosures, and more, which is why the decision on legal organ status is left to the sheriff, probate judge and Superior Court clerk.
Berry said that even if the CCN won on an injunction on appeal to a higher court, which could takes months, the newspaper "would not be able to come back."
Granting an injunction will not harm the county financially, Berry said.
County Attorney Chad Young argued that CCN's claim of "financial harm" isn't
sufficient cause to grant an injunction.
Young said the TFP reaches many more households than CCN. The three constitutional officers say this is a key reason they want to transfer legal ads to the TFP. "We want the widest possible net cast," Young said.
"Our legal ads are available to anyone who has an internet connection over a computer or a smart-phone or a tablet," CCN Editor Don Stilwell said. "The Catoosa County News has moved into the 21st century, onto the internet, which is where much of the readership is today. Our legal ads aren't behind a pay wall, so they are free for viewing to anyone — not just in Catoosa County, but everywhere, including folks across the state line in Chattanooga, Tenn. And, if you want to see them in print, a yearly subscription is $30 for our newspaper. If you want to see them in print in the Times Free Press, it will cost you at least 10 times that much."
The officers also argue that the TFP, a daily newspaper, offers a more efficient service for those submitting legal ads.
"The Catoosa County News is only a weekly publication and advertising requests must be submitted a week in advance for publication the following week," they said. "This creates delays in some legal actions and advertisements. ... The Chattanooga Times Free Press is a daily publication and advertisements can be presented the day before publication with the exception of weekends."
Judge Grubbs, during the Dec. 22 hearing, said her "basic concern" with giving legal ads to the TFP is that it is an out-of-state newspaper.
Georgia law requires, among other stipulations, that a newspaper seeking to become a county's legal organ must have published within the county for at least two years.
CCN, which has an office located near downtown Ringgold that is open Monday through Friday, has served the county's readers for 68 years, since August 1949. It currently employs an editor, two parttime news reporters, a part-time sports editor, and an advertising representative.
The TFP has agreed to staff an office in Ringgold. According to emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the constitutional officers have suggested the office be open at least two days a week.
Georgia Press Association Attorney David Hudson said a Georgia Supreme Court case, Carter v. Land, made clear the intent of the law: "... to aid in the building of the locality to be served by the newspaper advertisements. Georgian have always possessed a great desire of local pride and determination to patronize home industry and to build up local institutions."
CCN follows without any variance legal advertising rates that are set by state statute. Those rates have not been changed by the Georgia Legislature since 1994.
This is the second time constitutional officers have considered transferring the newspaper's legal organ status to the TFP. Fifteen years ago, in 2002, three constitutional officers held public meetings on the matter, which helped change their minds. This time they did not offer public meetings.
"Our legal ads are available to anyone who has an internet connection over a computer or a smartphone or a tablet. The Catoosa County News has moved into the 21st century, onto the internet, which is where much of the readership is today. Our legal ads aren't behind a pay wall, so they are free for viewing to anyone...." — CCN Editor Don Stilwell
Fort Oglethorpe is one of four communities chosen by The Thrive Regional Partnership and the Lyndhurst Foundation, both based in Chattanooga, to participate in a 10-month program devoted to "creative place-making and design-thinking" with the goal of learning how to build on its "arts and culture assets."
The public is invited to participate in the process beginning January 11 at a meeting with experts from Chattanooga-based Bridge Innovate, a company devoted to teaching and helping businesses and communities grow and change. The goal is to identify assets within the community that can be defined as "arts and culture" and develop ways to highlight those assets to the benefit of the city's residents and visitors.
After completing the course, Fort Oglethorpe will be eligible to receive as much as $20,000 from the Lyndhurst Foundation to bring to life an arts and culture project planned during training.
The other communities chosen for this second round of Thriving Communities are all in Tennessee – Athens, Decatur and Whitwell.
The first round of Thriving Communities, in 2016, focused on three Georgia cities and one Tennessee city. Rossville used its learning and funding to enhance the area around the John Ross house. Dalton committed to creating an outdoor performing arts space using its newfound knowledge and a gift of $1 million from a local resident who was inspired by the project. Chatsworth built a new band shell in a city park, and Cleveland, Tenn., established Back Alley Park in its downtown region.
One of the benefits of the Thrive Regional Partnership, according to its website, is that it inspires people within communities to get more involved and to invest resources to keep up growth and innovation even after the project period is over.
Citizens can participate by attending the initial meeting on Jan. 11 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at City Hall, 500 City Hall Drive, Fort Oglethorpe.