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Chamber President Eaker retires, new president named

Martha Eaker

Amy Jackson

The Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce today announced the retirement of Martha Eaker, president and CEO, and named Amy L. Jackson as the new Ppesident and CEO. Ms. Jackson will assume the duties on Jan. 1.

Eaker has served the Chamber since 2007 and earlier this year made her decision to retire effective Dec. 31, 2018.

"I have been fortunate to have led the Chamber for the past 11 years," Eaker said. "We have experienced growth in membership as well as programs offered. I am very proud that under my leadership we have been recognized by the Georgia Chamber as a certified Chamber of Commerce and received accreditation from the U. S. Chamber.

"I am excited and feel very confident in Amy Jackson taking the reins of the Chamber and continuing moving toward excellence in the organization."

After receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in business management at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Jackson began her career in sales as a marketing representative for IBM in Savannah, Georgia, and then in Nashville.

While employed as the business sales manager of T-Mobile in Chattanooga, Jackson served as a Catoosa County Chamber ambassador.

Jackson has been the membership coordinator for the Catoosa County Chamber for the past two years.

"I am excited and humbled to be selected to serve as the president and CEO of the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce," Jackson said. "I look forward to continuing to build the relationships between community, government, education and business."


Showcase Catoosa
A fall event you won't want to miss

Imagine it's Oct. 18, a beautiful fall day, and you're itching to do something a little different. You may have the whole day or just your lunch hour. You don't want to go far and you want to have fun, maybe find some free food, sign up for some prizes and learn a whole lot about your community.

Enter the "Showcase Catoosa Business Expo." The annual event held at the Colonnade in Ringgold features Catoosa and area businesses and agencies, but that hardly begins to paint a picture of what it's like.

"Last year," says Amy Jackson, membership coordinator for the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the event, "we had 83 booths and nine food vendors covering 10,000 square feet of space. We expect 100 booths and 12 food vendors this year."

Jackson says the food vendors are local restaurants and caterers giving away samples to entice folks to visit their places after the Expo.

Among the businesses that will be set up at the Expo are the event's four Chamber-member corporate sponsors: Capital Bank, the City of Fort Oglethorpe, NHC Fort Oglethorpe and MedStat.

A tour of the Expo

Admission is free to the public. Enter the doors and sign up for the Grand Door Prize — two round-trip airline tickets to any nonstop destination from Chattanooga, courtesy of the Chattanooga Airport Authority. Inside, you'll meet a festive atmosphere, helped along by DJ Mike Key of Mike Key Entertainment, and hundreds of friendly faces from local businesses, civic groups, agencies, non-profits and local governments.

Munch on food samples as you go the rounds and see what everyone has to offer. Sign up for more chances to win prizes at various booths — things like gift cards or a special product or service. Get a mini-massage and once you're relaxed, visit a government booth and ask some of those pesky questions you were afraid to call about — they're there to provide you with information.

When you've had your fill and learned all you need to know, head to the silent auction. There will be 75-100 items auctioned off, all donated by Chamber members. Items range from family passes to Rock City and Ruby Falls to restaurant gift cards, a Chiropractic pillow, gift baskets and free services.

Outside, the Mary Ellen Locher Mammography Mobile Unit will be offering free mammograms.

There's still time for businesses that would like to be part of the Expo to get involved. For Chamber members, the cost for a booth is $225 and the donation of an item for the silent auction. For non-members, the cost of a booth is $400 and the donation of an item. Chamber members who cannot attend can still donate an item for the silent auction. Businesses can contact the Chamber at 706-965-5201.

SHOWCASE CATOOSA BUSINESS EXPO

When: Thursday, Oct. 18, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Colonnade, 264 Catoosa Circle, Ringgold

Cost: Free admission


Plans for Lafayette Road have changed, but still a concern

Two weeks ago, more than 20 business and property owners on Lafayette Road in Fort Oglethorpe submitted a petition to both the city and the Georgia Department of Transportation objecting to planned raised medians that would block left-hand turns into many establishments along the road.

The plan impacts the stretch of road from the south end of the Kmart plaza parking lot to the south end of St. Gerard Catholic Church property.

In response, the city on Aug. 7 "submitted a written request to the department of transportation requesting removal of three of the five medians contained in the GDOT plans. The northernmost and the southernmost medians will remain as gateways to the city's oldest commercial district, the Lafayette corridor," says City Manager Jennifer Simpkins.

On Aug. 30, the city announced that Arcadis, the GDOT design consultant on the project, had contacted GDOT and said that the removal of medians as requested by the city should not have a negative impact on the project. "The modified design has been approved by GDOT," Simpkins said.

Simpkins said the letter the city sent to GDOT stated that the city "intends to pursue signage, trees and landscaping" within the two remaining medians "to announce the arrival to the city's oldest commercial district for those traveling north from the Chickamauga Battlefield and south from Battlefield Parkway."

While business owners welcome the change, there is still one concern. The southern median limits access to one of the drives going into St. Gerard Catholic Church. Father Wise, the priest at St. Gerard, said he would like to see that median shortened so the 300 people who attend his church each week can get in and out easily.

"Our church property is loaded with trees and I don't believe we're an eyesore to the area," he said.

Wise said that trees in a shorter median area could look like an extension of the beauty of the church, which itself has long added to the appeal of the transition from Fort Oglethorpe into the Battlefield, without impeding the ability of parishioners to get in and out of services.

Here is the press release issued Thursday, Aug. 30, by Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Jenny Simpkins:

"The Georgia Department of Transportation, Arcadis, U.S., Inc., and the City of Fort Oglethorpe hosted a Public Information Open House to review the final layout of the $3,000,000 federally-funded project to improve Lafayette Road from Harker Road to Battlefield Parkway on Tuesday, August 7, 2018. Over 50 city leaders, business owners, and residents attended the open house. The proposed improvements along the 0.8-mile corridor include two traffic lanes in each direction with five raised medians, decorative crosswalks, intersection upgrades, shared bicycle lanes, and landscaped strips between the curb and the sidewalks.

"At the open house, many expressed excitement and support for the proposed project aimed at restoring the city's oldest commercial district to its original prosperity. Some business owners along the corridor expressed concern that medians in front of entrances may prohibit ingress and egress of customers to their businesses.

"The city sent a letter to the GDOT project manager on August 21st requesting the removal of the three medians between Gilbert Drive to the North and Enscore Street to the South from the final design. The northernmost median between Gilbert Drive and Battlefield Parkway and the southernmost median between Enscore Street and Harker Road will remain as gateways to the Lafayette corridor, consistent with the intent of the 2015 Lafayette Street Master Plan. The letter states that city intends to pursue signage, trees, and landscaping within these two medians to announce arrival to the city's oldest commercial district for those traveling north from the Chickamauga Battlefield and south from Battlefield Parkway.

"On August 24, Arcadis responded with a letter to the GDOT project manager stating that the city's request to eliminate all medians from the corridor with the exception of the northernmost and southernmost medians should not have a negative impact to the project justification or safety of the corridor compared to existing conditions. The modified design has been approved by GDOT.

"For more information on the project, please visit www.foriogov.com/LaFayette Road Streetscape. The revised final design will be posted upon receival from the project manager."


Ringgold to add curbside pickup to its recycling program

After a few months of discussion and gathering feedback from residents, the city of Ringgold is looking to add curbside pickup to its recycling plan.

The city opened up its downtown recycling drop-off center approximately a year and a half ago, and is now looking to offer more convenience to residents and businesses by offering the curbside option.

Over the past couple of months, residents have had to opportunity to answer a survey related to their interest in the idea, and during the Aug. 13 City Council meeting the board approved moving forward with a curbside rollout plan.

"We got the final totals back from the online survey and paper surveys that were given out at recycling center and City Hall," City Manager Dan Wright said. "I think the most interesting thing is question one; 'Are you willing to pay a small fee of $5?' We had 125 yeses and 23 nos."

When asked about the preference of curbside or drop-off, 99 people were in favor of curbside and 28 for drop off. Three people voted for neither option.

Councilwoman Sara Clark, who has been a big supporter of the recycling effort, says the plan will include a deposit and a small monthly fee.

"The cost of the can would be $25 for big recycling cans like the size of a garbage can, and then a $5 per month charge if you decide to do curbside recycling," Clark said.

With curbside coming into the fold, the big downtown container would be removed, and smaller containers would be available around town.

"For those that can't afford or do not with to do curbside, then we wanted to maintain recycling containers, but what we decided was instead of one central location, we would put recycling only containers in strategic spots around the city," Clark explained. "In other words, at the Depot where we already have garbage containers, or at City Hall where we already have garbage containers. We would have them there for people who liked that system better or did not want to do curbside."

The start date and how often pickup would occur has not been finalized yet, but the board did unanimously approve moving forward with the outlined changes to the program.

"It's more of an experimental program," Clark said. "We're going to see if it works. We think it will and we really hope that it will. It's a $25 deposit on the can and a $5 per month charge and we would also continue to have drop off places at strategic places around the city."

Over the past year and a half, numerous residents and businesses have utilized the lone recycling container. With the new planned format, Councilman Larry Black hopes to see more people take advantage of the opportunity to recycle.

"We would like to see this program grow," Black said. "We're hoping once we kick this off that we will see a lot more of our city residents take part in this program."

Mayor Nick Millwood says he and his family have utilized the existing center, but that he's looking forward to being able to recycle from home.

"I know my daughters were always excited to go for the golf cart ride down to the recycling center to drop the stuff of, and now we're able to do it at home much more conveniently," Millwood said. "It sets a good example for them, it's a good face to put forward for the city, and I'm very excited that we're doing it."

Clark and Wright said more information about the rollout of the new plan would be advertised around town as it approaches.

Anyone with additional questions or concerns can contact Ringgold City Hall at 706-935-3061.