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City looks for $1.8 million more for new station
• Over the next few months city officials will have to determine how to get an additional $1.8 million for constructing a new Calhoun Police Department station.

With the city looking to begin construction on a new Calhoun Police Department station this fall, officials will have to determine over the next few months how to get the additional $1.8 million needed for the project.

City Administrator Eddie Peterson said there is $1.8 million in SPLOST funds for the new station on McDaniel Station Road. But the total cost for the 14,000-square-foot building is $3.6 million, he added. And with the buildout expected to take 12 months, it will cost approximately $300,000 each month.

"We're trying to figure out how to come up with that other $1.8 million to complete it," Peterson said. "We've got good plans if we can just come up with the money."

Options for the additional funding needed include borrowing from the market, using internal funds such as the city's utilities fund, or increasing the millage rate, Peterson said.

The current millage rate for the city is 2.48 mills, "one of the lowest millage rates in the state of Georgia," said Peterson. Last year the rate was bumped up 0.50 mills to the current rate, he added. In comparison to other cities the size of Calhoun, the average millage rate is 8 mills, he continued.

"And here we are at 2.48," Peterson said. "There's a big disparity there between what the average is and what we charge our local property owners."

One mill represents a tax liability of $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value. Property is assessed at 40 percent of the fair market value.

Any decision on the millage rate would come in June, as the City Council looks to adopt next fiscal year's budget, which is being worked out now.

"It will certainly be one of the items in discussion," Peterson said of how to find the funding for the new station. "It has to be paid for somehow. Since there's not enough money in the 2018 SPLOST, the difference will have to come to light someway."

The design and engineering work for the station, which is set to be built on a 10-acre plot deeded to the city by the Development Authority, was finished in May 2018, Peterson said. The design process took about a year and included input from department personnel, namely Maj. Randy Gallman, who worked closely with Dalton-based architect Gregg Sims.

"We want to build a station that is good for 50 years," Peterson said.

The current police department will still be put to use, as Calhoun Police Chief Tony Pyle sees fit, to maintain a strong presence downtown.

"That'll help stretch (the new station) out even more years," Peterson said.

A new station would also allow the city to move the detective division out of a building at Tom B. David Airport. The city has been renting the building for $1,300 a month.

Regardless of where the funding comes from, Peterson said the need for a new station is certain, and has been for years.

"We're overcrowded at the current station," he said, adding that in addition to the detectives at the airport, other personnel work at a building the city owns on Piedmont Street. "We have been at the point for years of having too many people in too small of a building."


SNAP recipients get advanced benefits during gov't shutdown
• Food stamp benefits are advanced for February, but this could put families in a bind if they use all their benefits before their next release.

Stacy Long

Nearly 40,000 households in Northwest Georgia, with 4,500 in Gordon County alone, rely on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Which is exactly why the recent federal government 35-day shutdown — the longest one in U.S. history — directly impacted food stamp recipients.

Yet though the shutdown could have negatively impacted SNAP reliant-households, it actually provided advancement in their benefits. Families eligible for SNAP received their February allocation in the middle of January, said Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services spokesman Walter Jones.

In order to make sure families received the food they needed during the federal government shutdown, DFCS released February allotments of food stamp benefits early to eligible Georgia residents.

The United States Department of Agriculture released a statement on Jan. 8 saying they were working to load benefits onto recipients' electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards by Jan. 20. And Jones said some households that applied or reapplied for the service near the middle of January might have not yet received their February benefits, but once their application is screened and approved, they will receive those benefits.

Looking forward, Jones said March benefits will be operating as normal unless the division receives specific instructions, specifically with a future shutdown looming for Feb. 15.

When President Trump opened the government back up on Jan. 25, he did so with a condition — the federal government would open for a period of three weeks. However, if no border security negotiation between parties could be reached at the end of the three-week period, there would either be another shutdown on Feb. 15 or the president would use his emergency powers to build a wall on the southern border.

Yet until that date arrives, Jones said DFCS and SNAP would be working under normal conditions. Approximately 1.6 million Georgians rely on SNAP assistance to feed their families and benefits are generally released over a 19-day cycle between the fifth day and 23rd day of each month, according to the DFCS website.

Jones said potential issues might arise with families managing their benefits to last until March, and DFCS is advising recipients on how to stretch out their money to last longer.

"SNAP was never meant to be a full food budget for the families receiving the benefits," Jones said. "So families or individuals will often go to food banks or shelters to supplement their SNAP budgets."

Primarily as a result of advanced benefits, Gordon County food banks and pantries, including the Voluntary Action Center, have seen a difference in the number of their guests during the shutdown.

"Our guest numbers have been low in the kitchen and at the pantry," VAC Executive Director Stacy Long said.

While SNAP recipients cannot use their benefits at the VAC, she has seen lower numbers in people coming in to request food and fewer individuals have been eating in the VAC kitchen during mealtimes. Long thinks the reason behind this is households are using up their SNAP benefits they received in advance for February, and haven't been spreading them out to last until March.

"I'm more concerned with February than January. I think (SNAP recipients) will be out before the end of February," Long said.

Similar to Jones, Long recommends families reliant on SNAP to utilize the local food resources, including the VAC bank, Blewer Food Bank and the Seventh Day Adventist Food Bank, which she said are the three largest food banks in Gordon County.

There are 10,000 individuals in Gordon County alone who rely on SNAP benefits to supply their nutritional needs. For more information on the food services provided in the surrounding areas, call the Voluntary Action Center at 706-629-7283 or visit Family Connection of Gordon County's website at gordon.gafcp.org.


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Student dreams of making a difference
• Sonoraville High School senior Nick Proctor may one day fill a seat of public office, but for now, he is seeing where his interests lead while maintaining his desire to help others.

Nick Proctor

For Nick Proctor, the thought of pursuing a career in politics has crossed his mind more than once. But beyond a possible campaign for City Council or a loftier goal of the U.S. Senate, the Sonoraville High School senior just wants to do what he can to make the biggest difference in improving the lives of his fellow Americans.

To his friends and classmates, Proctor is known as someone with a keen interest in politics, in everything from the local government to Congress. His interest lies in a long-held desire to push forward the progress at the heart of his nation and better the standing of its citizens.

"I know I have a chance to make a real difference in our country," said Proctor.

This desire of his was recently expressed in a phone interview with a representative of the Georgia Department of Education. The interview was a final test in his attempt to be chosen as a state delegate for the 57th annual U.S. Senate Youth Program, which is held in Washington, D.C., from March 2 through March 9 and gives students a close

examination of the federal government.

The interview gave Proctor the chance to show off his "vast knowledge" of American politics and the beliefs he has come to hold. But more than anything else, it gave him a chance to stand out.

"I know the resumes of the other kids that were selected and mine paled in comparison," Proctor said of other nominees for the program. "I think having the opportunity to interview and sell myself to her as more than just a sheet of paper and a test score, I think really, really helped me."

It certainly did help him, as Proctor was selected as a first alternate, placing him in the top four.

"I'm beyond honored," he said, even though he will only attend the program if one of the two delegates is unable to make the trip.

But the process was a reward in itself for Proctor, who did not think he had a chance at making it this far when he was nominated for the program by his school counselor Stephanie Caudell.

"At first, to be completely honest with you, I expected nothing out of the project," he said. "I didn't think I had any shot"

As the Gordon County representative, Proctor advanced to a test, which included multiple-choice questions, quote attributions and an open-ended essay — he wrote about a recent Supreme Court case. His score gave him an opportunity to advance to the phone interview, which proved crucial to the eventual outcome.

Proctor's precocious knowledge of politics manifested itself during one particular response, he said. He was asked who his favorite senator was. His answer: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat representing Minnesota.

In following up to his answer, Proctor went on to explain that Klobuchar's willingness to work across the aisle to achieve results is admirable. He expressed his discontent with the tribal loyalties of Democrats and Republicans, and how it hinders action by lawmakers and unity amongst citizens.

"If you're a Democrat you're going to vote for a Democrat every year, no matter who they are, no matter what they believe, no matter how crazy they are ... and the same goes for Republicans," Proctor said.

Admittedly, Proctor said his beliefs lean more toward the left, but much of what he shares place him in a centrist position nowadays. And part of the reason why, he added, is because of his hometown, which gave him an idea of unity in government.

The DOE representative also asked Proctor what he feels to be the biggest political issue at the moment — education, he said. He took aim at standards and supported the call for greater local control on decisions concerning educational approaches and curriculum.

This was not the only time Proctor was able to share his thoughts on education with the DOE. Last year, he served on State Schools Superintendent Richard Woods' Student Advisory Council. He connected to the focus of Woods' on STEAM — science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics — and career education.

Proctor said Calhoun and Gordon County, both school systems with college and career academies, have shown the positive impact of career education on students, who have the opportunity for engaging in real work environments which broadens their readiness for life after the classroom.

Also, Proctor is not a big test guy.

"Obviously I think tests are critical to showing progress and growth, but I think in the end we shouldn't have our students focus on a massive test at the end of the semester," he said.

In his AP Literature class, one of his favorites, there is no state-mandated test to finish the year. Rather teacher Ashley Brookshire focuses on teaching students what it is they need to know to be successful in college, Proctor said.

"And that's where I think the focus needs to change in education, is less from these tests and more to what's going to help our students succeed in their lives."

Proctor is also involved with the local Future Business Leaders of America Chapter and the GHSA literary program extemporaneous speaking. Last year, he won region and was runner-up at the state competition for extemporaneous speaking, in which he is tasked with researching and explaining matters of domestic policy in a timed event. This year, he is looking to finish his senior year as a state champion.

"I'm coming for a ring this year," he said.

After graduation, Proctor plans to attend Davidson College, situated outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. The college has a student population of 1,900, which is exactly what he was looking for.

"I knew from the first time I stepped on campus that I wanted to go there," he said, adding he was drawn to the opportunity for one-on-one engagement with professors.

Proctor plans to major in political science before moving on to law school.


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