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Fire chief put on leave
• His DUI arrest in Fannin County early last month is now the subject of a city police investigation.

Lenny Nesbitt

Calhoun Fire Chief Lenny Nesbitt has been placed on administrative leave indefinitely by City Administrator Eddie Peterson while Calhoun police conduct an investigation into Nesbitt's arrest on a DUI charge in Blue Ridge on Nov. 10, according to a news release sent out by the city Thursday afternoon.

The Calhoun Police Department is investigating the arrest of Nesbitt by the Georgia State Patrol in Blue Ridge. Nesbitt was charged with DUI and failure to maintain a lane. The charges against Nesbitt were resolved by the Blue Ridge City Court on Dec. 10 without a conviction, the release stated.

Mayor Jimmy Palmer and his fellow City Council members will consider possible disciplinary action, "in accordance with the adopted personnel policy," for Nesbitt after the Calhoun police investigation is finished, the release stated. A report concerning the investigation will be written up and given to the city officials for review.

The matter will be taken up at a Jan. 14 City Council meeting. The meeting will be held at the City Depot at 7 p.m. Council members will go into executive session, after which members will take a vote in open session on any action, the release stated.

"Officials for the City are unable to provide any further comment at this time," the release stated.

According to Ryan Powell, the deputy executive director of the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, Nesbitt did not report his arrest to the regulatory body for peace officers within the required 15 days of the incident taking place.

Normally POST does not deal with fire departments, but Nesbitt's case is different, since he is officially a peace officer, he explained.

Powell also said that Nesbitt turned in a resignation letter to the Calhoun Fire Department on Nov. 14, four days after his arrest.

The protocol for these situations depends on the severity of the incident, Powell said. A less serious case provides the individual with the opportunity for a preinvestigation consent order, which could speed up the process and get the matter resolved in several weeks.

Nesbitt did not respond to multiple requests for comment. City Attorney George Govignon also did not return requests for comment.

In a Fox 5 Atlanta report which aired Wednesday, Govignon was cited as saying the city was made aware of Nesbitt's arrest on Monday, prompting an administrative investigation.

Nesbitt, 60, was booked at the Fannin County Detention Center at 9:51 p.m. on Nov. 10, according to Fannin County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Carol Davenport.

According to a Georgia State Patrol report concerning Nesbitt's arrest on Nov. 10:

Nesbitt was pulled over in his 2009 Jeep Wrangler by a Fannin County Sheriff's Office sergeant on Ga. 2 near West First Street in Blue Ridge just before 9 p.m. He was driving a 2009 Jeep Wrangler.

A GSP Trooper was called to the scene to assist with the traffic stop by the sheriff's office sergeant. Nesbitt was pulled over after being seen by police failing to stay in his lane multiple times on West First Street and on Ga. 2.

The Trooper noted that Nesbitt's eyes were bloodshot and watery, and that he had a strong odor of alcohol on his breath. Nesbitt told the Trooper he had drank two beers earlier in the night.

Nesbitt was asked to step out of the vehicle, and when he did, the Trooper noted he was unsteady on his feet. Nesbitt gave a "preliminary breath sample" to the Trooper, with the reading being a BAC of 0.12 percent. It's illegal for drivers in Georgia to operate a vehicle while having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher.

After giving the initial breath test, Nesbitt then told the Trooper he had drank three beers, one more than he originally said. Nesbitt told the Trooper "that he would not have driven if he knew it was that bad."

Nesbitt then agreed to field sobriety evaluations, which found six of six clues indicating he was under the influence. Nesbitt was taken into custody and driven to the Fannin County Detention Center. While there, he agreed to take a state administered breath test, which was performed at 9:36 p.m. The results of the state test were a BAC of 0.10 percent and 0.096 percent.

Staff Writer Alexis Draut contributed to this report.


484 vote early in special election race
• Early voting for the state House District 5 special election continues through Jan. 4 at the elections office at 215 N. Wall St.

Through four days of early voting for the state House District 5 special election, almost 500 have cast their ballots at the elections office.

On Thursday, 109 people voted at the Gordon County Board of Elections and Voter Registration office, bringing the total for early voting to 484. The elections office at 215 N. Wall St. is the only place voters can cast their ballots early for the special election, which was called to fill the seat of the late John Meadows, a Calhoun Republican who died in November following a bout with stomach cancer.

Election Day is Jan. 8, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Early voting will continue Monday through Friday until Jan. 4, with the exception of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. The hours for early voting are from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There are five Republicans and one Democrat in the race.

The five Republicans are Matt Barton, Steve Cochran, Larry Massey Jr., Scott Tidwell and Jesse Vaughn. The lone Democrat is Brian Rosser, who ran against Meadows in the Nov. 6 general election.

If no candidate secures the more than 50 percent of the vote needed to win, a runoff election will be held Feb. 5.

Those eligible to vote in special election must be registered in the following precincts: 1055 Plainville, 1064 Oostanaula, 1054 Sugar Valley, 980 Resaca, 1063 Pine Chapel, 849-A County/Belmont, 849-B City of Calhoun and 856 Lily Pond.

Also, only the voters in the 973 Red Bud and 1056 Sonoraville precincts who live in House District 5 can vote in the special election. The Oakman and Fairmount voting precincts are not included in the special election.

House District 5 also includes a portion of Murray County.

Visit the My Voter Page at mvp.sos.ga.gov or call the elections office at 706-629-7781 to determine your assigned polling location.


Bell ringers find joy in helping others
Local Salvation Army workers help people in need during Christmas season

"This is my second year bell ringing, and my sister is at the other entrance, so we've been bell ringing at the same time," Rebecca Worsham, 21, said outside the Calhoun Walmart as a customer put change in the red bucket next to her.

A senior at Kennesaw State University, Rebecca has been involved with the Salvation Army for the past four years, and absolutely loves it.

"My first year, I was in a rough part of my life," she said. "Volunteering at the Salvation Army helped me and I've been growing ever since."

Rebecca, who rings the Salvation Army bell to raise donations around the holidays, says it brings her joy to see people being generous and she also gets to see people she knows in the process. As a native of Gordon County, she loves helping others during the holidays.

Her sister Carol-Ann Worsham, 18, was at the other Walmart entrance singing Christmas carols a cappella. Carol-Ann, a freshman at Emmanuel College, also knows that bell ringing is much more than it seems.

"It's really important because the Salvation Army is the first responder to situations like hurricanes and disasters," Carol-Ann said. "It helps people by providing clothing and jobs, and helps people get off their feet in emergencies."

The Worsham sisters work as Salvation Army employees at the Dalton headquarters during their summers, working with the music and arts camps. Both of them recognize that there can be misconceptions associated with the Salvation Army, but having years of experience with the organization, the Worshams realize its full potential.

"People think because it's called the Salvation Army they only help people through churches, but they help everybody," Rebecca said.

Carol-Ann knows that some might think since they're being paid for their bell-ringing shifts that the donations are going toward their paychecks, but she and Rebecca know the money from the red buckets are going directly to help people in need.

"The fact is not only is the Salvation Army helping people with the money that's in the buckets, but it's also providing jobs for people," Carol-Ann said. "These will go mostly towards emergency relief funds and programs we have to help people in tough situations."

The sister pair plan to continue working with the Dalton Salvation Army, both as bell ringers in the winters and as camp employees during the summers.

Rebecca and Carol-Ann were both born and raised in Gordon County and graduated from Gordon Central High School before attending their respective universities.


Church building a new facility
• Rock Bridge Community Church is in the middle of construction for its new facility on Curtis Parkway, a building which will help it become more involved in the community.

At their current Calhoun facility off U.S. 41, Rock Bridge Community Church is offering three services for regular attendees and they are still struggling to find enough space for their adult and children's ministries.

Though Rock Bridge originally started in Dalton in 2002, soon after they opened a second campus in Calhoun at the Gordon Hill shopping center. And since the Calhoun location opened in 2007, it has proved to be too small for the church's growing congregation.

"We were experiencing significant growth at our Calhoun campus, so we needed to be able to expand more and create a better environment for everybody," Rock Bridge Executive Pastor of Operations Darrell Roland said.

In the spring, Rock Bridge Calhoun had a groundbreaking on a piece of land on Curtis Parkway for a new facility, with an anticipated finish date in June 2019. Church leaders knew this new facility would provide more space for its Calhoun congregation and offer more options to youth and children's ministries.

"The features (of the new building) will be enhanced and much higher quality," Roland said, adding how the new facility would also work to serve the greater Calhoun community. "We'll have space to be able to house some of our local outreach ministries."

This project costs around $3.9 million, and according to Roland, around 65 percent of the new facility is funded internally with the remainder being provided through finances already set aside by the church.

While this building is new to the Calhoun area, this is not the first time the Rock Bridge mega church complex has added on to their already existing five campuses. A few years ago, they built a new church in Chatsworth and have also started a new construction project for their Ringgold campus, Roland said.

"We have some really generous folks here that have really stepped up in this process," the executive pastor said. "Our folks really understand growth and community impact so they're willing to give and sacrifice for it."

Roland said this new facility will also help the church get more involved in community service by providing a larger space for volunteering and helping others.

He said some local groups Rock Bridge wants to be involved with include the school systems and the foster care system.

And the church is researching even more avenues of community participation for once they are able to use their new and improved building.

"The church is called to be a part of the community, not apart from the community," Roland said. "When you look at it scripturally, you see Jesus came to serve, and we want each campus to be an integral part of the community."

Roland said all five Rock Bridge churches aim to attend to the personal lives of their members and guests, but to also reach out into the surrounding areas and serve those who are in need.

"I truly believe the new Calhoun facility will set them up to do exactly that."

The new facility is in the middle of construction, and as of this month, workers have been putting up the metal framing of the building under the supervision of contractors and other involved builders.


Young Artists