Calhoun Deputy Fire Chief Terry Mills said Tuesday that fires at two local businesses remain under investigation at this time, while the inquiry regarding a more recent business fire has not yet begun.
The most recent incident occurred Monday at Mohawk's Clarence King Parkway location when a tank used to hold fuel for forklift-style vehicles exploded, injuring a worker in the process.
Mills said the investigation into the cause of that explosion had not officially started as of Tuesday morning as his team was waiting to coordinate with Mohawk and insurance officials.
"As of now, we don't know what caused the explosion," he said.
Mills confirmed that one worker received burns and was transported for treatment.
Meanwhile, environmental crews were on site Tuesday at DHM Adhesives on South Wall Street in downtown Calhoun working to clean up puddles and other chemicals to prevent any runoff should it rain. Mills said the investigation into the cause of that blaze on Friday had not yet concluded as officials are waiting on the company to determine whether or not there is asbestos present.
"We're kind of at a standstill here," Mills said.
Mills said there are no inherently dangerous chemicals used at the business but that officials want to get the site cleaned up before a problem can arise.
Representatives of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the federal Environmental Protection Agency were in town of Friday to ensure nearby waterways were unaffected and to monitor are quality.
"The closest tributary is Oothcalooga Creek, which I am told is fine. The waterway isn't impacted and there has been no impact to fish or environment," said Georgia EPD Communications Director Kevin Chambers.
Finally, Mills said fire officials are waiting to coordinate with investigators representing the tenant and the property owner regarding the two fires at Clean Sweep on Nance Road.
That blaze originally started in the early morning hours on Monday, Sept. 9, but then sparked up again five days later. Gordon County Fire Department crews dealt with the second flareup on Friday as the city's firefighters were still busy in downtown.
Mills, who said it took about six hours to contain the fire the first time, said the holdup with that investigation is getting the officials representing each interested party to be able to meet at the scene at the same time.
The exterior walls of the building are metal, so the structure is still standing, but Mills said the fire involved about 90% of the structure.
The Calhoun Women's Club voted Thursday night to select the Voluntary Action Center as its partner for the 2020 Sequoyah Ball, which has raised more than $700,000 for agencies and institutions in Calhoun and Gordon County since 1988. Partnering organizations receive all the proceeds from the evening to put toward a project that benefits the Calhoun and Gordon County communities.
"The money the VAC receives from the ball will go toward growing their feeding program," 2020 Ball Chair Sara Keys said. "They are going to be expanding their program to include hot dinners in addition to what they already serve. It's going to help kids in the community who may qualify for free and reduced lunch at school but then can't eat an evening meal at home. That really struck a chord with us."
The VAC currently has two hunger-related programs — its community kitchen, which serves hot meals from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and its food pantry, which operates Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is available once every 30 days to those in Gordon County who are at or below 140 percent of Federal Poverty Income Guidelines. In 2018, the food pantry provided 2,997 families with food bags. The community kitchen served 26,615
hot meals in the same year.
"After their presentation, it was very clear to us how they would use the money we raise to benefit the people in this community directly," Keys said. "They documented very well how the money would be used and they showed that it would be kept in this community, which is really important to us as well."
Two other organizations, Keep Calhoun-Gordon Beautiful and the Calhoun-Gordon Council for a Literate Community, were also in the running for the partnership. Each potential beneficiary gave a seven-minute presentation before the club detailing their proposed project, goals, mission, timeline for completion, and any potential long-term benefits their project would have on the community, followed by a five-minute question and answer session.
Had they been selected, Keep Calhoun-Gordon Beautiful President Donny Robertson said his group intended to use the funding for a new four-part beautification and recycling program called Gorgeous Gordon. Key components of the program would include new, updated roadside signage related to littering, public art installations, the placement of recycling bins alongside existing trash bins downtown, and the planting of daffodil bulbs along roadways, trails, and near signs at the entrance to the county and city. Gorgeous Gordon, Robertson said, would ideally encourage citizens to take better care of the community.
"If we want people to keep this place beautiful, we need to beautify it," Robertson said. "Adding beauty to the landscape makes people smile and take notice of it. If they feel proud of how it looks, our hope is they'll do more to keep it looking that way."
Joni Harbin, director of communications at the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce, presented on behalf of the Calhoun-Gordon Council for a Literate Community. Their project would have funded a third grade reading project for students at both Calhoun City and Gordon County schools.
"This specific project tied in to the Get Georgia Reading initiative and would've funded the purchase of Scholastic Resource Read-Alouds, which include reading materials, and the materials to accompany those packets," Harbin said. "It would cost approximately $800 for each third grade class. There are 31 in total, and the thought was that teachers could get different packets and share them with each other every year, so that it could be recurring."
A vote was held after the organizations presented their respective projects to the Women's Club. According to Keys, all three projects received votes and were "within one or two votes of each other."
"We would have felt great giving money to all of these organizations because they all had awesome projects they wanted to accomplish," she said. "It was a really close vote. Each organization had a lot of support, and we really encourage those that weren't selected to apply again next year."
Over its more than 100 years of existence, the Woman's Club has raised funds for the library renovation project, new roofing for the Calhoun Depot, the Boys and Girls Club, the Emergency Dental Program, the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity. Last year's Sequoyah Ball partner, the Harris Arts Center, received $24,000. The club also provides three scholarships to local high school seniors upon their graduation.
"We always try to select a charity that is doing good things in our local community," Keys said. "Our club is all about developing and helping our community grow, so we choose partners who share that goal."
The 2020 Sequoyah Ball will be held on March 28 at the former Fox Ford Building at 209 Wall St. The theme will be Written in the Stars, and the evening will include dancing, live and silent auctions, dinner and fellowship. Tickets will be made available for purchase online closer to the event. Local businesses interested in sponsoring the 2020 ball should contact the Sara Keys at email@example.com.
The Calhoun Woman's Club meets at the library on the second Thursday of every month at 11:30 a.m.
A new class of leaders
Most of the 41 members of the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce's Youth Leadership Class gathered on Sunday for an orientation session to kick off the current edition of the annual program.
Student leaders representing all four local high schools participated in activities intended to help them get to know one another and to learn more about the things they'll be doing as members of the new class.
Nichol Linn with the chamber's Youth Leadership Committee said the students will, among other things, attend meetings of the Calhoun City Council and Gordon County Board of Commissioners, visit the state Capitol, learn about local emergency services, businesses, hospitals and participate in an outdoor adventure.
Linn said the leadership program is quite popular with students and that those who attend every session can apply for a $1,000 scholarship at the end of the class.
"This is a difficult program to get into," she said.
Some members of the leadership class will also have the opportunity to help organize the chamber's Candidates Forum on Thursday, Oct. 3, at the Depot in downtown Calhoun. The volunteers will also work with members of the local media to ask questions of the candidates during the event.
Members of the Youth Leadership Committee volunteer to plan and organize the sessions, which take place between October and March 2020 throughout Calhoun and Gordon County. More than 1,200 students have completed the program since its inception, many of them now working in Gordon County.
"The Gordon County Chamber of Commerce exerts its greatest power through partnerships, and the Gordon County Youth Leadership Program is an excellent example of that
principle," said Kathy Johnson, president and CEO of the chamber. "The program springs from cooperative relationships between a variety of business and community partners."
The chamber committee is co-chaired by Brandi Hayes, director of College and Career Programs for Calhoun City Schools, and Larry Deaton, director of Strategic Management for the Georgia Department of Defense. The mission of the Gordon County Youth Leadership program is to provide students with a broader understanding of civic responsibilities and community resources, so they become more informed and engaged citizens as adults.
"I am so excited to work with the Gordon County Youth Leadership class of 2020! The students selected from all four high schools have demonstrated their leadership skills, as well as their school involvement through their applications," Hayes. "I hope that we can continue to provide opportunities to develop this group of informed, committed and competent youth who are motivated to learn more about the Gordon County community, to assume leadership roles in the community and to become more involved in our civic, cultural, economic development and philanthropic organizations and groups."
"I am proud to welcome this new group of emerging community leaders to the Gordon County Youth Leadership class," added Deaton. "Our vision is to be known as a program that equips the next generation of community leaders with the skills to serve and achieve their future dreams. For the past twenty-five years, I have watched numerous students come through the program and I am happy to report that many are currently serving within our community in various roles. Our own committee has four graduates from previous classes who are volunteering their time to mentor the next generation of future leaders.
"The students selected for this program are already leaders in their schools. We want to make them leaders in the community where they live, work and play. Many will leave Gordon County in the future, but we still will have planted the service seed and anticipate these students serving wherever life takes them," Deaton continued. "As we begin this cycle, I look forward to seeing what this class can achieve. They are only limited by their abilities to succeed."
For a full list of participating students and sponsors, see this article online at northwestgeorgianews.com/calhoun_times/
The chamber is also still taking nominations for the adult version of the class, called Leadership Calhoun/Gordon. Orientation for the next class is set for Nov. 4, while the first 2020 activities will begin with a weekend retreat Jan. 17-19. There is a $425 fee for participants.
The adult leadership program's calendar consists of two meetings a month that include orientation, weekend retreat, education, government, health, community resources, economic (including business and industry tours), outdoor adventure, local judicial and arts/culture sessions and a final graduation ceremony in May.
Applications for the class are due Oct. 1.
Calhoun Times Managing Editor Daniel Bell and Gordon County Chamber of Commerce Director of Communications Joni Harbin contributed to this report.
AdventHealth Gordon and the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday in celebration of the hospital's Baby Place, which will officials say will open later this month.
The new Baby Place will offer state-of-the-art care and a host of amenities that aim to make the experience easier for local expectant mothers, such as large, private suits that promote family-centered care, childbirth education classes and lactation consultants.
Tours of the facility can be scheduled by calling 706-879-4737.