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Officials urge caution, safety for Fourth of July
• The heat index could approach 100 degrees Thursday

Courtney Taylor, director of Gordon County Emergency Management, says people celebrating Independence Day outdoors on Thursday should take precautions with the heat, as current forecasts call for extreme temperatures.

The is a chance 30-40% of heavy rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon, but chances drop to about 20% after 8 p.m. Taylor said it's still too soon to say whether or not rain will be an issue, but he is concerned about a potential triple-digit heat index.

"The main thing to know from this forecast is the heat. Temperatures for Gordon County are predicted to be in the low 90s with the heat index reaching near 100 degrees," Taylor said. "Hydrate early and stay hydrated if you are going to be outside."

Gordon County's annual Star-Spangled Celebration will take place Thursday at the Cherokee Capital Fairgrounds. Gates will open at 5 p.m. and fireworks will begin around 10 p.m. There will also be a laser light show before the fireworks, a new addition to the celebration which is sponsored by Santek Waste Services.

Bud Owens, who serves the county on the Board of Commissioners and also the executive director for Floyd Medical Center EMS, founded the event about 20 years ago.

Owens said this year there

will be live music starting at 6 p.m., including Gordon County-based band Babes Bayou, Nashville artist Jess Kellie Adams and musician Tommy Ray Gurley, who specializes in performing 1950s-style songs. Other performers will be present, including other musicians, magicians and dance teams.

Food vendors will be setting up shop for the evening festivities, inflatables and games will be available and there will be fun activities for the entire family, Owens said.

The primary sponsor of the event is Mohawk, who gives the largest amount to the event planners and keeps the celebration free and available to the entire community. Robert Webb, Mohawk's senior director of public affairs and corporate communications, said the company looks forward to the event each year.

"For many years, Mohawk has been a proud sponsor of Calhoun's Star-Spangled Celebration, the county's largest community event," Webb said. "This is a family-friendly occasion that brings together people from across the region to enjoy great food, activities and entertainment. We're pleased that each year many of our 3,100 Gordon County employees and their families enjoy celebrating America's birthday at the fairgrounds while watching the night sky beautifully illuminated by one of the best fireworks displays in the state."

Calhoun Police Chief Tony Pyle said traffic enforcement plans are being finalized for the Fourth of July holiday and that the safety of all motorists will be the focus of the department's holiday traffic enforcement efforts.

"We urge all motorists to obey the posted speed limit, wear their seat belt, avoid texting while driving and above all, do not drink and drive. Don't risk being arrested for DUI or a more serious offence, by getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle while intoxicated," Pyle said.

The CPD and other area agencies will be participating in the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety's "Operation Zero Tolerance" sobriety checkpoint program, a nationwide law enforcement crackdown on alcohol and drug-impaired driving. The program began June 21 and will come to an end after the holiday.

Red Cross seeking volunteers
• The organization has an immediate need for Disaster Action Team volunteers.

The Red Cross of Northwest is actively seeking volunteers who can help members of their community following tragic incidents like home fires or storms by joining the group's Disaster Action Team.

Leigh Brock-Barba, executive director of the area chapter, said the Red Cross always welcomes new volunteers but that they have a special need at this time for DAT members.

"During summer months it is hard to have enough volunteer staff to help on disaster calls that may arise because many volunteers are away on family vacations," Brock-Barba explained.

During the past 12 months Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteers have helped more than 200 families following more than 175 emergencies and disasters in 13 counties including: Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Fannin, Floyd, Gilmer, Gordon, Murray, Polk, Union, Walker and Whitfield.

"They provide emotional support and emergency resources during a person's greatest time of need, ensuring everyone affected by an emergency of any size has a safe place to stay, clothing, food, water and personal items like a toothbrush, comb and toothpaste," Brock-Barba said.

"Red Cross volunteers also work with clients in the days and weeks following a local disaster to connect them with resources, including referrals to community organizations, that can help them get back on their feet."

There are currently about 100 active volunteers in the Northwest Georgia area, but more are needed, she said. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old, and because there are plenty of ways to help out, organizers can work with anyone who is willing to sign up to find something for them to do, regardless of physical limitations.

According to Brock-Barba, about 90 percent of the work performed by the Red Cross in Northwest Georgia is done by volunteers. The organization relies on the generosity of donors, but she said volunteers are crucial to the service the Red Cross provides.

Julie Maloney, disaster program manager, agreed.

"When you volunteer with our Disaster Action Team, you are volunteering in your own community and helping your neighbors in their greatest time of need," Maloney said.

People interested in joining the Red Cross of Georgia as a Disaster Action Team volunteer should email, call 404-575-3749 or visit to learn about volunteer opportunities.

Developer looks to bring more business downtown

The businessman behind the redevelopment of the building on the corner of South Park Avenue and Oothcalooga Street said it was a mix of his love of downtown, a desire to see more businesses in the area, the generous feedback he's received related to another project, and his own family's tradition that inspired the effort.

Dakota Rasbury of Hall Realty is the grandson of John Wayne Hall, founder of Calhoun Wholesle, and he said his family has long had a tradition of developing commercial and real estate projects, but he only recently moved toward the retail-side of things.

After working with business partner and friend Justin Childress to rehab and restore the building at 204 N. Wall St. that now houses Childress Real Estate, Rasbury began looking for another chance to restore an old building. Rasbury said he and Childress had a lot of fun and heard a lot of great feedback from that project, which made him want to search out another space to rehab.

That search led him to the buildings on South Park Avenue that had previously been owned by Jimmy Payne.

Rasbury said the buildings had been unoccupied his entire life, mostly used as storage, and were in poor shape, but he saw potential. However, Payne was reluctant to sell.

"After three or four visits, he finally agreed to sell them," said Rasbury.

The buildings include five store fronts — four on South Park Avenue and one on Oothcalooga Street. Freight and Rail Brewing Company is signed on to operate a brewpub in the corner space and the one on Oothcalooga; the other three spaces will be filled by Trackside Pizzeria and Pub.

Suzanne Roberts, director of Downtown Development, Main Street Program and Historic Preservation, said the project and the new businesses will be great for the city.

"As the DDA and Historical Preservation director, it is great to see Dakota and other property owners

rehabilitate and re-purpose their downtown buildings while still keeping the historical aspects intact," Roberts said. "We hope that the community comes downtown to see the project once it is completed and enjoy the space."

The building required a lot of work, Rasbury said, to get it to a usable state once again, as years of neglect had taken their toll.

"Everything but the original brick came out," he said.

Rasbury received "a lot of interest" in the spaces, especially from people looking to build restaurants, and he is excited to see new offerings being created in the area. He said many of the buildings in the downtown area have been in rough shape for a long time.

"But we want to change that," Rasbury said.

He's looking to continue that change with a new project, as he recently acquired the three-story building on the corner of South Wall and Court streets. That building will likely offer a retail space on the ground level and office space on the upper floors.

United Way's newest team member looks to serve her new hometown

Bekah Kirby said that while she may not be native to Calhoun, she has already fallen in love with the city and feels this is now her hometown.

Kirby joined new Executive Director Jennifer LaTour at the Gordon County United Way last month as the community and finance manager.

"We both definitely want people to see that even though we're not from here, we love this community, and we're excited to step in and carry on all the things the United Way has accomplished here," said Kirby.

Although she has a business degree from Dalton State College and most recently worked in loan servicing, Kirby's goal was to work for a non-profit that has an impact on the area. She moved to Calhoun in September of 2017 when her husband, Jeremy Kirby, took over as pastor of a local church.

She had previously worked for a church in her hometown of Alpharetta, coordinating more than 150 volunteers as part of the church's high school ministries, and she still has that call to serve.

"I wanted to do something for our community, something make a difference," Kirby said.

In role with the United Way, Kirby will manage donations and meet with community partners and the organization's 18 agency partners. The fiscal year for the United Way began Monday, so she and LaTour will be busy in the coming months as their partners host kick-off celebrations for their own campaigns.

LaTour took over in April for previous director Vickie Spence, and she and Kirby praised for Spence for all her work.

"We know we have big shoes to fill," Kirby said.

Young Artists

The Calhoun Times is looking to feature student artwork in our Young Artists section. Pictures of artwork can be emailed to Managing Editor Daniel Bell at Please keep photos in their original format and do not alter them. Also, be sure to include the name of the student, their grade and the school they attend.