Qualifying for a host of elected positions begins on Monday in Calhoun and around Gordon County ahead of November's general election.
The City of Calhoun will be taking qualifying packets for two city council seats and two school board seats between Monday morning and Wednesday afternoon.
The incumbent elected officials are Jimmy Palmer, who has been the mayor of Calhoun for more than 20 years now; on the City Council, Post 1 Councilwoman Jackie Palazzolo and Post 2 Councilman Al Edwards; and on the Calhoun City Schools Board of Education, Post 4 Board Member Eddie Reeves and Post 5 Board Member Tony Swink.
Swink announced earlier this week that he will not seek reelection.
By not having all of their officials run for reelection in one voting season, the city follows a staggered election process, which City Administrator Eddie Peterson said allows for long-term continuity.
Qualifying fees are listed at $432 for the mayor position, $252 for city council and $1 for the board of education.
Qualifying for the offices listed above will be held at City Hall, located at 226 S. Wall St., beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 19 and will end at 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 21. The general election will be held Nov. 5.
The City of Fairmount also begins qualifying on Monday, with the position of mayor, and council seats 2 and 4 are open for potential candidates. The incumbents are Mayor Calvin Watts, Junior Holsomback in seat 2 and Billy Mauldin in seat 4.
Fairmount's qualifying period runs Monday through Friday. The fees are $858 for mayor and $27 for either of the the two council seats.
The City of Plainville also begins qualifying on Monday, with the position of mayor and council Posts 1 and 2 open for potential candidates. The incumbents are Mayor James Robert Miller, Ray Black in Post 1 and Clark Bunch in seat 2.
Plainville's qualifying period runs Monday through Friday. The fees are $25 mayor and $15 for either of the the two council posts.
The Town of Resaca also begins qualifying on Monday, with the position of mayor and council Posts 1 and 2 open for potential candidates. The incumbents are Mayor Samuel Allen, Todd Rutledge in Post 1 and Nathan White in seat 2.
Allen has said he does not intend to run again, while White's seat will be open because he has said he intends to run for mayor.
Resaca's qualifying period runs Monday through Friday. The fees are $147.60 mayor and $75.60 for either of the two council posts.
Calhoun Mayor Pro Tem George Crowley was welcomed as the latest member of the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission at its meeting on Thursday, filling the last vacant seat available for representatives from Gordon County.
Crowley was appointed to the commission by the Calhoun City Council on July 1. As a commission member, he will work with representatives from Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Fannin, Floyd, Gilmer, Haralson, Murray, Paulding, Pickens, Polk, Walker and Whitfield counties to improve the quality of life for every Northwest Georgia resident.
The commission generally works to conserve natural and historical resources, promote growth and care for and develop Northwest Georgia's human resources.
"We appreciate you serving and look forward to you being here through many years of service," Commissioner Ted Rumley said. "He was on the City Council for what, 14 or 15 years, and before that he was on the school board. We are glad to have him."
Also at Thursday's meeting was State Road and Tollway Authority Strategic Programs Administrator David Cassell, who provided an overview of the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank program. It provides grants and low-interest loans on a competitive basis to local governments, community improvement districts, and state government entities to complete projects related to preliminary engineering, right of way, and construction.
In total, $25 million are available through the GTIB program for such projects.
"In terms of what projects are eligible, they have to be motor fuel tax eligible," Cassell said. "Think highways, bridges, and roadway improvements."
Loan-based projects, through which local entities will repay funds over time with some interest, will be prioritized this year, Cassell said, as will loan/grant combination projects. Local commitment, economic development and mobility, innovation, and feasibility are also important components that will be considered before project receive funding.
"We interpret mobility broadly. It's moving people," Cassell said. "It's moving cars, or it might be congestion improving. We also like to see innovative projects. We would love to get an innovative project that's innovative internationally. Let's face it, though. We don't all have those in our hip pocket."
Innovation, he said, differs from community to community. In some places, it might mean something as simple as constructing a county's first-ever roundabout. Bringing something new to the table, even if it isn't new everywhere, is important.
In the past, funding has been awarded for street resurfacing in Lakeland, road paving in Irwin County, extending Ronald Reagan Boulevard in Forsyth County, and rebuilding Radium Springs in Dougherty County, among others.
Applications for GTIB funding opened on Thursday and will be accepted until Oct. 15. Awards will be announced in January or February of next year.
The walls of the Gordon County Sheriff's Office are decorated with photos of old employees, historic town buildings, artistic renderings of well wishes from the community, and now — thanks to a donation from local nonprofit Blake's House of Independence — a handmade, wood pallet art piece depicting the law enforcement flag and the silhouette of a kneeling officer.
Gordon County Sheriff Mike Ralston accepted the piece from Teresa Hall, the artist behind the work and the product coordinator at Blake's House, and Blake's House Classroom Instructor Shelley Barton.
"I painted this and then, once I saw it, knew it was something we had to give our law enforcement. We wanted to show our appreciation and say thank you for everything that they do to keep this community safe," Hall said.
Barton and Hall, who have worked in design for more than three decades, regularly use their art as a way of giving back to the local community. It is part of their work at Blake's House of Independence, a nonprofit that assists adults with special needs integrate into the workforce and develop social skills through art classes.
"We go down to Home Depot and take their scrap wood to use there. Shelley and I go down and dig for pallet wood to use from the Fountain place down on 41. They let us have it for free," Hall said. "This is a total nonprofit organization. We get things donated, make art out of it on our own and with our clients, and then turn around and sell that art. The money goes directly back into what we do."
Clients participate in every step of that process, from creating art pieces to selling them. Barton teaches them how to manage money, sell pieces and even shows them how to use the nonprofit's printing machine to make specialized T-shirts.
Blake's House was created by Jamita Martin in 2013 after her husband passed away. Her son Travis is severely and developmentally delayed on the Autism spectrum, and she worried about what would happen to him if she were unable to be there. She wanted to give him the ability to succeed on his own.
And so Blake's House was born.
Since then, Martin has seen her son, whose middle name is Blake, and others with similar abilities learn new skills that prepare them for the workforce and develop stronger peer relationships.
"Travis is much more independent. I feel very comfortable that he's going to be totally OK," Martin told The Calhoun Times shortly after Blake's House Calhoun location opened. "He warms food in the microwave, calls me and he's a hard worker."
Art classes are just one small piece of what clients can expect from Blake's House. The nonprofit also offers employment support, resume advice, job placement and training, training in social adjustment techniques, and transportation to and from work. Many individuals who have gone through the Blake's House program find work at places like Kroger, McDonald's, Ruby Tuesdays, the Atlanta Braves stadium and local restaurants.
"The clients we see are usually very capable but aren't always good about advocating for themselves. They're often a little more cautious and shy," Barton said. "So, we just help them get started and work with management on a job site to say, 'This is an individual with special needs. They may need a little help with things from time to time.' Overall, they're good employees. They want to be at work. They like to work. They just need a little bit of assistance."
Barton said that clients, who must be 18 or older, are referred to Blake's House by the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, as well as the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.
To be referred, a potential client must first meet with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to complete an application and discuss their employment goals, how their disability affects their ability to work, and determine the services that are necessary to reach their employment goals. GVRA then chooses which organization is right for them.
"What we recommend is this: If you want to come here, ask to be placed here. There are several different places they can be sent from that office, depending on who specializes in what they need," Barton said. "We tend to work with higher functioning clients in our office. They're really capable of doing things on their own and just need a little bit of tending. They can do a lot more than they think they can."
Parents of students who will soon be 18 or older can also speak with their school counselor about getting them assessed by GVRA and recommended for participation in the program after high school.
"I recommend doing it that way so that clients can get in as soon as they're out of school. Coming here helps them keep a schedule and make a habit of getting out of the house and doing something productive," Hall said.
Blake's House in Calhoun is located at 100 Richardson Road. Art, which funds the nonprofit, can be purchased on site. The Marietta office is located at 1135 Shallowford Road. Potential clients interested in participating in programs at either location can contact GVRA at 1-844-232-1998.
The first tiny house built by Tiny House Hand Up will be displayed in front of the Gem Theatre on Saturday during the organization's fundraising concert, and Executive Director Cindy Tucker said it will be dedicated to the memory of founding board member Vickie Booker.
"There's been a lot of thought, a lot of planning and a lot of minds working together," Tucker said about the work of the group.
The goal of Tiny House Hand Up is to provide an affordable housing option for people who don't make a lot of money.
A tiny house built by the group will be between 350 and 800 square feet, but it will only cost about $100 per square foot to build.
Tucker said this area is great for bringing in industry and providing jobs, but often those jobs are on the lower end of the pay scale. Meanwhile, she said, there is a severe shortage of affordable housing.
The organization was founded three years ago, and since then they have been working to raise money and partnering with builders and suppliers and local governments to see their plan through.
They have 5 acres of land near the airport that Tucker envisions building a tiny home community on.
They are also looking at property near Georgia Northwestern Technical College that could potentially serve as a student housing community.
She said they have been offering classes to teach people how to live in a tiny home, as well as how to maintain the house.
"We are trying to do this the right way," Tucker said.
They also have a store at 150 Warrior Path, Suite 3, where they raise money by selling a variety of antiques, art, furniture, collectibles and other home goods.
The home that will be displayed Saturday features custom cabinets in the kitcken/living area, a bathroom with compost toilet and stand up shower, and a bedroom with a fold-down bed. Tucker said this first house will serve as a model home, and she could see loaning it to the social service groups in the area as well.
Tucker said she has spoken with a lot of people who have lived in hotels and motels and cycled between there and apartments because they can't afford to own a home. A tiny home community, she said, is the most efficient way to address that problem because it provides amenities a motel does not while also costing significantly less than a typical house.
Tiny House Hand Up has raised more than $65,000 from anonymous donors, and Tucker said her group has seen a lot of support from local businesses and members of the community.
"This is truly a gift from the heart and they don't want the credit," she said of the donors.
The concert on Saturday night will feature the band HeadGames, which is a Foreigner tribute band that has gone from being an opening act to now headlining at large venues around the country. Sponsored by Grandstanz, Fitness First and Fore Season Golf, the show starts at 8 p.m. and proceeds will benefit Tiny House Hand Up. Tickets range from $24 to $29 and can be bought online at http://www.calhoungemtheatre.org.
Tucker said they have hosted several fundraising concerts and each one has been a big success.
"The concerts are a good fundraiser for us, and we put on four or five a year," she said.
To learn more about Tiny House Hand Up, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/handuphousinggordoncounty.
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 DBell@CalhounTimes.com. 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.