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Burning issues remain despite continued ban

The heat has lingered through the fall a lot longer than anyone ever expected it to in Northwest Georgia. Record temperatures above 90 degrees have been recorded through the first days of October, with a week-ending high in the mid 90s for the day before a weekend promising better temperatures.

Forecasts called for rain at the start of the week, but just a short dousing is just enough get the soil wet again temporarily. The longer it remains hot and dry, the more likely it is that something small will start a large fire.

This is the concern of Georgia Forestry Commission officials across the state, where in September they recorded some 607 fires breaking out and causing damage. The only plus is that they have been contained in spaces as small as a tenth of an acre and upward of 18 acres of damage — in just the month of September. Some 13 of those fires were put out right here in Polk County.

As of the end of the first week of October, some five fires were already set. Four of those on Oct. 3 alone, though they weren't major events like those Polk County have seen in the past. Think back to 2016 when clouds of smoke rose on the horizon all over the county as drought conditions persisted then.

Luck played a role in ensuring the numbers weren't worse

locally, but even still the entire state is more than tripled the number of fires expected annually at this time of year on a five year average.

Without a critical mass of rain — "A rain with a name" as Polk County Public Safety Director Randy Lacey likes to put it — the fire danger will only grow across the local area and the state at-large. That's one reason why he and other local fire chiefs Felix White and Todd Queen in Cedartown and Rockmart decided back in September to extend the burn ban on a week-by-week basis, with the help of the County Commission Chair and County Manager.

Georgia Forestry Commission's Seth Hawkins and Keith Moss are part of a group who are spreading the word about the dangers that fires pose at the moment, and are asking Polk County residents to observe the ban and hold off from burning for the moment.

"It's going to take a significant amount of rain, over one or two inches over a period of days, and that will get us out of it for a little bit. We need more than one of those kind of rain events," Moss said. "A quarter inch of rain with no humidity, it's not going to last long. It will have a short term effect."

They understand the nuisance that poses for some who are just trying to clear their yards of brush piles and leaves already on the ground, but conditions right now are ripe for a large wildfire to spread and cause real damage.

"We have the potential for really big fires like Treat Mountain in the south," Moss said, eluding to a 2016 fire during the drought that destroyed hundreds of acres of forested land around the Polk-Haralson County lines. "The U.S. Forest Service got involved in a wilderness fire that destroyed several thousands of acres."

Hawkins added that 2016 was the last time Polk and the surrounding region in Northwest Georgia saw fire dangers this elevated, and that "while they have been smaller acreages, but it indicates that we're following the same kind of weather trajectory."

Even though the forecast calls for a cooling off and some moisture to return, Polk County's burn ban remains in effect. No permits are being provided by the Georgia Forestry Commission at this time.

The pair reiterated that those who want to open burn brush and leaves must have a permit to do so at all times. The ban covers four counties as of press time — Polk, Paudling, Gordon and Murray Counties.

Both also ask for people to take common sense into account when they consider burning anything inside or out at this time.

Something like a fire pit that is enclosed on a back patio, a campfire in an enclosed ring, a barrel used to burn leaf trash or charcoal and gas grills are still generally fine to use, but they ask that people be aware of the conditions as well as how they are putting out fires once they are done with enjoying them for the night.

"Another thing that starts a lot of roadside fires are cars parked in high grass. Mufflers and catalytic converter heats up. Also dragging chains along the roadside starts a lot of fires," Hawkins said. "So we want people to make sure they have their chains lifted up, and aren't parking in high grass. Definitely adhering to the burn ban, and no open burning right now."

Campfires or fire pits need to be doused and cold to the touch, along with charcoal being disposed from a grill. They also said that used ashes from a charcoal grill need to be dumped well away from a wood line where they might act as an ignition source if they are still warm within an ash pile.

Propane canisters for gas grills also need to be kept well away from potential ignition sources where they might act to further fuel a fire if a fire were to spread out of control.

Especially people who live on a line between the woods and their backyards.

"The fire department only has a certain number of fire trucks," Moss said. "So you've got to consider how you can protect yourself and your property as well. So if you do some things to defend your space from fire, like going in and removing some of the dry leaves around your house, and cut the hanging limbs down and keeping the gutters clean. Don't let foliage get on top of your roof... keep the flammable materials away from your house."

Even having hoses ready is a good call.

"You may have to defend your own house for a while," Moss added.

The continued ban has Forestry Officials also seeking help from local residents who report those burning without permission if their information leads to an arrest and conviction on arson charges. Rewards posted are up to $10,000.

Fire investigator teams through the Georgia Forestry Commission will look into fires they believe were intentionally set, and they will lead to charges if they find individuals at fault.

Officials cited concerns over recent fires that are suspected to have been set intentionally despite the ban in Polk, Haralson and surrounding areas.

Arson is the third leading cause of fires in the state, with the debris burns unintentionally going out of control the top reason wild and brush fires spread across the state.


Riverwalk Festival around the corner

Fall fun is coming to downtown Rockmart on October 19 — including those fireworks we all missed over the summer — as the Riverwalk Festival on the Euharlee celebrates the 5th year of the event.

Attendees are invited to come out and enjoy the fun on October 19 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with music and fireworks to follow from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in Seaborn Jones Park along Euharlee Creek.

Both sides of the park along the Silver Comet Trail and the parking lot at Alvis Miller and Son Funeral Home will be utilized for the one-day festival that features vendors with arts and crafts, several food options,

a full day of music, and even a pancake breakfast not far from all the action.

The event started in 2014 also brings something else that will lift spirits over downtown Rockmart: a hot air balloon.

Prices for the tethered rides aloft, along with a caricature artist, will be available on site on the day of the festival.

Also the Kiwanis Childrens Chairities Car Show will be taking place with registration starting at 8 a.m. and continuing until 11:30 a.m., judging to follow and awards handed out at 1 p.m.

The event will also see the Rockmart Farmers Market on site, a play zone with slides and inflatables, petting zoo, face painting, pumpkin painting, and much more will be on hand for the fun during the day, and a lineup of artists playing throughout Saturday is also available in this week's edition.

The festival is also helping out a local patient who needs help with a kidney donation. Piedmont Hospital will have representatives from their Transplant Outreach program on hand to answer questions regarding finding a living kidney donor for Jessica Holder.

A make-up for the Polk County Rotary Club Duck Race is coming up as well at 2 p.m. on Euharlee Creek.

The festival kicks off with the Rockmart Methodist Men's Pancake Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. at the Rockmart First United Methodist Fellowship Hall.

Festival-goers will also get to see Crossview Church Band, Heirborn Quartet, Them Mixon Boys, Dalton Dover, and the Rocktown Revival — Frankie Hilburn & Isaac Streetman.

Redmond Regional Medical Center is presenting the fireworks, which will start after dark.


New voting machines in for Polk's upcoming elections

The first of the new voting machines was inspected and delivered by the state to the Polk County Board of Elections, and many more are set to arrive in the months to come ahead of the start of the 2020 Election cycle.

With Municipal elections set to start accepting early votes in the days ahead, the first sample of the new touchscreen voting machines that will output a paper ballot was delivered up at the start of the week to Elections Director Lee Ann George.

George said her department will be receiving 91 new machines and printers to go along with them, along with a special reader for each of the seven precincts in Polk County. She said a court order is allowing the

county to utilize old machines in the forthcoming municipal election one more time, but then afterward they will be retired.

Wtih the new equipment, voters can make their selections on a more modern touchscreen device that prints a reviewable sheet of paper with a bar code and names of selected candidates that is fed into a scanner for tallying.

The new machines are expected to cost the state $107 million over the next decade, according to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office.

Before the rest of the new machines arrive in the coming weeks and months, there's a municipal election to hold in Polk County for the cities of Aragon, Cedartown and Rockmart.

Early voting gets underway on Tuesday, Oct. 15 following the closure of government offices for Columbus Day. The final day of early voting is Nov. 1. Rockmart voters at the Nathan Dean Community Center, located at 604 Goodyear St., Rockmart from Monday, Oct. 28 through Friday, Nov. 1, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Voter registration for the forthcoming municipal elections ended after press time on Monday, Oct. 7. For those who were able to get in on time but need help finding out where to vote, contact the Board of Elections at 770-749-2103.

Additionally, those who are unable to make it to the office for early voting, or to the polls on election day in Cedartown, Rockmart and Aragon can request absentee ballots that have to be mailed in by Nov. 1.


Westmoreland crowned CHS Homecoming Queen

The fanfare of Homecoming 2019 came to a close at week's end, and Cedartown High School chose Raegan Westmoreland to represent the Bulldog faithful as their queen this year.

The senior was announced as the queen during the halftime presentation for the Homecoming 2019 game against LaGrange, which the Bulldogs also won in a 51-7 rout.

Westmoreland, the daughter of Jamie and Christy Westmoreland, is a varsity competition and football cheerleader, SkillsUSA Healthcare Program and the National Honors Society. She has plans to attend Kennesaw State University and pursue a degree in nursing after graduation, and then go on to eventually become an OBGYN.

She said the experience at halftime gave her a feeling of love from the Cedartown High student body.

"Being crowned homecoming queen is truly a blessing," Westmoreland said. "Knowing my school thought I would be a good candidate for it makes me indescribably happy. This is something i always dreamed about and it becoming reality is mind blowing."

One of her lasting memories

of school and the night itself was staying on the field through the rest of the game.

"Cheering on the sidelines after the Homecoming presentation made me realize how great it is to be a Bulldog, and it is something i will cherish forever," Westmoreland said.

She was crowned at the end of the halftime ceremonies honoring the court by the 2018 queen Grayson Smith.

Homecoming celebrations on Friday as fall break began wrapped up a week of events at Cedartown High School and in the community at large, which included the annual Homecoming Parade on Oct. 3 and a pep rally celebrating the court and team for students.

This year's court included first runner up Leslie Cervantes and second runner up Kamryn Frazier among the seniors, as well as Alli Hicks, Kendaijah Sewell and Jayla To.

Underclassmen represented on the court included juniors Ava Allred, Emily Haney, Reagan Peek and Avigail Torres.

The Sophomore court was made up of Rossy Cruz, Alyssa Griffin, Graci McElwee and Gracee Privett. Freshmen represented this year were Edy Lee, Abigail Glen, Maritza Nunez and Amyia Powell.


Mosaic Place celebrates 1st year of recovery services

A year ago, nothing like the resources that have grown at Mosaic Place even existed in Polk County. Yet the concept of providing a place where a group of people in recovery can help each other through the hard times is now a growing example for others on a different approach to addiction treatment.

This recovery support center concept headed up by Program Manager Nikki Kemp and a lot of support from staff and volunteers is doing a lot of good in the community since their first meeting held in October 2018.

In the past year, Mosaic Place has helped in one form or another some 1,400 Polk County residents and in that time provided 5,000 different documented services, like helping those who come into the center find jobs, get transportation, and a variety of other areas where people in recovery need the most help.

Kemp said the organization is doing exactly what they hoped to accomplish. But Mosaic Place is more than just an addiction recovery support center. It is also an organization that is

all about ensuring that those who come to the center for help also help others in their journey back from addiction.

"People come in here and they are so broken. When they start and keep coming, they find unity, support and a purpose in recovery," Kemp said. "Step by step, we are building recovery leaders who are willing to give back to the community by serving other people in recovery."

Enough people are involved on a regular basis and seeking help at Mosaic Place that five months into their first year, they needed more space and took over the final office area in their 321 West Ave. home in Cedartown.

Kemp said that move to increase space came back in February of this year, and the growth continues.

During ceremonies celebrating the first anniversary, Kemp talked about how the hard work and dedication of those involved in Mosaic Place have made it successful.

"People have showed up, and kept coming back," Kemp said. "The people that I get to see walk through these doors, and the smiles that come on their face each day, it's a blessing."

She also recognized those who have come for help at Mosaic Place and have returned — sometimes on a daily basis — to become leaders within group recovery efforts. She also thanked board members for their involvement during the first year of offering services to Polk County, and for partner organizations for helping too.

Those included Polk County Sheriffs Office, Regions Bank, the Department of Family and Children Services, Department of Community Supervision and Accountability Courts, Polk County's faith-based community as a whole, the Georgia Department of Labor and the Polk County Health Department. She said so many have given back during the past year, it is really too many to name.

"Building a community of recovery allows individuals to be able to grow in their recovery and become productive members of society again," she said. "Mosaic Place is somewhere that in my early stages of recovery I would want to be."

She added that "each person that works at recovery place is a person in long term recovery and are trained to utilize their lived experience to empower others and instill hope."

Attendees to the anniversary celebration got to hear from an addict named Anthony, who talked about how his faith finally pulled him out of the dark hole of alcohol and drug abuse, and years of a life of crime. He is more than six years sober now, and brings his testimony to people who were in the same place as him through ministry in the same places he was once wanted for a long list of charges.

These stories of second chances are what Mosaic Place is built upon. The organization is an idea put into practice that even though people have made the wrong life choices at times, they have the opportunity to pick themselves up and try again.

Over the past year, Mosaic Place has also spent a lot of time as a family, hosting events around Polk County. That's included a Thanksgiving meal, Christmas Bazaar, Christmas dinner, Health Fairs, New Year's Eve party, Family Fun Day, Flipping Flap Jacks for Recovery, First Responders Lunch and Learn, many recovery educational training sessions and much more.

Mosaic Place is a grant based program through DBHDD to build communities of Recovery. Those interested in becoming involved in being part of the solution to addiction recovery, or learning more about Mosaic Place's services can contact Kemp at 678-901-1445.


AREA CALENDAR OF EVENTS

The 2019 Riverwalk Festival on the Euharlee is coming to downtown Rockmart on Saturday, Oct. 19 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with music and make-up Homespun fireworks planned from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Join the fun at Seaborn Jones Park for arts and crafts, food and the Rotary Duck Races. Call 678-883-9024 for more information or email trailhead@rockmart-ga.gov.

Ready for a night of jazz music? Check out Joe Gransden's Big Band with Francine Reed on October 12 at the Cedartown Performing Art Center. The show will begin at 7 p.m. A 16-piece band will fill the arts center with sounds of the jazz scene. You don't want to miss this! More information and ticket pricing can be found at www.cedartownshows.com.

The Chick-fil-A Lunch and Learn is scheduled for October 11 from 12 to 1p.m. at the Depot in Rockmart. Owner/Operator of the Rockmart Chick-Fil-A, Zach Thomas will present a series on "The Chick-Fil-A Way" and lunch will be provided.

The 5th annual Breast Cancer Survivors Banquet is coming up on October 13 at 4 p.m. at the Nathan Dean Community Center in Rockmart. Tickets are $15 in advance, and $20 at the door. Contact Open Hand Community Outreach at 1-800-577-0165 for more information and to purchase tickets ahead of the banquet. Tickets can also be purchased online at www.openhandcommunityoutreach.org.

The Community is invited to the Historic Van Wert Church & Cemetery on October 19 at 10 a.m. for a Veterans Memorial Service that will feature the 8th Regimental Band. The church is located at 72 Church St. Rockmart.

Taylorsville Baptist Church is having their annual Homecoming Service on Sunday, Oct. 20 starting at 10:30 a.m., with the message being provided by Brother Tommy Harris, former pastor. The service will also feature music from The Avenue Trio. Lunch and fellowship to follow, all are welcome to attend. Taylorsville Baptist Church is located at 19 Church Street in Taylorsville, Ga.

Who says adults can't have fun? Businesses are encouraged to dress up together in a theme on Halloween day. This could be a movie, a decade, anything. Send photos to info@polkgeorgia.com by 12 p.m. on October 31. Photos will be posted on the Chamber Facebook page by 1 p.m. Each "like" counts as a vote. The business with the most likes on November 1st at 12 p.m. wins a trophy.

Plan to get in costumes and come out and enjoy an evening of fun during the Hocus Pocus Family Night as part of the annual Halloween Hoopla events organized by the Polk County Chamber of Commerce. The event is being held on Oct. 24 from 6 to 8 p.m. and the community is invited to participate at the Rockmart campus of Georgia Northwestern Technical College for a special showing of Hocus Pocus. All ages are invited to participate.

Save the date for October 12 and come join a celebration of hope during the inaugural City of Cedartown Breast Cancer — Prostate Cancer Awareness Walk starting at 10 a.m. The walk begins at Ideal Bakery and will continue to One Door Polk on Main Street. Free giveaways and light refreshments will also be available to participants, who can come and take part for no charge. Organizers ask participants to wear pink or blue on the day of the walk. Contact April Welch at 678-988-1499 for more information.

Get ready for a lot of fall fun with the Polk County Chamber of Commerce's second annual Halloween Hoopla presented by H&R Block. The opening event is the upcoming countywide scarecrow contest! Those who want to participate can email info@polkgeorgia.com to enter, and must have their one-of-a-kind scarecrow out by September 23. Entries must stay up through Halloween. Trophies will be awarded for first, second and third place.

Rockmart's Festival of Treats is coming up on Thursday, October 31 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Local businesses will be out with candy for Trick-or-Treaters, there's a costume parade open for all participants in this year's event, and much more! The event is being sponsored by Family Savings Credit Union, the Downtown Rockmart Advisory Committee and the Polk County Chamber of Commerce.

Tickets are on sale now for the 2019 State of the Community Address coming up on Tuesday, October 29 from 6 to 8 p.m. The annual gathering is returning to In the Woods in Rockmart and covers topics that are insightful and relevant for the business community. A buffet dinner will be served. Visit polkgeorgia.com to learn more and register now.

Spooky Spokes is coming to Cedartown on October 12 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Bert Wood Youth and Athletic Complex! Civic clubs, community organizations and more are invited to take part in the bike ride and Halloween Village. Find out more by calling the city at 770-748-3220.

Join the City of Aragon for a day of fun at their upcoming Fall Festival at Tom Pittman Field on Saturday, October 12 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is free, and a screening of "Hocus Pocus" will be part of the day.

Slime Time Kitchen is coming to the Polk County Chamber of Commerce offices in Cedartown and the Welcome Center and Depot on Oct. 11 at 4 p.m. Cost is $5 per child, and includes a one hour class on making edible slime. All materials provided. RSVP with the Chamber at polkgeorgia.com.

Wendy's Whimsical World Art Exhibit continues through Oct. 26 at the Rcokmart Art Gallery in the city hall complex on Piedmont Ave. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 4 pm. on Wednesdays through Saturdays, or by appointment. Call 770-684-2707 to learn more.

Celebrate Recovery meets every Monday night at the First Baptist Church of Rockmart starting with dinner at 6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. Large Group at 7 p.m. and Small Share Group at 8 p.m.

Cedartown's Christmas parade is coming up on Saturday, Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. on Main Street! This year's theme is "Candy Lane" and entries are being accepted to participate. Visit Cedartowngeorgia.gov to learn more now!

The holiday season is coming up soon for Rockmart's annual Christmas parade, kicking off a weekend of events on the evening of Friday, Dec. 6 through the downtown square on South Marble Street and ending with the annual Christmas tree lighting. The Unwrap the Joy of Christmas event will continue on Saturday, Dec. 7 and Sunday, Dec. 8 in downtown, including carolers, a Christmas 5K and much more. Check back for more in the weeks to come.

The Cedartown Farmer's Market has a new location and time for the 2019 season. Market-goers are invited to come out to the corner of Ware and South Main Street in Cedartown continuing on Tuesdays from 1 to 5 p.m. Contact Five Cedars Farm to participate at 678-246-1216 to learn more about becoming a vendor.

RCAC has classes for toddlers, children and adults at the Rockmart Cultural Arts Center in drawing, painting, photography, yoga, chorus, piano, whittling, and pottery. For more information, call 770-684-2707 or email rcac@rockmart-ga.gov

Give a child a safe place to go after school and learn valuable lessons about community, life and academics by getting involved in the Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Georgia in Cedartown. Visit their center at 321 E. Queen St., Cedartown from 2:30 to 6 p.m. on weekdays and bring your children ages 5-18 for afternoon activities. For more information on how to participate or volunteer, call our office at 770-749-0869 or email asams@bgcnwga.org.

The Rockmart History Museum on South Marble Street in downtown Rockmart is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and on Saturday 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. The Museum welcomes visitors and group tours. Contact Pat Sampson at 678-764-5201 for information. RHM meetings are held on the first Wednesday of each month and volunteers are welcome and encouraged to take part.

Interested in becoming a Foster or Adoptive Parent? Open your heart to a child in need and find out how you can help. Join others who seek the love of a child every second Tuesday night of each month at 6 p.m. at Polk County Division of Family and Children Services office, 100 County Loop Road in Cedartown. Information sessions explain what is required to become a foster or adoptive parent in Georgia. For more information call Robin Forston at 404-895-6517 or email robin.forston@dhs.ga.gov or call 1-877-210-KIDS. Visit www.fostergeorgia.com for more information.

The Polk County Democratic Committee Meets on the second Saturday of every month at 9:30 a.m. In the "even" months (February, April, June, August, etc.) the organization meets at The Rockmart Library at 316 N. Piedmont Ave., Rockmart and during the "odd" months (January, March, etc.) they meet at the Cedartown Welcome Center, 609 Main St., Cedartown, GA 30125.

The American Legion in Rockmart is hosting their monthly all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner coming up this Wednesday, October 16. Meal of spaghetti, meatballs, garlic toast and salad, $5. They hold dinners on the third Wednesday of every month. Join the group for a good meal and to support veteran and children's programs. The Legion is located at 1 Veterans Circle, Rockmart.

USAPA Pickelball Ambassador Daneen England is holding a free pickleball clinic every Monday (weather permitting) from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Rockmart Tennis courts, located at 436 Hogue Avenue, Rockmart. Loaner paddles and all necessary equipment will be on hand to learn t he sport. This is a free event for anyone and they just need to wear comfortable gym clothes and tennis shoes. Contact England at 770-356-1282, or by email at howardd999@yahoo.com for more information.

The office of Exceptional Students of Polk School District is available to assist with the identification of children with disabilities and provision a free appropriate public education beginning at the age of three through the age of 21. If you suspect your child is experiencing any developmental delay or you suspect your child might have a disability and would like assistance or for more information about services available through Polk School District, contact the PSD Exceptional Student Services office at 770-684-8718.

Lutheran Services of Georgia's Heritage Adoption Program partners with DFCS to find Forever Families for children waiting in Georgia's foster care system. Information Sessions are held on the third Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. at the Rome Office, located at 336 Broad St., Suite 200. Individual sessions may be scheduled to accommodate families as needed. For more email aweaver@lsga.org or call 706-506-0649.

Did you know that nationwide the American Red Cross assists 53 people every 60 seconds during personal and local disasters? Our Northwest Georgia Red Cross Chapter serves Polk County. If you'd like to do some meaningful volunteering, please contact Arthene Bressler at 762-231-9896 and visit our website at www.redcross.org/local/georgia.

Need to get an item onto the Area Calendar of Events? Email kmyrick@polkstandardjournal.com today! All items must be in at least two weeks before the event to appear in the Standard Journal on time.