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Total rises to 115 dogs
Devecio Ranard Rowland faces 70 counts of cruelty to animals

Devecio Ranard Rowland

Eight more dogs have been added to the tally and brings the total to 115 founds in connection with a animal cruelty case that began last week and grew as two more sites containing pups were found.

Only one man has been charged thus far in the case that began on Aug. 28 when officers went to the foreclosed property and found 72 dogs on at 569 Cashtown Road.

Devecio Ranard Rowland, 32, now of a Jones Avenue address remained in jail without bail being set as of Saturday morning on 70 misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals, plus felony counts of probation violation, a single charge of aggravated cruelty to animals and conspiracy to commit a felony.

The following day on Aug. 29, police went to a Puckett Road address and found 35 more dogs in connection to the investigation, and then on Sept. 1 a final investigatory step found eight more dogs — a mother and seven puppies — at a Rockmart apartment.

Police Chief Kenny Dodd said information developed through the week lead officers to find the additional dogs following an initial tip that sent police out to the Cashtown Road address.

Earlier last week, Dodd called it "one of the worst cases of animal cruelty" that the Polk County Police Department had ever seen, and the department was on social media posting pictures and videos of the dogs tied up to trees all over two different properties.

According to a press release from Polk County Animal Control late Friday, the dogs are all "safe, well fed, watered and (are) being taken care of."

"Cherokee County, Alabama also provided a veterinarian and their Animal Control Director to assist with the evaluation of the dogs," the release stated. "Without the help of all these different agencies we could not have experienced the successful outcome that we have."

Only a portion of the dogs have thus far gone to rescues from the original 72, and animal control facilities all around and including Polk are housing the dogs until all of them can find homes.

That excludes the 35 found at the Puckett Road property where a group was kept, which thus far Dodd said Rowland has refused to release to the county. Initially the figure was reported as 70 at the Cashtown Road site, but the total went up by two more dogs as they were brought out individually, Dodd explained.

The totals changed throughout the week, and at last count 58 of the 72 had yet been taken in by rescue groups. The additional eight dogs to the tally will also need rescue groups. Dodd said that these aren't dogs that can be taken in by just anyone, either.

"People also need to understand that we can't just turn these dogs over to anyone, they have to go to a licensed rescue that has experience with handling these kinds of dogs," Dodd said. "They need rehabilitation before they can go to a new owner."

The full list of those who have taken in dogs so far, according to the Sept. 1 press release, included Homes 4-ever rescue, Pickens Animal Rescue, Barktown Dog Rescue Sanctuary, Cedartown Animal Rescue, Education and Sterilization (Cares), Paulding County Animal Control, Douglas County Animal Shelter, Bartow County Animal Control, Floyd County Animal Control, Cherokee County Alabama Animal Control and Veterinarian, Pibbles & More, Dog Days, Angels Among Us, Friends of Polk AC, Ruff Rescue.

Dodd said investigators want to keep the group of 35 found at Puckett Road close to Polk County for the time being in order to keep track of their healing progress and for evidentiary purposes as the case continues to develop.

Police were out most of the week at both Cashtown Road and Puckett Road either with the dogs as they waited for groups to help come find the dogs immediate shelter, or in collecting evidence.

District Attorney Jack Browning said he would be opposing any bond in the case, citing a previous charge against Rowland in the case. He added his office has already been involved in the case as well.

"On this case, our office was contacted by Polk County Police Department to come to the crime scene as the investigation began, to provide prosecution assistance and support to law enforcement investigators to ensure that, this time, justice is done for these poor defenseless dogs and the case against Mr. Rowland a solid one," Browning said.

Rowland was previously charged with possession of marijuana and a controlled substance, dog fighting and cruelty to animals in a 2010 case that was set to go to trial after others had plead guilty to charges they faced in relation with it.

In 2010 police raided the Cashtown Road address. It was a result of an investigation prompted by a tip in February to an Atlanta private investigation firm, Norred and Associates, who brought their evidence at the time to the Polk County Police Department.

Browning said the previous case against Rowland was set to make it to court in 2012 after he took office, but when a key witness in the case died they lost much of the evidence they planned to present at trial via testimony.


Millage rate stays same for property tax bills

Polk County commissioners settled on a 2-1 vote for a millage rate for this year's tax bills at 11.061, going back to the rate that was set for 2016.

It was an option put forth by Commissioner Scotty Tillery during an already busy night in a packed Board of Commissioners meeting room to settle several items on the agenda before the board.

Tillery, who near the end of the discussion of a rate of 11.094 mills, brought back up again by Commissioner Jennifer Hulsey after motions by Chuck Thaxton for an 11.094 mill rate.

Annually, more than $1.4 million from insurance premium taxes will go toward funding for the Polk County Police Department, as it has in the past. It was also approved as part of the millage rate this year.

Motions were brought up for several and without seconds died for lack of support until finally Chuck Thaxton went with the 11.094 rate by adding his second to her first motion.

Later, Hulsey withdrew it to go with the 11.061 rate, which is a tax decrease since the overall tax digest went down in value over the past year.

Hulsey began the meeting by expressing her concerns over the approval of the agenda, and said she didn't feel comfortable in making votes on the items before the board for consideration, including the millage rate for county and school board property taxes. Commissioner Stefanie Drake Burford, set to come to what was expected to be her last meeting. She told the Standard Journal by text message that she had gotten stuck in Marietta area due to heavy rain showers.

Burford sent a written resignation effective Aug. 31.

"I'm wondering if we should table these votes," she said before any motion was made. "We only have four members of the board, and I know that it's still a quorum, but I don't know if I feel comfortable making all these votes tonight."

Commission Chairman Marshelle Thaxton cited requirements in order to be able to get the tax digest approved and signed for both the county and the school board as necessary votes, ones that can't be put off. The school board kept their rate at 16.15 for this year's tax bills.

"I have to go sign that tomorrow (Aug. 31)," Thaxton said.

Additionally a grant to approve funding for part of Polk County's portion of the Tallapoosa circuit Drug Court also needed approval since it was being distributed to the county in coming days, County Manager Matt Denton added.

The agenda was approved 2-1, with Commissioner Chuck Thaxton giving his approval along with Tillery, while Hulsey opposed the agenda. Later, all three commissioners voted to approve the grant for the drug court.

The commission were also divided and an attempt to cut money from the Polk County Health Department budget was also put forth, an item the chair explained was added to the agenda as a cost-saving measure. It was the first item on the agenda after the District 1 commission candidate question and answer session, and began with an explanation about why the board chair wanted to make the cut.

Had the commission gone with an 11.094 mill rate for 2017, Marshelle Thaxton explained that an $70,000 cut from the county's annual contribution to Northwest Georgia Public Health from $180,000 to $110,000 would have been available to make up for a shortfall in net tax revenue from the rate the commission rolled back from off the advertised rate of 11.238 mills.

"Over the past year and a half, we've been trying to get the Rockmart office open back up, and me and Matt (Denton) have done everything but throw them in the trunk of the car and drag them off," Marshelle Thaxton said. "But we have not cut the budget any this past year and they provide no services in Rockmart. None."

The chair wanted use some of the money being saved by cutting the county's contribution amount to pay for the loss of revenue incurred against the tax digest this year, while additionally proposing to set some aside for emergency funds likely needed for paying bills associated with the treatment and care of the numerous dogs found between two properties on Cashtown Road and Puckett Road sites earlier in the week.

"I'm afraid we're going to be in the dog business for the next few months." Thaxton said.

Tillery, who opposed the idea, said he came up with thoughts for both sides of the argument since no explanation was provided for the measure on the agenda, which he said he only received Tuesday ahead of the Wednesday night meeting.

Despite the short notice, Tillery presented information from the Georgia Department of Health's website about the county's ranking among the state, which has gone up and down over the past five years, but sits at 118th as of the 2016 ranking completed by the state via a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study. He added too that the number of people already served for the past fiscal year was 10,057, and that 30 percent of all people seeking care at the Health Department office in Cedartown are turned away for treatment.

With these examples and others, Tillery said he wanted more time to study the issues before making any cuts to their budget and using the money elsewhere.

"It concerns me with the rank that we're at with our county in our state, it (a cut to the budget) concerns me," Tillery said.

Chuck Thaxton asked how long the health department office in Rockmart had been closed, which shut its doors in July 2016.

"Before that it was only operating maybe two days a week, and most of what they were doing in Rockmart was WIC (Women, Infants and Children program)," Marshelle Thaxton added.

Commissioners also approved an amendment to the personnel policy over the amount of years required to regain seniority for employees who previously quit and returned to employment.

There was no consideration of how to fund the fire plan during the Aug. 30 session.


Commissioner Burford resigns from board ahead of house closing

The Polk County Commission will soon have to pick a second new member to join the board or have it go to the grand jury after an announcement from a local attorney who stepped down late last week.

Former Commissioner Stefanie Drake Burford made her resignation official on Aug. 31 after she announced her plans to move to west Cobb County in the coming weeks.

Burford said in a statement that she is in the first stages of a planned move to western Cobb County, and had planned for the Aug. 30 session to be her last. Moving trucks were in front of her and her family's Rockmart house on that morning.

Burford, an attorney based in Cedartown, said she plans to keep her office which she has owned for the past 12 years. Her resignation came just as she was entering the eighth month of a new term in office.

"This move is what's best for my family, which is my top priority. West Cobb puts us closer to my husband's job, but not far from mine, closer to my family in Gwinnett, and closer to my daughter's school," her statement read. "She has been enduring an hour and twenty minute ride to school and my husband's commute has been the same."

She added in her statement that her house had been listed for some time on the market, and that delays in an inspection of her Rockmart house by the buyer forced an extension of their contract's closing.

"It has been common knowledge that I have a contract on my house, which has been pending for quite a while," Burford's statement said.

The closing on the house was set for Tuesday, according to Burford's statement. She had planned to take part in the special called session for votes on the millage rate, reports on the fire plan and interviews of new county commissioners during their Aug. 30 session, but later reported she was stuck in Marietta due to heavy rains that pelted the area that evening.

She said since the closing on her Rockmart house was planned for next week, she said since it would be finalized then there would be no point in taking part in September meetings, already pushed forward to Sept. 11 and Sept. 12 for the county's regular monthly sessions.

Burford is the second commissioner to announce her move this year, with former District 1 Commissioner Jason Ward having finished a move to Jacksonville before the end of the summer and officially resigning his post on July 31. He announced his move in late May officially, and remained on the board, having previously taken part in meetings by telephone.

His house remains on the market locally.

It's been almost a full month since he resigned, and started a 60-day clock to pick a new commissioner via board vote from candidates who have submitted their names to the community.

Interviews for that position were held on Aug. 30 as well (see page A3), with candidates being given an opportunity to answer questions posted by the board to help decide the position. The board has to agree by at least a 4-1 majority to pick a new member, otherwise it goes to Polk County's Grand Jury to decide when they sit next following the end of the 60 days in September, with candidates drawn from applications made to the Polk County Board of Elections.

Burford's District 3 seat will have to undergo the same process, and the clock on the 60-day time limit began on Aug. 31 with her resignation.

Commissioners would have to vote unanimously without Ward's seat being immediately filled to replace Burford with a candidate for the job from District 3, located on the eastern side of Polk County.


Hurricane Harvey relief efforts are ongoing

The Girl Scouts of Troop 13399 in Cedartown were out at the First Presbyterian Church Saturday morning with a long line of goods piled up in the parking lot, divided up in boxes by what they are in preparation for real packing later.

The goods were just some of the items being donated by local residents from all walks of life throughout the area and are headed to southeast Texas and it's coastline, just now in the early stages of rebuilding as the waters began to recede following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.

Candace Howard was one of those on hand with the troop helping to collect goods and organize the effort in which the girl scouts have partnered with Will2Way Foundation to fill up semis and send them along to those in need in Texas later next week.

"We decided it was a need in Cedartown," Howard said.

Howard said many went through the donation line to drop off items at the church this past Saturday morning, which will be collected overall in Cartersville this Saturday for packing into supply bags to hand out.

She said "a bunch" had shown up with less than an hour to go for the morning drop off donation drive, and the girl scouts will be taking part in packing effort in hopes to fill a semi trailer with items in need.

Pamela Whitfield, who heads up the Will2Way Foundation in the area, said the collections over the weekend were just part of the efforts ahead of what victims of the storm will need as they continue cleanup operations and families get back to their homes on the Texas coast.

And Whitfield wants to make sure when the supplies leave for Houston, she'll already be there to greet them and help with figuring out distribution efforts.

"I'm flying over on September 13, so when he (the truck driver) arrives on site I'll be there as well," Whitfield said.

She isn't the only one who will be heading off for Texas.

Polk County native and now Buford resident Matt Williams is loading up supplies this coming week on Friday, Sept. 15 for a weekend trip to the disaster zone with supplies himself.

He said he's getting help from his family for making donations, and that he's putting his work on hold as a contractor to go to support Hamilton Mills Presbyterian Church in Buford.

"I just felt the need to do something to help," Williams said.

It was a common refrain heard from Chad Fortune of Buchanan.

He's got help from friends and family locally to take items to the Houston metro area this past weekend, when he loaded up his truck and trailer to haul supplies with the intention of arriving Saturday, and returning on Monday after finding a way to distribute what he had.

"I feel like I need to go, so I'm going," Fortune said before he left earlier last week.

Donation efforts are still underway too for the Polk County Sheriff's Office, who are taking items throughout this week from 8:30 a.m. through 5 p.m.

They recommend bringing nonperishable food, bottled water, paper towels, cleaning products, rubber gloves, diapers (adult and baby), Ensure (or liquid meals), first aid supplies, 5 gallon buckets with lids, dish soap, handi-wipes, air freshener, work gloves, scrub brushes, dust masks, garbage bags, tooth brushes, tooth paste, or other items thought to be needed.

The Sheriff's Office Hope For Polk program plans to ship items with the help of CTS Industries later this week.

Churches and local charities thus far have not made any immediate supply drive efforts, and are instead directing members and those interested in helping to make monetary donations to relief efforts like the Southern Baptist's Disaster Relief Team, who helps provide hot meals in disaster zones with food provided by groups like the American Red Cross, or in the case of First Presbyterian donations can be made directly to the church with the memo line designating the efforts be given over to Hurricane Harvey disaster recovery.

Need to get supplies picked up? Here's some folks to call locally for help:

Hope From Polk hotline: 770-883-0925

Will2Way Foundation: 404-590-3492

Girl Scout Troop 13399: Candace Howard at 678-883-6678 or Khyri Rogers at 678-327-4047

Matt Williams, who will arrange for donation pickups directly at 678-323-6843


CEDARTOWN HOMECOMING

Area Calendar of Events

Get ready for the Polk County Fair organized by the Cedartown Exchange Club annually to help raise funds for the club to donate to local organizations. This year's fair is scheduled from Tuesday, Sept. 12, through Saturday, Sept. 16, at the Polk County Fairgrounds; 5-10 p.m. nightly Tuesday through Thursday, and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. Check back for more information in coming editions.

Marietta Street United Methodist Church is hosting its annual anniversary celebration through music on Sept. 16 at 6 p.m., followed by a special sermon on Sept. 17 with the Rev. Vincent Dortch of Antioch Baptist Church in Carrollton as the guest speaker. The church will then hold a revival from Sept. 18 through Sept. 20, 7 p.m. nightly with a theme for the week of "Revive the Passion!" The public is invited to the five-day event at the church on Robert L. Parks Boulevard, Cedartown. For more information call Annie Vaughn at 770-748-4200.

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

Golfers get ready to tee off this fall for the first ever CASA of Polk and Haralson County golf tournament. The upcoming fundraiser will be Sept. 22 at the new Cedar Valley Country Club next to Petro's in Cedartown at 1811 Buchanan Highway. Registration begins at 8 a.m. with a continental breakfast available to players, and a tee time at 9 a.m. Prizes and a complimentary lunch are included. There's also a Hole in One for a new car prize being sponsored by Hardy Chevrolet Buick and GMC. Call Brett Hunter at 256-239-7882 for more information. Cost is $100 per player, $400 for a four-person team.

The Cedartown Sole Mates will be providing Introductory Line Dance Classes on five consecutive Thursdays beginning Sept. 21, 2017. The classes are from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Senior Center at 605 Lynton Drive (Northwest Park) in Cedartown. There is no charge for the classes and you do not have to be a senior to participate. After the last class, participants are encouraged to join in our regular classes. If you miss the first class, we can help you catch up. For more information, call Helen Keefer at 770-749-1962.

Please join in the festivities coming up for the Cedartown High School Class of 1977's 40-year reunion coming up on Saturday, Oct. 21. Please visit the reunion's website www.chs1977reunion.com for registration and details, or contact Patty D. Tillery at 770-748-9038. Planning meetings are coming up on Sept. 12 and Oct. 3 for those interested in participating at 6:30 p.m. each night at The Avenue restaurant on East Avenue in Cedartown.

The Sit n' Stitch crafters group will resume Wednesday, Sept. 6, in the Fellowship hall of Rockmart First United Methodist Church from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The group will meet each Wednesday except the last Wednesday of the month. Bring a sack lunch, a project of your own, or help out with a mission project and enjoy fellowship with other crafters. No special skills are required. For more information, contact Madeline Brown at 678-435-5032.

Check out the Rockmart Farmers Market at the Silver Comet Trailhead behind Southcrest Bank on Thursdays from 2 to 6 p.m. from now through Thanksgiving. Visit Rockmartfarmersmarket.com for more information about vendors and upcoming classes.

The Harrell-Weaver reunion is coming up on Saturday, Sept. 23, at Bellview Baptist Church in Rockmart from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Bring enough food for you and your family plus some to share. Email Shelia.Stanczak@spsx.com for more information.

The annual Bicycle Ride Across Georgia will be making a stop once again in Polk County at Skydive Spaceland off Grady Road during their annual U.S. Bicycle Route 21 event. The ride is begins in Chattanooga on Sept. 29 and continues until Oct. 1 where it will end in Atlanta. Riders will be at Skydive Spaceland on Sept. 30 after coming from Summerville, and evening entertainment is scheduled as well. Check out brag.org for more information.

The next spaghetti dinner at American Legion Post 12 will be on Wednesday, Sept. 20. Meal of spaghetti, meatballs, garlic toast and salad, $5 for all-you-can-eat. Served from 5 to 7 p.m. Trivia with Tom and Betty starts at 6. Come join us for some fun and a great, inexpensive meal.

Check out the Throttle Jockeys Fourth Friday Cruise-in monthly — weather permitting — in front of Polk County Courthouse No. 2 parking on Prior Street in Cedartown from 5 to 9 p.m. This month's Fourth Friday will be the final makeup date for the Summer Concert series on Sept. 22, featuring McPherson St.

Ferst Foundation Community Action Team meets the first Monday of the month at 5 p.m., alternately in Cedartown and Rockmart. Call 404-862-1273 for the meeting location. Find out more about how to help improve childhood literacy in Polk County at ferstfoundation.org.

Rockmart's annual Riverwalk Festival on the Euharlee is coming up in Oct. 21. Visit rockmart-ga.gov for more information about how to sign up to become a vendor and to participate in festivities.

The Georgia Legal Services Program's Claire Sherburne will be on hand at One Door Polk in Cedartown every fourth Monday to help those in need of provide free civil legal services to persons with low incomes. This includes cases related to housing, employment, education, domestic violence, consumer fraud, wills, and more. It will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The next date will be later this month.

The next West Georgia Spay/Neuter Clinic is coming to the Cedartown-Polk County Humane Society on Wednesday, Sept. 27. Head over to the organization's office at 608 Adamson Road, Cedartown, on Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m. or Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to fill out an admission and prepay for the surgery. Those wanting more information can call 678-361-7304 for more information. Vaccines and tests are available for extra cost as well. The upcoming pickup dates following are Oct. 11 and Oct. 25

Vendor applications are out now for the annual Cedartown Fall Festival being held on Saturday, Oct. 7, on Main Street. Festivities begin with the 10 a.m. Shriner's parade, a dog contest at 11 a.m. and live entertainment throughout he day. Those interested in a vendor space can contact Ramona Ruark at the Cedartown Welcome Center at 770-748-2090 or email rruark@downtowncedartown.com.

The Polk County Alzheimer's Support group will meet monthly on the first Monday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Polk Medical Center. Those interested can join for fellowship and lunch following in the hospital cafeteria. For more information call John Giglio at 678-246-8188.

Join the Church of God of the Union Assembly, 32 Prospect Road, Rockmart, for praise and worship weekly. The church welcomes anyone to come and worship regularly on Sundays and Wednesdays as well. Praise and youth services are held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday nights, and services start at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday following Sunday School at 9:45 a.m. Call Pastor Jesse Starnes at 678757-4572 for more information.

The Polk County Beekeepers meets the first Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon at the Cedartown Library, 245 East Ave. Whether you are an experienced beekeeper, new beekeeper or want to learn all are welcome. For more information email polkcountybeekeepers@gmail.com or visit tinyurl.com/polkbees.

The Polk County Extension Service's annual twice-weekly vegetable market has begun. Find fresh veggies and fruits on hand from vendors on Tuesdays and Fridays from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. at Peek's Park in Cedartown. Call the extension office at 770-749-2142 for more information or to learn how to participate.

Cedartown Supper Club every second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. Held at 71 Woodall Road. Seventh-day Adventist Church. Enjoy a vegetarian supper and participate in a lecture on healthy, happy living. Free and for all ages. Each evening provides a different menu and lecture topic. For more information call 678-901-9184.

Victory Baptist Church's Bread of Life Food Pantry is now open to help those in need. One bag of non-perishable food, five items to pick from produce, eggs and milk and two items from frozen meats, breads and others will be available. ID is required. Limit of two IDs per address. Regular hours of operation for the pantry are Mondays, 1 to 3 p.m.; Tuesdays, 5 to 7 p.m.; and Thursdays, 8 to 10 a.m.

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, located at 100 County Loop Road in Cedartown. Information sessions are held to explain what is required to become a foster or adoptive parent in the state of Georgia. For more information please call Robin Forston at 404895-6517 or email robin.forston@dhs.ga.gov or call 1-877-210-KIDS. Visit www.fostergeorgia.com for more information.

Join Paul Craighead at the Rockmart Cultural Arts Center gallery for weekly pottery classes. They are held Tuesday and Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. for $15 each, and $12 for a Thursday class from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Materials are included in the cost of the classes. Call Paul Craighead at 770-843-5302 with questions. Registration open at the beginning of classes.

Celebrate Recovery continues to meet in the First Baptist Church of Rockmart, 311 E. Elm St., on Monday nights with dinner at 6 p.m. A large group gathers at 7 p.m., and small share group gathers at 8 p.m.

The Alzheimer's Association Caregiver Support Group in Polk meets the first Monday of each month at First Baptist Church of Rockmart, 311 E. Elm St. The facilitator is April Williams. For more information call 770-546-5188.

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 information, contact aweaver@lsga.org or call 706-506-0649.

Soup and "Savior," a local nonprofit organization, meets from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays to provide needed items to deserving people. This includes a free meal (soup), clothing and gives other assistance. Meetings are held at Glad Tidings, located at 703 Robert L Parks Blvd. in Cedartown. Dona

Narconon would like to remind families that the use of addicting drugs is on the rise, take steps to protect your family from drug use. Call 800-431-1754 for more information or visit the Narconon website at DrugAbuseSolution.com.