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Looking ahead at Land Bank
• Idea starting to gain traction with county, cities for joint venture

Rethink Rockmart founding member Sherman Ross has remained determined in his goal to help create a land bank within Polk, and he once again spoke with the county's commissioners to share some insight into the project.

Abandoned, unwanted properties can be foreclosed and sold through the land bank -- helping to remove market stagnation. This puts otherwise unclaimed houses and buildings back on tax row and gives the structures a chance to be used again.

While each municipality in Polk would be free to use the tool, it can't be created at all without the county's approval.

"It will take in properties, abandoned properties, primarily where people owe back-taxes," Ross explained at an earlier Rethink meeting. "Those can be foreclosed on and put into the land bank authority, and the land bank authority can offer those for sale. Primarily, what we like to do is get developers involved," Ross said. "Get them interested in acquiring these properties, and if its an abandoned home, either renovate it, tear it down, or build something new. Its going to be a great tool that will benefit the whole community."

Ross mentioned that Polk's individual cities have shown approval, but one of the last remaining obstacles towards creating the bank is assigning board members to help manage it.

An odd number of representatives is required for voting, so the group is looking for at least one member from each city. The county is currently being allotted two seats due to their size and the fact they would provide the initial seed money in the event the land bank is created.

"The cities are in the process of working to identify representatives," Ross said during the Sept. 10 meeting.

The process is still in its early stage, however. How many, and who, will be on the board is still very much on the table. Since Polk is separated into three distinct districts, County Chairperson Jennifer Hulsey demonstrated an interest in appointing three county representatives.

"I wonder if we should do three," Hulsey said. "Just to represent the districts. I don't want to be overpowering, but is that something to talk about?"

Since the land bank must have five to eleven members, either the municipalities would have to assign more representatives or the county would have to include more than three members. A land bank chairperson would also need to be appointed before properties could be claimed, but there is some still some leeway time.

Ross mentioned that there were potential guidelines for when a board must be set in place, however.

"Fiscal year for the board runs from January to December, but there's nothing that says it (the land bank) has to be in effect Jan. 1," Ross explained. "I think the board has to be nominated and in place within a specified time before we can actually operate."

The county agreed to seek out their representatives, but commissioner Jose Iglesias mentioned that, since the land bank would be a line item for the county, they need to figure out how much paying a land bank administrator would cost.

"I understand this is seed money, but from the get-go, this is a line item for the county," Iglesias said. "We need to get an idea of how much that administrative person is making in the other counties similar ours. Do you have an idea of how much an administrative or executive director would make?"

Iglesias mentioned that most other Georgia counties with land banks had far larger populations, so whether or not Polk could compete with the paying rate of the surrounding land bank counties was naturally raised.

"I don't think the county size has anything to do with it," Ross said. "Most counties aren't aware of this tool. Because its a tool to improve neighborhoods and put properties back on tax rows."

Ross did follow up with the Rockmart City Council following the Sept. 10 county meeting that he believed the idea is being received well, and that he expects it to move forward in the near future.

It was enough of a priority for at least one Commissioner to bring up funding for the effort twice. Commissioner Hal Floyd sought in August ahead of the approval of the budget and millage rate to add to the 2019 Fiscal Year expenditures a sum of $5,000 to be spent to help develop the Land Bank.

He later pointed out in his commissioner comments during the Sept. 11 meeting that in an e-mail sent out to his fellow members, that it remained one of his priorities for funding in the months ahead.

While nothing was officially approved or declined, locals likely won't have to wait long for updates to the land bank that seemingly makes progress every day.

Editor Kevin Myrick contributed to this report.


Rivers Alive coming to Rockmart this weekend

Every year, volunteers don shoes they don't mind getting dirty, put on a pair of gloves and grab a trash bag to ensure when local residents want to get into local creeks and streams, they do so without the fear of being in dirty water.

That's the goal of the annual Rivers Alive organized around the country by local organizations like Keep Polk Beautiful with the idea in mind to clean up after people who litter, which ends up via the flow of run-off and over time the bottles, cans and wrappers go into watersheds like Euharlee Creek.

Randy Cook, Executive Director of Keep Polk Beautiful, said this upcoming Saturday's event at Seaborn Jones Park in Rockmart is a much needed remedy to help keep the Euharlee clean.

"We're so excited about Rivers Alive this year," Cook said. "I think our numbers are going to be great... we've got lots of scouts, lots of churches coming."

Cook is asking that individuals join in the efforts with groups already committed to coming out on Saturday morning at 8 a.m. at the park. He said volunteers will start

heading out at 9 a.m. A limited number of t-shirts are also available this year as well for participants who volunteer.

"Early arrivals will have the opportunity to have Bojangle's before we go out," Cook said.

He added that Camp Antioch's Janice Stewart will also be helping out during this weekend's event by providing activities for youth not quite big enough to help clean up trash.

Cook said the efforts will go out past the covered bridge up and downstream, seeking to clean trash from areas where city officials can't get to.

"Rockmart does a fantastic job of keeping that park and that creek in fantastic shape," Cook said. "But we're going to hopefully go a little further in both directions and clean out not only the creek, but in and around it. We hope to have a great cleanup day."

Those who can't make this weekend's event need to remember a first step they can take on their own to make Polk County a more beautiful place without much effort. Simply put, stop letting trash fly out the back of pickup trucks, and from windows of cars.

Other efforts individuals can take up on their own to make sure they aren't contributing to trash polluting local streams include simple things, like making sure any garbage in vehicles stays there and is bagged up tightly, or just being more conscious about where used items are thrown away.

Cook said too that just having access to areas like Euharlee Creek make a difference too, since those who use the waterways are more like to pick up what trash they do see along the shorelines and carry it away.

"It's just less garbage and litter because of access to the creek," Cook said. "We're working right now to do just that on the west side of the county on Cedar Creek so we can have an access point."

Without those access points, it can be difficult to maintain trash collection anywhere in Polk County, and that has impacts downstream for those who use the creeks elsewhere for drinking water. The more trash is in the water, the more likely it contains materials people don't want going into their bodies, and thus requires municipalities to treat the water coming into their systems.

Unless they have direct access to sources of water coming right from the ground, as is the case for Cedartown for instance that has Big Spring as its source for water.

Mostly it comes down to individual action when making positive change to better the community.

"There's a mentality about trash too," Cook added. "You've got to stop littering."

The organization on the state level is working on a new slogan for an antilitter campaign that still has some kinks to iron out, but the main idea remains the same for Cook and others who work to curb litter.

People who want to live in a clean state have to make sure they aren't part of the problem, and pick up after themselves and sometimes others.

It also takes education at a young age to instill positive behaviors when it comes to garbage. Cook started a Critter Litter program with triplet goats in visits to classrooms across the county last year, and looks to continue it this year (without the triplets, since they've grown up.)

Cook is also working on a program to get individuals and groups involved in cleaning trash out of green spaces, which through the action of water running downhill to streams and creeks brings trash along with the run-off.

"We really want to focus on making our green spaces great," Cook said.

Find out more about helping with Keep Polk Beautiful's efforts this weekend by calling 678-246-1083 or sending Cook an e-mail at rcook@cedartowngeorgia.gov.


Cedartown OKs sewer project loans
• Lower rate for GEFA financing than thought

The City of Cedartown is moving into the next stage of a forthcoming wastewater system upgrade with approval of loan conditions with the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority.

City Commissioners voted unanimously to accept a $3 million loan from GEFA at a 1.25 percent interest rate, much less than what the city expected to pay. The loan is being used to fund the cost of new lift stations in dire need of replacement, replacement rotary screens at the wastewater plant to remove trash out of the system, and the renovation of a sewer line on Cave Spring Road.

"That will save the city many, many thousands of dollars," City Manager Bill Fann said when he reported back to the commission on the conditions of the loan.

News of the lower rate for the loan on the project through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which provides municipalities needed funding for water

projects on a rotating basis thanks to money provided from the state and federal governments, came in August after the GEFA board met and gave their approval for the project.

The resolution approved by commissioners is the latest step in a project years in the making to upgrade Cedartown's wastewater system.

Fann presented the project to city leaders during a work session back in March for commissioners to consider. At the time, they projected a cost of at least $2.5 million for the needed replacements and repairs at lift stations on Blanche Street and Cave Spring Road, where problems from leaks and blockages in the past have caused significant concerns to officials.

Back during the city's work session in March, Fann and City Engineer Ronnie Wood presented a long list of issues at the lift stations and the need for the rotary screens to be replaced at the city's wastewater treatment facility.

Much needed repairs and replacements that have been put off by past administrations for more than 15 years, Fann previously said.

Fann said the next step in the project is for bids to go out to complete the work, which will be opened and reviewed in October.

After the project's contractor is decided upon, and expects work to get underway on the system repairs and upgrades sometime between November and January based on weather and other work the contractor might have.

The work is meant to fix ongoing influent and infiltration into the city's sewer system from groundwater, which puts additional stresses on the lines and pumps used to move wastewater to the system's treatment plant off Girard Avenue.

Along with the lift station replacements, the wastewater treatment plant will get new rotary screen replacements that help filter out trash collected in the wastewater system and to slipline a sewer line on Cave Spring Road.

That will require a membrane to be placed over the old line to keep groundwater from infiltrating the line, Fann explained.

"I'm very pleased with the whole project," Fann said.

Commission Chair Jordan Hubbard added his own happiness over the forthcoming wastewater system improvements.

"That's a win-win Mr. Manager," Hubbard said in praise of Fann's work.


Chick-fil-A celebrates first birthday this week

Go sing "Happy Birthday" this week to the Chick-fil-A cow at a number of events that continue through Friday as the restaurant celebrates their first year in Polk County.

The Chick-fil-A of Rockmart officially celebrated their first anniversary on Friday, Sept. 14, but the party continues at the restaurant as today they hand out goodie bags to the first 50 children served in the restaurant, on Thursday continue with a canned food drive for local food banks, and more through the weekend.

Owner Zach Thomas said he was excited to get to enjoy a week of fun after he spent years trying to get Chick-fil-A to locate a restaurant in Polk County, and that continuing to see that dream fulfilled daily is one of the many things he's thankful for in his life.

Most of all, he's glad local customers love the restaurant's signature chicken recipes, and keep coming back to order more.

"Thank you Polk County for an amazing first year," Thomas said. "We are so grateful to have a business in our home community where we can continue to give back for many years to come!"

After several months of construction at their Nathan Dean Parkway location, the restaurant opened in September 2017. Prior to that, Thomas and his family operated the Chick-fil-A location at MacLand Crossing in Marietta for nine years.

He said at the time before the store's opening he'd tried to bring Chick-fil-A to Cedartown in his original application with the company headquartered in Atlanta, and settled on Rockmart as a new home for his franchise after giving up the Marietta location.

Along with the restaurant, Thomas and his family also run the Leader Farm, which develops the talents of promising young managers in his organization through a program developed to help not only become better team members, but potential future business owners for each participant.

The restaurant locally under Thomas' leadership participates in a lot of community activities, including the Chick-fil-A Leader Academy at both Cedartown and Rockmart High Schools, providing donations to community organizations through spirit nights, handed out scholarships to their own team members and even brought Camp Winshape to Polk County. Those are just a few examples among a lot of other programs that Thomas is involved in as well.

Thomas has also been involved in LEAD Polk and in conjunction with the Polk County Chamber of Commerce, provides Behind the Scenes tours of how Chick-fil-A operations work and how those ideas can apply to other businesses.

Thomas is a 1999 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Thomas is a former U.S. Army officer who served in the 101st Airborne and U.S. Army Rangers, and also was founder of Ranger Coffee Company and Soldier Cafe before he was ordained a minister and went into business as a Chick-fil-A owner.

He's also still happy about the shortened commute he now travels daily between Cedartown and Rockmart to get home to his wife Christi and their six children.

Celebrations aren't quite done just yet for Chick-fil-A of Rockmart.

During Thursday's canned food drive, customers are asked to bring in at least three canned goods during breakfast to receive a free Chicken Biscuit, and during lunch an additional three canned good items gets customers a free Chickfil-A sandwich.

Family night is coming up this Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. for those

who aren't heading to football games this week. The restaurant will have face painting, arts and crafts and sack races during the evening event.

The celebration wraps up on Saturday from 3 to 4 p.m. when customers can come in and spin the Chick-fil-A wheel for a chance to win "great prizes" according to information provided by Chick-fil-A of Rockmart.

All of the events are only valid for Polk County's Chick-fil-A as local events to celebrate their first birthday.

On Monday, Thomas handed out a copy of his book "Leader Farming" to the first 25 guests in the restaurant, and followed that up by giving out free cookies on Tuesday evening from 5 to 7 p.m.


AREA CALENDAR OF EVENTS

Mark those calendars now on Sept. 29 for the upcoming Outreach Tabernacle's night of southern gospel at the church at 1351 Co. Road 31 in Muscadine, Ala. They'll be hosting The Masters Touch from Valley, Ala., and Chattanooga's His Call and The Yarbroughs from Bremen. Outreach Tabernacle's church choir will also perform under the direction of GW Cash. The night of song starts at 5:30 p.m. Central.

Get ready for another rocking night at the Cedartown Performing Arts Center as Polk County welcomes WILKES to the stage with several special guests on Saturday, Oct. 27. Doors will open for the show at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are on sale now and start at $15. WILKES will be joined by Kaleb Lee, Pryor Baird and Garrison Ray for the event. Call the box office at 770-748-4168 to reserve tickets now, or go online to cedartownshows.com.

Outreach Tabernacle on Muscadine, Ala., located at 1351 County Road 31, is holding their revival services on Saturday, Sept. 22 and Sunday, Sept. 23 with guest evangelist Rev. Robert Paul Lamb and Debbie Lamb preaching the gospel. Services get underway on Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. central, and 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 23. For more information contact Pastor Rouzelle Sanders at 770-712-1032.

Get ready for the annual Riverwalk Festival in Rockmart along the Euharlee coming up on Saturday, Oct. 20 in Rockmart's Seaborn Jones Park. Vendor registration is underway now, and those interested in taking part can visit rockmart-ga.gov for more information, or call 770-684-2706 to talk to special events coordinator Jeff Holstein. Admission to the festival is free for the general public.

October is Clergy Appreciation Month, and a celebration is planned for a Clergy Connection Breakfast hosted by Polk Medical Center on Thursday, Oct. 4 at 7:30 a.m. Guest speaker for the event is Judge Mark Murphy. Mark those calendars and share with clergy contact and plan to join for the morning event. The event is being sponsored jointly by Polk Medical Center and the Polk County Chamber of Commerce. For more information, contact director@polkgeorgia.com.

Learn more about diabetes and how to eat healthy with the disease in an upcoming class being held on Thursday, Oct. 4 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Nathan Dean Community Center in Rockmart (604 Goodyear Ave.) The event being held by the Polk County Extension Office includes a lot of useful information about the disease, risk factors and healthy habits. Pre-registration is required by Sept. 27. Those who attend are entered into a drawing for a FitBit. Contact 770-749-2142 or e-mail uge2233@uga.edu to take part.

Cedartown's 41st annual Fall Festival is coming up on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and applications are now open for vendors to sign up and take part. Arts and Crafts vendors are $40, food vendors $50, and booths for information only are $25. Children's activities are $75. Additional fees are required for power and drinks. Find forms on downtowncedartown.com to fill out and return to the Downtown Cedartown Association as soon as possible to be a vendor. Patrons can enjoy the parade, festival and more free of charge. Call or e-mail Ramona Ruark, Main Street Director at 770-748-2090, or e-mail her at rruark@downtowncedartown.com.

Cedar Christian School is accepting students for enrollment for the start of classes this fall. Those interested in Christ-focused education for their youth can contact them at 678-901-3500, e-mail CCS@sda1844.org, or visit the Cedar Christian School Facebook page. The school located at 625 West Ave., Cedartown.

Do you have interest in studying the Bible and prophecies within? Contact Dr. Idel Suarez about a new study group being formed locally for serious scholars of the text. Contact him at 813-310-9350 for more information about how to participate and future meetings.

Rivers Alive is coming up this month, and officials are asking volunteers to mark their calendars now. Come take part in the annual cleanup of local streams and waterways in Rockmart on Sept. 22, with more details to come soon. Contact Randy Cook for more information at rcook@cedartowngeorgia.gov or call 678-246-1083.

Join the Cedartown-Polk County Humane Society for their annual Spayghetti Dinner, this year being hosted by the First Presbyterian Church of Cedartown on Saturday, Oct. 20 from 4 to 8 p.m. It's a dine-in or take-out meal, and a 50-50 raffle is also being held. $10 per person. Call Charlotte Harrison at 706-252-4412 for more information.

The Harrell-Weaver Reunion is coming up in October, and family members are invited to come take part in the annual gathering. Relatives are asked to come to Fairview Baptist Church in Rockmart on Saturday, Oct. 13 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Bring food enough to feed immediate family members, and additional to share. E-mail Sheila.stanczak@spsx.com for more information.

Get tickets now for the upcoming Farm to Table on Marble, set for Oct. 6. The dinner will take place in downtown Rockmart in the outdoors, with tickets starting at $60 for individuals or $225 for a whole table of six, stretching 200 feet in total. The meal will feature locally grown products, and will start at 6 p.m. Purchase tickets now by contacting Shonna Kirkpatrick at shonnakirkpatrick@gmail.com, Dan Bevels at dbevels@floyd.org, or to take part as a sponsor by emailing director@polkgeorgia.com.

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.

The Polk County Democratic Committee meets on the second Saturday of every month at 9:30 a.m. During even numbered months the group meet at The Rockmart Library at 316 N. Piedmont Ave., Rockmart, and during odd numbered months the party meet at the Cedartown Welcome Center, 609 Main St., Cedartown. All are welcome to take part! Check out more information at the Polk County Democratic Committee at facebook.com/Polk-County-Democratic-Committee-GA -850067035038585/.

Aragon First United Methodist Church offers a food pantry for the community to use if they need assistance. They are open Mondays from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and Tuesday mornings from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. A picture ID is required to participate. Call 770-684-4855 for more information.

Rockmart First United Methodist Church invites the community to come out and join in worship on Sundays and Wednesdays at the church located at 135 W. Church St. Sunday morning worship begins with Bible study at 9:45 a.m., followed by Sunday school at 10 a.m. for all ages, and an 11 a.m. worship service. Wednesday night includes at 5 p.m. community meal on the last Wednesday of every month, 6 p.m. Bible study and choir practice at 7 p.m. Weekly children's events at the church include a 5:45 p.m. children and youth meal, 6:15 Children's music and MYF, followed by L.I.F.E. at 6:54 p.m. All are invited to join in. Call Rev. Martha Dye at 770-684-6251or e-mail marthadye@ngumc.net for more information or questions. The church also updates weekly on their website at rockmartumc.org.

The next West Georgia Spay/Neuter Clinic is coming to the Cedartown-Polk County Humane Society again this Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. 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. Transports won't be scheduled again until Oct. 3 and Oct. 24

Members are invited to join the Cedartown Exchange Club weekly on Thursdays at 6 p.m. at the Cherokee Country Club for meetings and dinner. New members from across Polk County are encouraged to get involved by contacting club president-elect Edward Guzman at 770-546-2482 to take part in the organization that is involved in a wide range of community projects. Visit their website at cedartownexchangeclub.com to learn more. Annual dues are required to be a member.

Just Us Ministries Inc. Food Bank has distribution every Tuesday and Thursday at 904 Young Farms Road in Cedartown. On Tuesday the distribution is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. A picture ID is required. For more information call 770-687-1009 or 678-901-3354, e-mail justusmin.org@gmail.com, or visit Justusministries.com.

Harmony Baptist Church, 882 Little Harmony Rd, Cedartown (Esom Hill area) invites everyone to attend their weekly Sunday morning Services. First Sunday morning service begins at 9:45 a.m. with Sunday School followed by worship service at 11 a.m.. Our doors are open to all and we are looking forward to seeing you. For more information visit our Facebook page, Harmony Baptist church, Cedartown.

The Rotary Club of Polk County meets weekly at the Richardson Field Depot in Rockmart for lunch at noon every Tuesday and are encouraging members and potential new members to take part. Contact Missy Kendrick with the Rotary Club at 770-584-5234 for more on how to participate or become a member. Annual dues are required to be a member.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Cedartown, hosts a genealogy group that meets from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday nights, except holidays. There are no fees for these sessions and they are open to anyone. Please bring all of your basic family history (if you have it) such as names, birth-dates/death dates of parents, grandparents, children, etc. Bring your laptop or tablet, if you have one. If not, we can still help. Questions? Contact us at 678-477-2861 and leave a message or visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/FamilyQuest42/

The Sit and Stitch is back to sewing at Rockmart First United Methodist Church in the fellowship hall. The group will meet the first and third Monday's of each month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Participants can bring any craft they choose or help with a ministry project this year. The group is making crochet or knitted caps for donation to Helping Hands. A pattern will be provided and the group has crafters who can help those in need of instruction. Bring a sack lunch. Coffee or tea provided. Any questions please call Madeline Brown 678-435-5032.

The Kiwanis Club of Cedartown encourages members to take part in weekly meetings on Fridays at noon at the Cherokee County Club. Potential new members are asked to get in touch with Rhonda Heuer, Club Secretary at 770-748-1016 to learn more about how you can take part in making the community a better place. Annual dues are required for membership. Visit kiwanis.org to learn about the club.

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

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints provides opportunities to local residents interested in hearing the message of Jesus Christ. For more information about how you can speak to local Elders, contact 687-852-7497, or visit their meeting house at 10005 N. Main St., Cedartown for worship services at 10 a.m. on Sundays.

The Ferst Readers 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.

Shiloh Baptist Church would like to invite the community to come participate in worship services weekly at their sanctuary at 433 Shiloh Road. Join the church for Sunday school at 10 a.m., followed by 11 a.m. service or Wednesday nights at 6 p.m. Call Pastor Jamie Newsome for more information at 404-425-8510.

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 with free civil legal services to low-income persons. This will include all cases related to housing, employment, education, domestic violence, consumer fraud, wills, healthcare and other issues involved in the legal complications of everyday life. Call 404-206-5175 for more information.

The Cedartown Optimist Club meets on Thursday mornings at 7:30 a.m. for their weekly breakfast meeting and encourages members to join in and take part at the Goodyear Civic Center on Prior Street in Cedartown. Those interested in joining the Optimist Club and help local youth organizations can contact Ronnie Dingler by e-mail at nmvideo@bellsouth.net.