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City amends public consumption ordinance, renews alcohol licenses

In a light agenda at this week’s Calhoun City Council meeting, alcohol consumption and licensing took center stage.

Following a public hearing that drew no speakers, the council unanimously made minor changes to the city’s ordinance concerning public consumption of alcohol.

“Just a small change to our existing alcohol ordinance,” City Administrator Paul Worley said. “Just a clarification that attorney [George] Govignon helped us with when it comes to consumption of alcohol outdoors.”

The code in question specifically pertained to alcohol sold in the city limits at special events outdoors in public. According to the city, the changes being made simply articulate the language within the current ordinance without changing the intent.

“This ordinance clarifies that anyone who goes through the proper permitting is permitted to dispense in designated areas, and would have to dispense in a designated container,” Worley said. “That just provides some clarification.”

Also approved by the council were a host of alcohol license renewals. Those included a beer pouring license for World of Wings; beer and wine pouring licenses for Cracker Barrel, El Sol Restaurant and Gondolier’s Pizza; a Beer, win and liquor pouring license for El Nopal; beer and win package licenses for A Knight Hi Tech, Kroger, and both Calhoun Walgreens locations; and beer package licenses for El Sol Hispanic Grocery, Food Mart & Tobacco, and Calhoun Food & Tobacco.

Council members also unanimously approved new alcohol sales management at both Walgreens locations, as well as a pawn manager change at National Title Pawn of Calhoun LLC, 117 W. Belmont Drive.

In other business, the council approved a resolution agreeing to be bound by a memorandum of understanding between the State of Georgia and the city pertaining to current opiate litigation.

All votes on the evening were unanimously passed 3-0 with Councilman Ray Denmon absent.

In his administrator’s report, Worley told the council that through the end of October, the city’s general fund reported just over $3.2 million, up from $2.4 million in September. Meanwhile, the city’s revolving loan fund sits at around $340,000.

The city’s Hotel/Motel Tax reported $73,697 for August, a “significant drop” from a record reporting of $109,000 in July. The total was still far better than the COVID quarantine period amount of $43,000 in August of 2020.

Utilities administrator Larry Vickery reported $4,198,250 in checking and investments and savings of $1,898,094 — totaling $6,096,344.

The next meeting of the council is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 13, at 7 p.m. All meetings are open to the public.

Rep. Greene's GOP challengers reaching out to voters

Two Republicans challenging U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in the upcoming primary are making it clear they’ll take a more measured approach to win votes.

“I’m a Christian, a mother, a small business owner, and a no-nonsense conservative who believes Congress needs more people who are interested in serving and fewer people who are trying to become a celebrity,” said Jennifer Strahan, who entered the race in September.

Dr. Charles Lutin filed in October.

“We the Republicans in the U.S. need to make statements that are believable if we wish to be believed, and we need to present candidates who are presentable if we wish to be elected,” he said.

While Greene has a hardcore base of supporters — and nearly won her 9-person primary without a runoff in 2020 — the Northwest Georgia district that elected the controversial Rome Republican is changing. A new voting district map will be in effect for the 2022 elections.

Under Georgia’s new congressional district map, the 14th district remains a Republican stronghold — but the addition of more than 70,000 voters in heavily Democratic Cobb County areas is expected to take it down a notch.

The primary elections, set for May 24, 2022, will provide the first indications of what type of candidates can prevail.

Qualifying runs from March 7-11, so there’s still time for other candidates who may be weighing the odds to sign up. But battle lines are already being drawn in the contests that will determine each party’s November nominee.

Georgia has an open primary system so voters in May will be able to select either the Democratic or Republican ballot. There are four Democrats campaigning for their party’s nod so far, and that contest will be covered in a separate report.

Meanwhile, Republicans Strahan, Lutin and a third challenger, Mark Clay of Rome, are positioning themselves to take on Greene this spring.

Clay has been low key in his outreach since filing to run in May and has yet to set up an online presence. His latest campaign finance report through Sept. 30 showed just $6,000 in seed money and no contributions after May 18.

Lutin will be filing his first campaign finance report in January, although he said in late October he had raised close to $10,000. His website, LutinForCongress.org, will be hosting his first Virtual Town Hall Meeting from 7-9 p.m. on Tuesday.

The Decatur-based emergency physician and family practitioner, who retired in 2019, has been sending out weekly newsletters detailing his travels through the district. Lutin’s missives focus on getting to know people, one-on-one, and his disdain for Greene and former president Donald Trump.

He’s running, he said in a statement sent to the Rome News-Tribune, “because American Democracy is on life support, and because people like our current representative, Marjorie Taylor Greene caused this mess. ... Whenever the US and the MAGA Republicans eventually wake up from this MAGA fueled bender, it is going to be a helluva hangover.”

Lutin is a U.S. Air Force veteran and private pilot. He’s calling for term limits for Congress, a reorganization of the Veterans Administration and a secure border combined with immigration reform. Education, law enforcement and Second Amendment rights and responsibilities round out his signature issyes.

Strahan, CEO of the healthcare consulting firm J. Osley & Co., aims her criticism for the most part at “Democrats in Washington – led by Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi – (who) are infringing on our constitutional liberties, jeopardizing our national security, and threatening our jobs.”

But she also targets Greene as ineffective and unnecessarily strident.

When the congresswoman attacked as “traitors” the 13 Republican House members who voted for the infrastructure bill, Strahan pushed back on her Facebook page, @StrahanForCongress.

“Now is NOT the time to tear our own party apart with frivolous in-fighting,” she wrote on a post saying she disagreed with their vote but agreed with Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Tex., who argued against punishing them.

The Paulding County entrepreneur has been showing up around the district, most recently marching in Dalton’s Veterans Day parade. She also attended a Students For Life of America anti-abortion bus tour stop at the state capitol last week and is keeping a focus on her conservative credentials.

“Like many parents, I don’t want my 5-year-old son to learn Critical Race Theory in a school system that is politicized and focused on educational bureaucracy, rather than the needs of our kids,” she wrote in a statement to the RN-T. “To fight and win on these issues, we’re going to need a congresswoman who is serious about getting the job done.”

COVID Update: Cases remain low going into Thanksgiving

As families in Gordon County and across Georgia prepare to gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, COVID-19 cases remain steady.

This past week, Gordon County saw 33 new cases and two deaths. Across Georgia, 5,358 new cases and 229 deaths were reported.

Case counts are higher this week than the previous two weeks, but are still promising compared to counts earlier in the year.

Countrywide, cases are much lower this Thanksgiving than the previous year, when a winter surge of cases was underway. National ensemble forecasts from the CDC appear to predict steady case counts through Dec. 11.

As of Nov. 19, Gordon County Schools reported five cases in students and two cases in staff. Calhoun City Schools reported six cases in students and no cases in staff.

These numbers are a decrease from the previous week’s case counts, and overall counts in both systems remain in single digits as they move into Thanksgiving break.

As part of continued efforts to keep slowing the spread of COVID-19, the CDC has announced that it will be expanding eligibility for all COVID-19 vaccine boosters.

“After critical scientific evaluation, today’s unanimous decision carefully considered the current state of the pandemic, the latest vaccine effectiveness data over time, and review of safety data from people who have already received a COVID-19 primary vaccine series and booster,” said CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H. “Booster shots have demonstrated the ability to safely increase people’s protection against infection and severe outcomes and are an important public health tool to strengthen our defenses against the virus as we enter the winter holidays. Based on the compelling evidence, all adults over 18 should now have equitable access to a COVID-19 booster dose.”

The CDC encourages older Americans and those with underlying medical conditions in particular to get their vaccines before the holidays. They also report that approximately 47 million adults have not been vaccinated, and continue to encourage those individuals to get vaccinated.

Around 69% of the US population has had at least one dose of the vaccine, while 59% are fully vaccinated. Georgia sits at 57% and 51%, respectively, while Gordon County is at 41% with at least one dose and 37% fully vaccinated, well below both state and national averages.

The Georgia DPH recommends planning ahead and taking steps to minimize risk of transmitting both COVID-19 and the flu this holiday season.

The best protection against COVID and the flu is vaccination, and the vaccines can be administered at the same time. People are considered fully vaccinated for COVID two weeks after their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, or two weeks after the single-dose J&J COVID-19 vaccine. Likewise, it takes about two weeks after getting a flu vaccine for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body.

For young children who aren’t yet eligible for the COVID vaccine, reduce the risk of exposure by making sure the people around them are vaccinated.

♦ Wear well-fitting masks over your nose and mouth if you are in public indoor settings if you are not fully vaccinated. People who are fully vaccinated should wear a mask in public indoor settings in communities with substantial to high transmission.

♦ Outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities.

♦ Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.

♦ Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.

♦ If you are sick or have symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu, don’t host or attend a gathering.

♦ Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have a close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

♦ If you are not fully vaccinated for COVID and must travel, follow the CDC’s recommendations.

♦ Everyone, even people who are fully vaccinated for COVID, is required to wear a mask on public transportation and follow international travel recommendations.

“Holiday traditions are important for families and children,” said GDPH in a news release. “By working together, we can enjoy safer holidays, travel, and protect our own health as well as the health of our family and friends.”

As with the vaccine mandate for federal contractors and the OSHA vaccine mandate, Governor Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr have filed suit against the Biden Administration for its vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.

“After healthcare heroes went above and beyond the call of duty to keep Americans safe and healthy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Joe Biden is now threatening their livelihood if they refuse COVID-19 vaccination,” said Governor Kemp. “Yet another unlawful mandate from this administration will only worsen worker shortages in a critical-need area as we continue to balance the everyday healthcare needs of hardworking Georgians and fighting COVID-19. We will continue to fight this repeated, unconstitutional overreach by Joe Biden and his administration in court.”

On Oct. 29, Kemp and Carr filed a suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia (Augusta Division) against the vaccine mandate for federal contractors, with a hearing regarding a preliminary injunction due on Dec. 7. On Nov. 5, Kemp and Carr filed against the more overarching vaccine mandate for companies with 100 or more employees.

“President Biden’s reckless ‘one-size-fits-most’ approach to governing continues to create immense disruption and uncertainty for Georgia businesses and employees,” said Attorney General Carr. “With this latest unconstitutional mandate, the Biden administration is targeting a health care community that is already reeling from the impacts of a global health pandemic. Georgia health care providers, particularly those located in our rural areas, cannot afford to lose workers or lessen care services due to the unlawful actions of the federal government. We will continue to stand up for the rule of law and defend against this blanket mandate as we work to protect the citizens of this state.”

The Biden Administration’s mandates cover approximately two-thirds of the American workforce or around 84 million people, including 17 million healthcare workers. Georgia joins Louisiana, Montana, Arizona, Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia in the lawsuit against the mandate.

To schedule a COVID-19 vaccine or booster appointment, log on to dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine or call 888-457-0186 for the Health Department Vaccine Scheduling Resource Line. The Gordon County Health Department, 310 N. River Street, Calhoun, is now offering flu shots on a walk-in basis.

Anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or those who have been in close contact with an individual with COVID-19, should be tested regardless of vaccination status. At DPH/Mako Medical test sites, testing is free of charge.

To find a COVID-19 test site, log on to dph.georgia.gov/covidtesting.