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Elections office gearing up for more than normal municipal elections

A week-long process recently kept Brande Coggins and her elections coordinator in the county’s storage area every day surrounded by touchpads, ballot scanners and computers.

Logic and accuracy testing is done by each county elections office in the state prior to each year’s first election. It’s a time-consuming process, especially when small counties like Polk end up testing all of its equipment.

The Polk County elections director was hoping to see her first election in the role be a subdued and simple one. Instead, her office has been in high gear for November’s general municipal election that has gone from involving just three precincts to all seven and includes a number of special referendums on which voters will decide.

Early voting for the Nov. 2 Polk County election starts Tuesday, Oct. 12 during the week through Oct. 29 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at both the Polk County Administration Annex in Cedartown and the Rockmart Community Center.

Saturday voting will be available at the Polk County Administration Annex on Oct. 16 and Oct. 23 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday voting will only be available at the Rockmart Community Center on Oct. 23 because of a scheduling conflict. It will also be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Coggins started with the Polk County Elections Office in September 2019 as elections coordinator working under then director LeeAnn George. When George stepped down in June for personal reasons, Coggins was named interim director before taking the role fully in late July.

A previous plan was for the county’s board of elections and elections office to use the normally low-turnout municipal elections this year to reorganize and restructure how they did things following the 2020 election cycle.

“It was a chaotic time, and we wanted to take the opportunity to really reflect on how we can make this even better for our voters,” Coggins said. “As important as the municipal elections are, we also realized that it’s a lower volume. So we were taking advantage of having a kind of practice run, if you will, before 2022.”

When the Polk School District Board of Education decided to move forward with a referendum to continue the current education special purpose, local option sales tax collection, Coggins worked with the school system to expand the original three-precinct election into a county-wide one.

That resulted in any new initiatives being put on hold until after this election.

“We’re going to seven precincts, and you’re talking about a lot more employees that you have to recruit for election day,” Coggins said. “So, we are at a point now where we’re almost done testing. We’ve got our plans in order for election day. So now we can shift focus and go back to planning for 2022.”

Coggins said the state of elections in Georgia is evolving, with everything from equipment, staffing and regulations being re-examined on a yearly basis and changes being made to each. She hired Ansley Bray as her elections coordinator and the office’s only other full-time employee.

Among the more public changes to this year’s election is the sweeping elections reform bill SB 202 that was approved in the General Assembly earlier this year and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp.

Coggins said her office has worked to make sure it is in compliance with all of the provisions in the bill, including having the county’s only absentee ballot dropbox located inside the county annex building on West Avenue and under 24-hour surveillance.

“It is a very lengthy bill, and it does affect us more so for payroll requirements and timelines. Everything else is more at the state level, but it is a very interesting read because it does continue to push this evolution of elections,” Coggins said.

Cedartown High School plans to celebrate its 2021 Homecoming this week with the homecoming queen announced during halftime of the Bulldogs’ Region 7-4A football game against Ridgeland on Friday at Cedartown Memorial Stadium. Senior representatives on the 2021 CHS homecoming court are Graci McElwee (clockwise, from top left), Emma Tuck, Barrett Pirkle, Alyssa Griffin, Rossy Cruz and Gracee Privett. A parade is scheduled for downtown Cedartown on Thursday at 6 p.m.

Sheriff's Office officially dedicates training center to Kristen Hearne

Floyd County sheriff’s deputies and Polk County police officers gathered outside the Kristen Hearne Memorial Training Center on Friday to officially dedicate it and pay respects to the fallen officer.

In September of 2017, Hearne was shot in the line of duty while assisting a patrol officer investigating a suspicious vehicle. The man accused of killing her is still awaiting trial in Polk County.

Hearne was in law enforcement for nine years and worked at the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office for a number of years before transferring to the Polk County Police Department to first serve as a patrol officer in 2012 and later become a detective in 2013.

“She worked all of her cases diligently, provided the DA’s office with good prosecutable cases and was always willing to help with any situation, even though she was a detective,” master of ceremonies Doug Walker said. “She would often commit to help cover off days on short patrol shifts. She was also one who backed up patrol officers when they received a dangerous call or would show up just to help on any or all calls, which is exactly what she was doing on the day her life was taken from her.”

Hearne’s family was unable to make it to the ceremony, but members of both law enforcement agencies, including Floyd County Sheriff Dave Roberson and Polk County Police Chief Kenny Dodd, talked about her lasting impact on themselves and her former coworkers.

“She was loved by all that knew her and made an immediate impact on us at Polk County with her smile and love for everyone,” Dodd said. “We’re so proud of her and the legacy she has left.”

While the training center has been open for over a year, they hadn’t done an official dedication ceremony, according to Roberson.

“Anybody who knew Kristen knew she had a big personality... we’re truly grateful to have known her and worked with her. Her name will go on forever as a reminder of who she was but also remind law enforcement officers of the risk they take each and everyday,” he said.

The ceremony also recognized those included on the Wall of Honor inside the new training center, which includes pictures of former sheriffs Tim Burkhalter and Joe Adams, Chaplain David Thornton, Sgt. Catherine Greene and Lt. Cecil Stewart.

Fatal wreck on Ga. 101 in Silver Creek kills Rockmart man

A Rockmart man was killed and four others injured in a head on collision Thursday morning near the intersection of Ga. 101 and Wax Road.

According to Floyd County Police Capt. Ron Hunton:

It appears the wreck was caused by a Chevy Avalanche crossing over the middle lane and striking a Jeep Patriot driven by 39-year-old Jocsan Abernathy of Rockmart. The Avalanche then spun and was struck in the rear end by another vehicle.

Floyd County Coroner Gene Proctor said Abernathy, 39, was pronounced dead at 8:25 a.m.

As of Thursday, a total of 22 people have died in fatal car crashes in Floyd County, six of which happened inside the Rome city limits.

“Floyd County has seen a significant rise in our crash numbers. This year we’re well ahead of our 2019 numbers when we were 13th in the state,” FCPD Sgt. Chris Fincher said.

The increase in fatal wrecks in Floyd County is being mirrored statewide, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Division Director Roger Hayes said in an earlier interview.

“In the state of Georgia we’ve had (more than) 950 fatalities,” Hayes said. “That is a 16% increase just over last year.”

Referring to the increase in wrecks as the “pandemic after the pandemic,” Hayes spoke with Fincher as part of a public service podcast produced by the police department.

Standard Journal Area Calendar of Events from the Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021 edition

The Cook Farm will host a horse show and trunk or treat event Oct. 16 beginning at 9:30 a.m. at Crazy P Arena, 1021 Antioch Road in Cedartown. There will be free admission, a costume contest, treats and prizes. For more information call Nora Cook at 678-988-1701.

The City of Cedartown is inviting civic clubs, community groups, churches and businesses to participate in the BOO! Bash at Bert Wood. This free, family-friendly event is scheduled for Oct. 16 from 4-7 p.m. at Bert Wood Park in Cedartown. For more information contact Aimee Madden at AMadden@CedartownGeorgia.gov.

An exhibit is on display at the Rockmart Cultural Arts Center, located at 316 N. Piedmont Ave. Ginger L. Lowry’s “Art of the Horse” exhibit will be on view through Oct. 21 in the RCAC Gallery. Susan D. Waters’ “O Holy Night” life-size nativity made out of wire and papier mache is scheduled for Nov. 4 through Dec. 23. Church or civic groups are welcomed to sign up to visit this exhibit. For more information visit rockmart-ga.gov/RockmartCulturalArtsCenter.aspx or call 770-684-2707.

Polk County Historical Society cemetery tours are back with a new tour of Cedartown’s Greenwood Cemetery. Tours are available each Friday in September and October at 6 p.m. Those interested can email polkgahistory@gmail.com with a group size, date and phone number. Cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children 5 and up.

The Saint Bernadette Knights of Columbus will host a Run for the Nuns 1-mile/5K/10K race on Oct. 30 beginning at 9 a.m. at the Kimoto Tech clubhouse in Cedartown. The race will be held on the Silver Comet Trail, and all proceeds will help support the Poor Sister of Jesus Christ to assign several sisters to Cedartown to help the community. Early registration is through 5 p.m. on Oct. 29 and is $20 per individual and $35 per family (two or more family members living in the same household). Race day registration is $25 per individual and $50 per family. For more information please contact ely.elefante@att.net or call 770-265-1932.

The City of Rockmart will present its drive-thru trick or treat event on Oct. 30 from 4-6 p.m. at Nathan Dean Park off of the Rockmart Bypass. This is a free event with visitors encouraged to dress up and decorate their vehicles. Visitors must enter from Prospect Road and remain in their vehicles.

Mosaic Place is holding a trunk or treat event Oct. 31 from 4-6 p.m. in their parking lot at 321 West Ave. in Cedartown. There will be a costume contest, pumpkin painting and lots of candy. For more information or to enter a vehicle in the trunk or treating call 678-901-1445.

Fall art classes are in session at the Rockmart Cultural Arts Center, located at 316 N. Piedmont Ave. Classes available include pottery, drawing, painting, fused glass, and weaving, as well as children’s pottery and mixed media classes. Form more information on these classes, including times and costs, visit rockmart-ga.gov/RockmartCulturalArtsCenter.aspx or call 770-684-2707.

The Polk County Historical Society and Museum is continuing to offer free story time and kids craft on the first Saturday of the month through December. Geared toward children ages 3-9, a member of the community will read a book followed by a craft. Each story time begins at 11:30 a.m. at the museum located at 117 West Ave., Cedartown.

Sons of the American Legion Post 12 in Rockmart hosts a $5 All-You-Can-Eat spaghetti and meatball supper the third Wednesday of the month from 5-7 p.m. at 1 Veterans Circle. Each meal comes with garlic bread, salad and tea, and all proceeds got to veterans’ and children’s programs.

The Northwest Georgia Center for Independent Living holds a COVID-19 Peer Support call every Monday at 2 p.m. via the Zoom website and by phone. For the link and password, or if you need assistance, contact Christina Holtzclaw at 628-246-1825 or choltzclaw@nwgacil.org.

A Cedartown Women’s Bible Seminar is scheduled for Nov. 13 at the Cedartown Performing Arts Center from noon until 4:30 p.m. There is no charge for this event and no registration is required. A free will offering will be received. For more information email ctownwbs2020@gmail.com or search “Cedartown Women’s Bible Seminar” on Facebook.

Want to get your event or announcement on the calendar? E-mail JStewart@polkstandardjournal.com.