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Local News

Cherokee County SPLOST Renewal

The decision to extend the one cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax will move to the voters this November.

During a special called meeting July 28, the Board of Commissioners approved an intergovernmental agreement with all of Cherokee’s seven cities and a resolution to call for the Nov. 8 referendum.

“The referendum on the ballot in November is a request to continue an existing one cent sales tax. With the approval, Cherokee will remain one of just four Georgia counties with a total 6 percent sales tax rate. All others have 7 percent or more,” said Chairman Harry Johnston. “Projects funded with SPLOST dollars are essential, including local road improvements, public safety equipment and facilities. Without SPLOST, those expenses would have to shift and be paid for using property tax revenues, which would equal about 5 mills to garner the same amount of revenue.”

District 3 Commissioner Benny Carter made the motion to approve the IGA, which was seconded by District 1 Commissioner Steve West. The vote was 3-0. District 2 Commissioner Richard Weatherby and District 4 Commissioner Corey Ragsdale were absent.

The Board also approved a required resolution to call for the referendum. Commissioner West made the motion to approve the resolution, which was seconded by Commissioner Carter. The vote was 3-0.

The current SPLOST will not expire until June of 2024, however, the Board of Commissioners opted to call for the referendum a year early to avoid a special election, which would be an additional cost.

The SPLOST renewal is expected to bring in a total of $438.2 million. The Courthouse Annex project will be allocated first as a Tier 1 project, estimated to cost about $74 million. The remaining $364.2 million will be divided among all jurisdictions based on 2022 population and a 5 percent growth in receipts. Cherokee County’s allotment would be $238.1 million, and the cities would divide $126.1 million for their projects.

Cherokee County Chamber Names Volunteer Of The Quarter

The Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce that Will Anderson, Field Representative with U.S. Congressman Barry Loudermilk’s Office, has been named the Chairman's Council Volunteer of the Quarter for second quarter 2022. He was honored during the Chamber's August Good Morning Cherokee networking event.

Members of the Chairman’s Council are accepted by invitation only from the Chamber's Board Chair. The Chairman’s Council members are invited to attend Ribbon Cuttings & Ground Breakings, Coffee & Connections…For New Members and special invitation Chamber meetings that aren’t open to the general membership.

In determining the Volunteer of the Quarter, attendance at Chamber events is evaluated for all members of the Chairman's Council. "Will is a dedicated Chamber volunteer, and we appreciate the time he has devoted this year," said Brian Stevens, Chamber Board Chair and CEO & Co-Owner of FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers.

For information on the Cherokee County Chamber and its programs, visit www.CherokeeChamber.com.

Legendary North Georgia Broadcaster Dies

Beloved local radio personality and Georgia Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame member Byron Lamar Dobbs of Canton died peacefully on Thursday, July 28, 2022, at the age of 86.

Known as the “Voice of Cherokee,” the Woodstock native and lifelong Cherokee County resident had a long and distinguished career of more than 65 years in radio broadcasting that began in 1957 at WCHK radio station in Canton soon after his graduation from Cherokee High School.

After spending 40 years at WCHK, 35 of those as station manager, Byron, as he was affectionately known throughout North Georgia, became a partner and owner in 1998 at WLJA radio station and Tri-State Communications in Jasper where he worked until 2021.

“Byron loved the radio business and he loved teaching other people about the industry. I will be forever grateful to him for being my mentor, my friend, and my business partner over the past 25 years. He, his voice, and his wisdom will be missed dearly,” Tri-State Communications President and CEO Randy Gravley said.

Byron is fondly remembered by the community as the voice on the radio that kept listeners informed of the latest news, election coverage, deaths, and other important events of the day. He was also beloved as the announcer for local high school sports.

“I clearly remember the first time I heard Byron Dobbs on the radio. It was 1964, I was 12 years old, and my family was new to Canton. I was camping out behind my house with a new friend who had brought a transistor radio. Byron’s strong and distinctive voice made an immediate impression on me, as it did on everyone who heard it. I enjoyed hearing it for 58 years,” Cherokee County Commission Chair Harry Johnston said. Johnston also praised Dobb’s commitment to the community and love of Cherokee County.

“I was also honored to get to know Byron personally. He was an important community leader, through his radio work and his huge network of relationships. But his greatest legacy is that he was the finest example of a true gentleman I’ve ever known. I’ll never live up to his model, but I’ll always aspire to it,” Johnston said.

In 2017, Dobbs was awarded the prestigious First Citizen by the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce for his unselfish and devoted lifetime of service to Cherokee County and its residents. He also received the Lamar Haley Community Service Award from the Rotary Club of Canton that year.

“Byron Dobbs was more than a voice on a radio dial. He was a friend to many, even the people he never met who dubbed him their trusted newsman and would recognize his voice to this day. He was a historian who reported on stories over 65 years in radio that brought smiles to listeners’ faces while others evoked tears,” Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce President Pam Carnes said. “It goes without saying that Cherokee County is quite different than when Byron’s career began, yet our community will never again be the same as the man behind the microphone has signed off for the last time.”

Byron was inducted into the Cherokee County Sports Hall of Fame in 2018 and was its first member from the contributor category for his work broadcasting local high school sports on the radio.

On the state level, he received numerous awards and recognitions including Georgia Association of Broadcasters’ Broadcaster of the Year, and a member of the Georgia Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Long-time friend and Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston remembered Dobbs fondly. “I have had the great pleasure of knowing and having the friendship of Byron Dobbs for some 60 years. Byron spread cheer wherever he went. He enjoyed his friends, he loved being a radio guy and he loved the Cherokee County community like no one else. There will never be another like him, but I count it as a blessing that he was part of my life and that of so many others.” Ralston said..

In his illustrious career, Byron achieved many accomplishments, including being a main contributor and subject of the book, “The Glory Days of WCHK”, and a partner in Tri-State Communications Inc., Exponent Broadcasting, and Dobbs and Cline Consulting. He interviewed elected officials including President Jimmy Carter and celebrities such as NASCAR driver Bill Elliott, performers Kenny Rogers, Conway Twitty and Minnie Pearl and was the first to chart country artist Travis Tritt.

Active in the community, Byron was a member of the Board of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, member of the Cherokee County Historical Society, Sequoyah Regional Library Board, Emeritus Director of the Cherokee Sports Hall of Fame, honorary member of Ellijay Rotary Club, A-Day for Reinhardt University Committee, Cherokee Clean & Beautiful Commission, and organizer of the Easter Community Sunrise Service at Cherokee Memorial Park. Dobbs also served in the Georgia National Guard.

Dobbs was honored with the Daughters of the American Revolution Excellence in Community Service Award, with a Cherokee County proclamation for Byron Dobbs Day, Byron Dobbs Day in the City of Canton, Georgia House of Representatives Resolution for Distinguished Career, Georgia Senate Bill commending his Community Leadership, and the Georgia State School Board’s Beacon Award.

 Dobbs is survived by several nieces and nephews.  

Sosebee Funeral Home of Canton is in charge of the funeral arrangements. Visitation will be held Friday, July 29th from 4-8 P.M. and Saturday, July 30th from 2-7 P.M. The funeral service will be held Sunday July 31st at 3 P.M. at the Sosebee Funeral Home Chapel. 

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Cherokee County Historical Society at historycherokee.org/donate or mailed to History Cherokee, P.O. Box 1287, Canton, GA 30169.

Cherokee's Public Services Agency to Host Food Drive for Local Food Pantries

The Cherokee County Public Services Agency is hosting a food drive next month to collect goods for three local food pantries.

The Public Services Agency is made up of E 9-1-1, Emergency Management, Animal Shelter, Marshal’s Office, Probation and Radio Technology.

“I’m so proud of the Public Services Agency team and their foresight to join together to collect food for families in our community. E 9-1-1 Director Shane Bonebrake wanted to join department forces within our agency and do something great for our community,” said Director Dana Martin. “We hope the community will come together and help restock food pantries in Cherokee County.”

The food drive will take place Saturday, Aug. 13, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 150 Chattin Drive, Canton. Drop-off locations open during normal business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., from now until Aug. 12 are front lobby of E 9-1-1, 150 Chattin Drive, Canton; Cherokee County Administration Building, 1130 Bluffs Parkway, Canton; Animal Shelter, 1015 Univeter Road, Canton; and the Marshal’s Office front lobby, 959 Marietta Highway.

Donations sought include:

· Broths (chicken, beef and vegetable)

· Instant oatmeal (plain and flavored packets)

· Ranch dressing

· Canned pasta (ravioli, Spaghetti-Os)

· Tomato sauce and diced tomatoes

· Canned greens (spinach, collard, etc.)

· Baked beans

· Canned black-eyed peas, Great Northern Beans, Refried beans

· Canned fruit

· Apple sauce

· Rice side dishes

· Boxed potato dishes/canned potatoes

· Ramen noodles

· Gluten free foods

· Pop-Tarts

· Spaghetti sauce in cans

· Snacked-sized chips

· Jelly in plastic containers

· Juice boxes

· Cereal

· $10 gas gift cards

· Mustard

· Juice

· Feminine hygiene products

· Bladder control pads

· 4T-5T pull ups

· Diapers (sizes 5-7)

Food pantries need donations that are in plastic, boxed or canned to prevent breaking. When choosing boxed meals, select items that do not require the use of too many additional products like milk or butter.

Portion of Union Hill Road to Close for Bridge Replacement

Union Hill Road between Hasty Trail and Spearman Lane will be closed to through traffic beginning July 26 for the replacement of the bridge over Canton Creek.

The closure is expected to end in late January 2023, pending weather delays. A detour utilizing Ga. 20 and East Cherokee Drive will be posted for the duration of construction.

With school beginning Aug. 1, Cherokee County has been in contact with the transportation department for the Cherokee County School District to address any bus routes affected accordingly.

“We do our best to do road projects in a way that’s as least invasive as possible, however, that is not always feasible due to many factors including the length of time a project takes,” said Community Development Agency Director Brantley Day. “Many paving projects that take a couple of weeks per road are typically done in the summertime to avoid interference with school transportation, but bridge projects are much more involved. We ask for your patience as we provide a much safer bridge over Canton Creek.”

The county has taken an aggressive approach to replacing bridges identified as substandard. While bridges have a long lifespan, some of the older bridges in the county can be dangerous.

“The logistics of preparing to replace a bridge is years in the making and a daunting endeavor – securing the funding, designing the project, acquisition of property (right-of-way), relocating utilities, environmental factors, developing safe detour routes, procuring a qualified vendor, and completing pre-construction coordination,” Day said. “Once we can greenlight a bridge replacement project, we must move forward as quickly as possible without delay.”

Two bridges on Union Hill Road were identified as needing to be replaced, and engineering was completed in 2018 for the bridges over Mill Creek near Marvin Land Lane and over Canton Creek near Hasty Trail. Completing two bridge replacements on Union Hill Road at once was not feasible due to the road closures involved. The bridge over Mill Creek was constructed in 2020.

Right-of-way acquisition for the Canton Creek bridge began two years ago, with the last acquisition occurring earlier this year. While construction will begin at the end of July, county staff has been working in-house and with contractors on design, utility relocation and site preparation in the meantime with the project now getting the greenlight for construction. A delay to begin construction until July was due to restrictions related to the presence of the Cherokee darter fish. No construction can take place between March 1 and June 30 annually where the protected species is present.

The $1.6 million construction project, utilizing Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds, was awarded to Georgia Bridge and Concrete LLC by the Board of Commissioners in April. The bridge replacement includes an upgraded and more modern bridge structure with 12-foot travel lanes and 8-foot shoulders.

Residents with questions about the detour should contact Cherokee County Roadway Capital Program office at 678-493-6077.

Cherokee County Board of Commissioners July Meeting Highlights

The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners approved the 2022 Annual Action Plan for nearly $2 million in federal funds for the local Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.

District 3 Commissioner Benny Carter made the motion to approve, which was seconded by District 1 Commissioner Steve West. The vote was 4-0. District 4 Commissioner Corey Ragsdale participated during the work session and public hearing and planning and zoning portions of the meeting telephonically due to illness.

Cherokee County was awarded $1.176 million in CDBG program grant funds and $531,600 in Home Investment Partnership Program (HOME) funds, and the approved action plan identifies specific projects seeking funding. The CDBG program allows funding for nonprofits and public facilities to better serve the community.

While the CDBG funding is an annual allotment to be distributed in the community, this is the first time Cherokee County has been awarded HOME program funds.

Community Services Agency Director Bryan Reynolds said historically, the county has not been able to qualify for the program, but Cherokee County now qualifies.

A portion of the HOME funding will be used to fund the acquisition of lots for Habitat for Humanity to construct affordable housing. HOME funding will also be used to administer a tenant-based rental assistance program utilizing the existing relationship with MUST Ministries.

CDBG program funds will be allocated to the Anna Crawford Children’s Center ($99,118) and the Children’s Haven ($50,000) for facility improvements. About $97,000 is allocated for Goshen Valley for minor rehabilitation at the Goshen Valley Boys Ranch facility. Nearly $500,000 will be used by the county for the county’s minor/emergency home repair program through Habitat for Humanity, the Pea Ridge Community Center Initiative (Phase II) and public facility improvements to the Senior Center. Non-profit agencies with allocated funding in the action plan include Bethesda Community Clinic, Malon D. Mimms Boys & Girls Club, Goodwill of North Georgia, MUST Ministries and the YMCA.

During the July 5 meeting, the Board also:

· Approved, 5-0, the minutes from the June 21 regular meeting, work session and executive session and the minutes from the June 22 Special Called Meeting. Commissioner Carter made the motion, which was seconded by District 2 Commissioner Richard Weatherby.

· Held a public hearing on the 2022 millage rate. One person spoke. No action was taken. The next public hearings are July 19 at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. The Board is expected to adopt the millage rate during the 6 p.m. meeting.

· Held a public hearing regarding Jack and Emily Riddle’s request to rezone 3.69 acres on Stover Road from R-80 to R-40. No one spoke. The Board approved the request with a 5-0 vote. Commissioner Weatherby made the motion, which was seconded by Commissioner Carter.

· Denied, 5-0, Dalakhani LLC’s request to rezone 3.136 acres at 3037 and 3039 Highway 92 from R-40 to General Commercial, as well as a concurrent variance to eliminate the deceleration lane on Old Alabama Road/Old Highway 92. The applicant was seeking to build a convenience store with gas pumps. Commissioner Ragsdale made the motion to deny due to the request not fitting the character of the area based on the Southwest Cherokee Small Area Plan. Commissioner West seconded the motion.

· Approved, 5-0, New Victoria Baptist Church’s request to rezone 10.92 acres at 6659 Bells Ferry Road from R-40 to General Commercial to erect a digital church sign. Commissioner Carter made the motion, which was seconded by Commissioner Weatherby. In a separate 5-0 vote, the Board approved the church’s request for a special use permit to operate a free after school program intended for Boston Elementary School students. The church is adjacent to the school. Commissioner Carter made the motion, which was seconded by Commissioner Weatherby.

· Tabled, 5-0, an application from Rocky’s Lake Estate for a special use permit for a special events facility and to allow non-scheduled chartered passenger air transportation. Commissioner Weatherby made the motion to table, which was seconded by Commissioner Carter. The item will be on the Aug. 2 agenda.

· Tabled, 5-0, Blake’s House of Independence request to modify zoning conditions. Commissioner Ragsdale made the motion to table, which was seconded by Commissioner Carter. The item will be on the July 19 agenda.

· Approved, 4-0, under the consent agenda: surplus of miscellaneous, outdated small office equipment and furniture no longer in use by the Probate Court; acceptance of a federal subgrant from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council in the amount of $94,715 and a budget amendment in the amount of $17,759 on behalf of the Felony Drug Court; acceptance of a subgrant agreement in the amount of $180,883 on behalf of Juvenile Court to provide the multi-systemic treatment program to eligible participants; acceptance of an ARPA grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission in the amount of $80,917 and a budget amendment in the amount

of $9,623 on behalf of Senior Services; call for a public hearing to be held July 19 at 6 p.m. to consider a request by Brandon Green to establish a legacy lot at 1727 Lower Bethany Road, Canton; call for a public hearing to be held July 19 at 6 p.m. to consider a request for a master plan amendment to the BridgeMill PUD Master Plan for the BridgeMill Community Association; and the first amendment to the agreement with Practical Design Partners for utility test holes on the Mountain Park Road Drainage Project in the amount of $14,170. Commissioner Carter made the motion, which was seconded by Commissioner Weatherby.

· Approved, 4-0, a professional services agreement with Pond and Company to assist in the performance of public engagement and development analysis services for the Comprehensive Plan Update totaling $59,680. Commissioner Carter made the motion, which was seconded by Commissioner West.

· Approved, 4-0, a professional services agreement with Indoff Incorporated to purchase office furniture for the new Elections Building at 193 Lamar Haley Parkway. The cost is $156,704. Commissioner Weatherby made the motion, which was seconded by Commissioner Carter.

· Approved, 4-0, an engine overhaul by Peach State Truck Centers for Fire & Emergency Services. The engine overhaul on a 2007 Spartan Fire Apparatus cost is $29,946.81. Commissioner Carter made the motion, which was seconded by Commissioner West.

· Approved, 4-0, the purchase of a Dodge 5500 Rescue Truck from Williams Fire Apparatus and an Isuzu box truck from Bellamy Strickland for Fire & Emergency Services. The costs are $199,800 and $63,312, respectively. The approval also includes a corresponding budget amendment. Commissioner Weatherby made the motion, which was seconded by Commissioner Carter.

· Approved, 4-0, the purchase of Holmatro extrication tools and Paratech stabilization tools from Georgia Fire & Rescue Supply in the amount of $85,539. Commissioner Carter made the motion, which was seconded by Commissioner West.

· Approved, 4-0, the purchase of the Lexipol policy and procedures platform for Fire & Emergency Services in the amount of $43,762.70 for year one, with the option to auto-renew for years two through five. The total spend is $146,260.10 over five years. Commissioner Weatherby made the motion, which was seconded by Commissioner Carter.

· Approved, 4-0, purchasing of a technical solution as requested by the county’s cybersecurity insurance to meet the underwriting requirements for the one-time purchase of $782,762.86 through the lowest priced response, Cambridge Computer Services, Inc. Commissioner Weatherby made the motion, which was seconded by Commissioner Carter.

· Approved, 4-0, the purchase of a Clark Forklift from Material Handling Inc. for Public Works. The cost is $33,979. Commissioner West made the motion, which was seconded by Commissioner Weatherby.

Cherokee County Deputies Salaries get a Boost

The Cherokee Sheriff’s Office has increased its pay for sworn positions by nearly 20 percent, making it one of the leading sheriff’s offices in the metro area for law enforcement pay.

The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners approved a 7 percent increase plus a flat $5,000 to POST-certified positions, making the salary scales more competitive in an increasingly competitive market. The starting salary for an uncertified deputy is $50,243 with excellent benefits, pension with a county match, paid uniforms and equipment, and programs for incentive pay.

“The Cherokee Sheriff’s Office is currently competing with every law enforcement agency in the state for qualified deputies. The commissioners’ decision to approve a 7 percent COLA and $5,000 increase in pay for deputies will not only help us attract new applicants to fill our 63 vacancies, it will also help us retain current deputies,” said Sheriff Frank Reynolds. “We are grateful to the commissioners and the citizens of Cherokee County for their continued support.”

This is the third year in a row the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners has acted to increase public safety salaries to assist in recruiting quality law enforcement officers to serve and protect the community.

“As a Board, we know public safety is the key to a great quality of life. We’re proud to have one of the finest Sheriff’s teams in the nation and thankful to them for keeping Cherokee the safest county in our region,” said Chairman Harry Johnston said. “We’re glad to be able to compensate them commensurately with their excellence.” Those interested in applying to join the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office should visit www.cherokeega-sheriff.org or email recruiter@cherokeega.com.

Cherokee County Public Works Announces Summer Paving Projects

Cherokee County motorists can expect to see some road delays with two resurfacing projects getting underway.

Work for the 2022 Resurfacing Project – Phase 2 is set to begin this week, with roads scheduled to be resurfaced in six different subdivisions, including Creekside Estates, Middlebrooke, Lovinggood Landing, BridgeMill, Sturbridge and Eagle Watch.

“Resurfacing work typically lasts about two weeks per road or per subdivision,” said Jim Wilgus, Cherokee County SPLOST Roadway Project Manager. “We ask that motorists allow for extra time and patience and to obey all work zone signage for their safety and the safety of all those in the work zone.”

Last month, Commissioners awarded a $3.37 million contract to Baldwin Paving Company to resurface 12.7 miles of county-maintained roadways as part of the 2022 Resurfacing Project – Phase 2 in addition to awarding the 2022 Resurfacing Project to Bartow Paving Company for $4.72 million to resurface 12.68 miles of county-maintained roadways.

The 2022 Resurfacing Project is set to begin on Monday, July 11 with sections of Arnold Mill Road and Hickory Road set to be resurfaced. The project list includes Hickory Road from the Holly Springs city limits to Ga. 140; Kellogg Creek Road, from Jacobs Road to Cedar Mill Road; Bells Ferry Road, from the Cobb County line to Ga. 92; Beavers Road, from East Cherokee Drive to Ga. 20; and Johnson Brady Road, from East Cherokee Drive to Ga. 20.

Funding for the 2022 Resurfacing Program comes from local Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds and Georgia Department of Transportation funds. GDOT awarded Cherokee County about $2.4 million through the Local Maintenance Improvement Grant (LMIG) program for road resurfacing with the remaining $2.3 million being paid for with SPLOST funds.

The resurfacing projects are subject to change depending on weather and other unknown factors. Resurfacing work is expected to take place Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., until the projects are complete.

The County Commission, at its retreat earlier this year, allocated $7 million additional SPLOST funds for roadway resurfacing in 2022.

Cherokee County Board of Commissioners approve advertising lower millage rate, sets public hearings

The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners approved advertising a proposed millage rate for the 2023 fiscal year, which reflects a reduction in the current millage rate to fund the county’s 2023 budget.

The advertised rate for Maintenance and Operations is 4.995, down 4.2 percent from the current millage rate of 5.212 mills. One mill is equal to $1 per $1,000 of assessed value – a property’s assessed value is 40 percent of its fair market value. The Board cannot approve a rate more than the one that is advertised. The Board officially will set the millage rate in late July following three public hearings.

“Homeowners who have a homestead exemption will see at least a 4.2 percent decrease in the County Maintenance & Operation tax,” said Chairman Harry Johnston. “For that portion of the tax bill, those properties are protected from any increase in property value assessments. Their exemption amount automatically increases to keep their net taxable value the same.”

About 61 percent of the residential properties in Cherokee County have a homestead exemption.

For non-homestead properties, the County Maintenance & Operation tax will increase by the same percentage as their increase in property value assessment, minus the 4.2 percent rollback of the millage rate. For the average of all properties combined, the advertised rate represents an 8.4 percent increase from the state-calculated rollback rate of 4.609 mills.

At the June 21 regular meeting, District 3 Commissioner Benny Carter made the motion to advertise the rate of 4.995 mills, which was seconded by District 1 Commissioner Steve West. The motion was unanimously approved.

This will be the 11th consecutive year the Board of Commissioners has not increased the millage rate. In the last eight of 10 years, the Board has reduced the millage rate.

The total general fund budget (funded by the M&O millage rate) is estimated to be about $138 million, allowing for funding for the fourth Superior Court judge recently approved, but not fully funded, by the state, 7 percent cost-of-living increases for employees and 31 new positions countywide to better serve the community. Of the total general fund budget, 53.5 percent funds public safety, 20 percent funds judicial services; and 16 percent funds general administration. The remaining portions fund public works, culture and recreation, housing and development, and health and welfare.

The Board also is considering lowering the fire district millage rate to 2.984 mills, down from the current rate of 3.292 mills. The fire district budget, which is funded by the fire district millage rate, is estimated to total about $46 million and would fund 11 new positions and a 7 percent cost-of-living increase for fire personnel and staff.

For the parks bond millage rate, the Finance Department is recommending it be rolled back to 0.354 mills, down from 0.434 mills.

To illustrate the impact these millage rates would have on a homeowner, the Finance Department used an actual property in Cherokee County. The home, now valued at $482,300, experienced a 20 percent increase in value from 2021-22. That property has a homestead exemption, and the owner would see a decrease of $27 for the county M&O rate, a $46 increase for the fire fund and a $2 decrease for the parks bond.

The Board of Commissioners-controlled portion of tax bills include the maintenance and operations millage rate, as well as the fire district and parks bond. The fire district is only charged to unincorporated properties for fire service, and the parks bond is charged to all properties as determined by the 2008 voter-approved parks bond referendum. The collections from the parks bond rate repays the $90 million bond issued in 2009. The homestead exemption does not apply to either of these rates, however, the State Disability, State Disabled Veterans and surviving spouses, State CUVA (Farm Conservation Use), and State Brownfield exemptions apply to the fire district millage rate. These state exemptions also apply to the parks bond, in addition to the state age 65 (net income less than $10,000) exemption.

The Board of Commissioners does not control the School District tax rate or any millage rates set by local city jurisdictions.

The Board of Commissioners will hold three public hearings: July 5 at 6 p.m. and July 19 at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. The Board is expected to adopt the three millage rates it controls at the July 19 meeting at 6 p.m

Cherokee County Public Input Meeting for Comprehensive Transportation Plan Scheduled for June 28

The second public meeting for the Cherokee County Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) Update is set for Tuesday, June 28. The meeting will start at 6 p.m. in the Etowah Room at the Northside Hospital Cherokee Conference Center, located at 1130 Bluffs Parkway in Canton.

During the meeting, the public will be able to learn about the CTP process and planned projects, as well as provide input on the final prioritization. The CTP Update will be the second update to the Cherokee County CTP originally adopted in 2008 and then subsequently updated in 2016. The CTP is a tool that county officials use for the planning and programming of transportation projects.

“The CTP is an important step in improvement of current and future roadways and transportation infrastructure of Cherokee County,” said County Manager Geoff Morton. “The CTP Update process has been a result of studying the feasibility, operations, need and use of SPLOST project lists. I encourage the public to attend the upcoming meeting to review the prioritized projects and provide feedback.”

For those who are unable to attend, all information presented at the in-person public meeting will be posted on the CTP project website following the meeting, www.CherokeeMoves.com. You can find previous public meeting materials from Dec. 8, 2021, on the same project site. To submit input online or receive updates, visit www.cherokeega.com and click on Cherokee Transportation Plan from the homepage or go directly to the project site by visiting www.CherokeeMoves.com.

Cherokee Top 10 in 10 Honorees Named

The Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce is honored to announce the 2022 group of Cherokee County's Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch.

"The Top 10 in 10 initiative is designed to cultivate and showcase exceptional Cherokee County young professionals," said Pam Carnes, Chamber President and CEO. Coordinated by the Chamber, in partnership with Enjoy Cherokee Magazine, this recognition program focuses on Cherokee County residents under age 40 who are considered to be Cherokee County's up and coming leaders over the next 10 years.

"We were extremely pleased with the number and caliber of candidates for this year’s recognition. As we have grown accustomed to since this program’s inception in 2012, far more than 10 nominations were received and likewise, there were far more applications than honoree slots. Each application was carefully reviewed by a panel of judges that found the task of only choosing ten honorees challenging," shared Chamber Board Chair Brian Stevens, CEO & Co-Owner of FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers. Judging criteria included past professional achievements and awards, five to ten-year professional goals as well as the nominees volunteer and community activities. Besides being recognized during the Chamber’s June Good Morning Cherokee breakfast meeting, the recipients will also be featured in the July/August issue of Enjoy Cherokee Magazine. The honorees who will be under the age of 40 on October 1 have been nominated for the prestigious GeorgiaTrend Magazine 40 Under 40 recognition.

The rising stars recognized as Cherokee County’s next generation of community leaders include (front row, l to r): Sandi Harrison, Principal, Liberty Elementary School/Cherokee Co. School District; Sarah Bowen, Pharmacy Operations Supervisor, Northside Hospital Cherokee; Bethany Watson, City Engineer, City of Canton; Marcie Smith, Executive Director, The Children’s Haven. (back row, l to r): Brady Cornelison, Captain & Paramedic, Cherokee Fire & Emergency Services; Rajpal Sagoo, Managing Partner, MDD Holdings; Jacob Sluder, Owner & Dentist, Dentistry of Olde Towne; Alyssa Rumsey Sheehan, Senior Project Manager, Center of Innovation for Manufacturing/Georgia Department of

Economic Development; Andy Smith, Attorney, Flint, Connolly & Walker, LLP. Not pictured: Kyle Bennett, Tourism Manager, City of Woodstock.

Canton Police Announce Officer Involved Shooting Leaving One Dead

The GBI is investigating an officer-involved shooting in Canton.  Officers responded to a local subdivision to investigate a suspicious person at 2:19 am on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, when the shooting occurred.  One man is deceased, and no officers were reported injured.  The incident happened on the 700 block of Midway Ave.  

As per the department's policy, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) is conducting the investigation, and the Canton Police Department is fully cooperating.  Further questions or inquiries about this incident should be forwarded to the GBI-PIO.

Additional information will be made available as the investigation progresses.

Cherokee Tax Assessor's Office Announces Increase in Assessment Values Due to Inflation

Cherokee County property owners have begun receiving their annual assessment notices and may see inflationary increases in their assessment values due to trends in real estate and inflation.

The average assessment increase is about 23 percent. According to the Tax Assessor’s Office, 100,575 parcels (92% of total tax parcels) in Cherokee County have increased in value. The Office also reports that 1,869 parcels decreased in value, and 6,162 parcels had no change from the previous year.

Georgia state law dictates how assessments must be completed, including evaluations and deadlines for exemptions and assessment notifications.

“The Cherokee County Board of Tax Assessors follows the appraisal guidelines provided by the Georgia Code and Appraisal Procedures Manual. The goal is to achieve ‘Fair Market Value’ as defined in the code section 48-5-2 (3),” Chief Appraiser Steve Swindell said. “The appraisal staff uses three approaches to value (sales comparison, cost and income) to determine valuation of properties. Statistical analysis, as provided by law, is used to calculate the level of assessment, uniformity and assessment bias for a group of properties defined by area, neighborhood, or class of property (residential, agricultural, commercial and industrial.)”

Those who filed a homestead exemption by April 1 that was approved have an assessment value freeze for county maintenance and operations dictated by a 2008 local resolution and a $5,000 exemption off the assessed value. The freeze and homestead exemption do not apply to fire district, parks bond or the Board of Education-controlled school millage rates. The freeze stays with the property owner until the property is sold or modifications are made to the property. Disabled veterans and senior citizens have additional exemptions as long as they applied for them by the April 1 deadline.

The appeals process is underway and is outlined on each assessment notice. Property owners have until June 30 to file any appeals. Any questions regarding assessment notices should be directed to the Tax Assessor’s Office by calling 678-493-6120. More information can be found at www.cherokeega.com/tax-assessors-office.

The county budget and millage-rate setting process will take place this summer. The Board of Commissioners must adopt the 2022 millage rate by July 19, 2022, according to state law. The BOC must also adopt the millage rate set by the Board of Education, which will set its millage rate this summer, as well. Assessment notices recently mailed are not tax bills. Tax bills will be mailed in the fall of 2022 after each jurisdiction, including local city councils, set their millage rates.

Impact Grants Awarded by Cherokee County Educational Foundation

The Cherokee County Educational Foundation surprised 21 local school district teachers this week with Classroom Impact Grants totaling $40,000 for this school year.

CCEF also awarded more than $10,000 in Rapid Grants of up to $500 on a monthly basis, and funds districtwide initiatives as requested.

Founded in 2012 to help raise funds and awareness for the public schools of the Cherokee County Public School District to ensure excellence in the classrooms, CCEF has awarded more than $1 million since its inception.

“This organization of community volunteers each year diligently leads the effort to make sure our teachers get those additional resources they need to help our students do their best,” CCEF Executive Director Lisa Marie Haygood said. “We continue to celebrate the innovation we see in our teachers, students, and community.”

Applications for Classroom Impact Grants open in November and are available for funding up to $2,500 per classroom. A committee of at least five judges grade the applications individually and the scores are compiled and ranked to decide which teachers are awarded grants.

The number of grants awarded each year depends on fundraising efforts at the annual Celebration of Education Gala.

“Without the outpouring of support, we would not be able to fulfill our mission. This year was a tremendous success,” Haygood said.

Classroom Impact Grants were given to the following teachers:

· Virginia Baldwin, R.M. Moore Elementary School.

· Jennifer Campbell, Dean Rusk Middle School

· Ty Casteel, Etowah High School.

· Jill Cole, Clark Creek Elementary School.

· Brooke Dillon, Mill Creek Middle School.

· Nina Eidson, Knox Elementary School.

· Jim Elder, Mill Creek Middle School.

· Adrianne Fagan, Woodstock High School.

· Jennifer Falco, E.T. Booth Middle School.

· Cathy Fernandez, E.T. Booth Middle School.

· Amanda Graves, E..T Booth Middle School.

· Chelsea Leming, Indian Knoll Elementary School.

· Denise Lewis, Oak Grove Elementary School.

· Sandy McPherson, Clayton Elementary School.

· Sarah Munroe, Macedonia Elementary School.

· Hillary Nichols, Active Academy/I-Grad.

· Tina Plousis, Hickory Flat Elementary School.

· Angela Topper, Oak Grove Elementary School.

· Keara Rubin, River Ridge High School.

· Lisa Spence, Hasty Elementary School.

· Amy Walker, Johnston Elementary School.

Skilled Professions Signing Day Elevates High-Demand, High-Tech Careers

Be Pro Be Proud Georgia – a comprehensive initiative that connects students to post-secondary training and careers within the skilled professions through a comprehensive website and mobile workshop – teamed up with the Cherokee Office of Economic Development (COED), the Cherokee County School District, and Chattahoochee Technical College, to host Skilled Professions Signing Day at The Circuit Woodstock on May 10, 2022.

“Working within the skilled professions is more than just finding a high-wage, stable career – it’s discovering a sense of pride that comes from building something from the ground up,” said COED President Misti Martin. “From nerdy to dirty, we spotlight essential careers that are life-changing.”

Similar to national signing days for athletes, the second annual event celebrated 34 high school seniors representing all six Cherokee high schools for their commitment to pursuing one of Be Pro Be Proud Georgia’s 15 skilled professions, including Automotive, Computer Programming, Construction, Electrical, Health Care, and Welding.

2021 signing day honoree Christian Preiser returned to speak with this year’s honorees about the benefits of working within the skilled trades. After volunteering in the mobile workshop as a Most Valuable Pro (MVP) and graduating from Woodstock High, Preiser turned his passion for electrical work into a profitable career as an apprentice at Hewatt Electrical Contractors.

“I get paid to do what I love and am proud to be working as an electrician – a job that is truly satisfying and making a difference,” said Preiser. “My company is even providing on-the-job training and paying for me to become a certified electrical worker at IBEW Local 613. Be Pro Be Proud Georgia was a major catalyst for my success.”

Construction Ready Vice President of K-12 Zach Fields, a Be Pro Be Proud partner, highlighted the importance of building a strong K-12 pipeline to fulfill Georgia’s growing demand for skilled workers while offering students affordable training options.

“Debt-free post-secondary options after high school are THE answer for thousands of students coming out of Georgia’s public school system,” said Fields. “We have to reach students earlier through robust career pathway programs like CTAE and initiatives like Be Pro Be Proud, which are the foundation for students to make these important career choices.”

In April 2022, Wellstar Health System joined Be Pro Be Proud as its first health care partner, a field that is projected to grow more than 10 percent over the next decade. Of those participating in signing day, six honorees are pursuing advanced technical training in health care-related fields.

“As one of the Southeast’s largest healthcare systems, Wellstar looks forward to having this incredible opportunity to expose students to skilled professions in healthcare and navigate them to a successful career through this innovative program,” said Wellstar Vice President of Strategic Community Development Stephen Vault.

Since launch, Be Pro Be Proud has reached over 20,000 students and has made over 228 tour visits –140 across the state and 88 in Cherokee.

2022 signing day honoree Will Nichelson discovered his career path during a Be Pro Be Proud visit to Creekview High School. “I knew I wanted to work with my hands and our school didn’t have many options,” said Nichelson. “I was asked to help on the mobile workshop in 10th grade and it was cool playing with the simulators. This experience encouraged me to look into welding. I learned that I could go to Chattahoochee Technical College and do welding as a high school student, so I am graduating this year with my welding certifications before I am finished with high school.”

Guest speaker Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Superintendent of Schools for the Cherokee County School District added, “We’re here to help every student prepare for their future, and for many students, that next step is pursuing a skilled professional career. We’re deeply proud of these students for making a commitment to fulfill important roles in our community. We’re also grateful for our partnership with the Cherokee Office of Economic Development, as it has led to more career focused opportunities for our students like this special signing day event.” 

 

Enjoy Cherokee Magazine and WLJA 101.1 FM Sponsor Retiring Educators Recognition

The Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce Education Committee, in partnership with Enjoy Cherokee Magazine and WLJA 101.1 FM, is recognizing retiring educators from the Cherokee County School District by donating funds to the Sequoyah Regional Library System. The funds will be used to purchase books for the library branches located in Cherokee County. The books will include a label recognizing all faculty, staff and administrators who retired during the 2021-2022 school year. Each retiree will receive notification that a book is being donated in their honor.

“This is the thirteenth year the Chamber has acknowledged retiring educators for their valuable contribution to the lives of students in Cherokee County. The Chamber is pleased to partner with Enjoy Cherokee Magazine and WLJA 101.1 FM in this tribute to Cherokee County’s educators,” shared Chamber President & CEO Pam Carnes.

The mission of the Cherokee County Chamber, a Georgia Certified Chamber of Commerce, is to promote business and the community while expanding the economy and enhancing the quality of life. For more information on the Chamber and its programs, visit CherokeeChamber.com.

High School Filmmakers Celebrate Excellence at 4th Annual Cherokee Student Film Festival

The Cherokee Office of Economic Development (COED), in partnership with the Cherokee County School District’s (CCSD) Audio/Video Technology and Film (AVTF) educators, recently announced the winners of the fourth annual Cherokee Student Film Festival as part of a live screening and awards presentation hosted at Sequoyah High School's Skip Pope Stadium on April 29, 2022, at 6:00 p.m.

Student films were screened on the Jumbotron as 175 audience members cheered on 19 groups of student filmmakers from across the county. 

The Cherokee Student Film Festival represents COED’s second collaboration with CCSD AVTF students this year. On March 10th, COED hosted the 3rd Annual Cherokee Student Film Summit at the YANMAR EVO//Center, featuring expert guidance from local and regional industry professionals. Through engaging hands-on breakout sessions, students were able to ask questions and connect with producers, directors, screenwriters, picture car coordinators, actors, showrunners, and film festival directors to explore careers in film.

“Our partnership with the Cherokee Office of Economic Development is making so many of our students’ dreams a reality through career experiences, and this film festival is a shining example,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said.  “Film industry professionals share expertise with our students and teachers at the annual summit and throughout the school year, which culminates in this fantastic event.  We look forward to seeing our graduates’ names on silver screens in the future, a dream more real thanks to this collaboration.”

AVTF Instructors collaborate with COED year-round to prepare for the summit and festival. “Being a part of the Cherokee Student Film Festival is like a big celebration with family,” said River Ridge High School AVTF Instructor Lin Woods.  "I have been so blessed to see my film kids grow in their film concepts and master diverse technical and cinematography skills. I look forward to celebrating the accomplishments of our film students beyond the classroom for years to come.”

With strict parameters designed to simulate production requirements, ten groups of students from across the county met criteria for judging. Qualifying submissions were judged by regional post-secondary film instructors Dr. Jay Hamilton (University of Georgia), Steven Hames (Berry College), Meredith Muse (Chattahoochee Technical College), Etowah Film Festival Founder Brent Lambert-Zaffino, and Media Producer Justin Webb.

Awards were issued based on the judges’ total scores in the following categories: Best Cinematography, Best Sound Quality, Best Use of Prop, Best Use of Line, and Best of Show. Festival attendees were able to cast votes in the Audience Choice category.

Sequoyah High School freshman Ava Roberts and team took “Best in Show” for their entry Secret Agent Annie Mills. "Having grown up doing on-camera acting, I was familiar with the set," said Roberts. "When I heard about the Cherokee Student Film Festival, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get behind the camera.”

The 9th grader, who also attended the Cherokee Student Film Summit earlier this year, said both opportunities helped shape her skills and interest in working behind the camera. "I know much more about how challenging it is to run a set. “I have so much respect for directors and producers and how much organization it takes to get everything together. It's really important to communicate well."

“Working alongside the CCSD to prepare students for successful careers in film has led to moviemaking magic,” said COED President Misti Martin. “Events like these are a powerful catalyst for students to launch successful careers within the film industry and make lifelong connections.” 

 

COMPLETE LIST OF 2022 CHEROKEE STUDENT FILM FESTIVAL WINNERS: Best of Show

Secret Agent Annie Mills | Sequoyah High School Created by Justin Clark, Ava Roberts, Hailey Thompson, and Lauren Turnage

Runner Up Best of Show Only... | Creekview High School Created by Jackson Estapa, Chloe Feibus, Abram Midyette, and Maxton Williams

Third Place Best of Show Lucid Dream | Cherokee High School Created by Hunter Schwartz, Hunter Tadin, Felisa Vasquez, and Riley Watkins

Audience Choice Award (Qualifying Entry) Unconscious | Sequoyah High School Created by Andrew Kennedy, Tyler Sandt, and Gabe Squillace

Audience Choice Award (Participating Entry) I Miss You | Sequoyah High School Created by Donovan Victorino, Robyn Walker, and Ben Willison

Best Use of Prop Wanna Hear a Scary Story | Etowah High School Created by Sophia Berry, Marissa Migneco, and Kaili Phillips

Best Cinematography  Secret Agent Annie Mills | Sequoyah High School Created by Justin Clark, Ava Roberts, Hailey Thompson, and Lauren Turnage

Best Sound Quality Lucid Dream | Cherokee High School Created by Hunter Schwartz, Hunter Tadin, Felisa Vasquez, and Riley Watkins

Best Use of Line  Security Breach | Woodstock High School Created by Taylor Collins, Alex Manser, Riley McCall, and Brody Yot

 

To learn more about film in Cherokee, visit cherokeega.org/film-media.

City of Canton Announces Sale of Historic Jones Building to Developers of The Mill on Etowah

The City of Canton announces that its Downtown Development Authority, DDA, has agreed to and signed a contract for the sale of the Historic Jones Building to developers Penn Hodge and Grant Schmeelk for $2.2M. Hodge and Schmeelk are business partners in an Atlanta-based commercial real estate development and brokerage firm concentrating in leasing, management, joint ventures, and sales. The firm is responsible for the redevelopment of what is now known as The Mill on Etowah [Mill District] in Downtown Canton.

 

“Tasked with developing downtown for the public good, this DDA, together with all of Team Canton including our Mayor and City Council, has worked tirelessly to bring the best buyer in for our beloved Jones Building,” said Brooke Schmidt, City of Canton Councilor, Economic Development Chair, and DDA Board Member. “We are confident that Penn, Grant, and their collaborators will create an exciting development that maintains our healthy and vibrant downtown." 

 

“The Downtown Development Authority is excited to assist our City in moving this property back into the hands of a private owner,” said Cindy Brooks, DDA President and Vice President - Retail Market Manager, Synovus. “The Jones Building will once again be the centerpiece of commerce and entrepreneurship in Canton.”

 

“The development of the Jones Building is the next opportunity to showcase the City of Canton,” said Hodge. “The private/public partnership of this historical landmark will define the future of Downtown. We see the Jones Building project as the next adaptive reuse challenge, which will continue our theme of ‘Honoring History’ for the City.”

 

Proposed Redevelopment of the Jones Building

 

Hodge and Schmeelk added that their intent is the proposed partnership will align the aspirations of the City with the skills of their development team to create a destination landmark for office, retail, and restaurants in the historic Downtown area, and help unite the two districts [Downtown and The Mill on Etowah] in the City of Canton. The development team proposes to invest into the existing building and take the lead on the all the renovations, marketing, and leasing.

 

Hodge and Schmeelk plan to enlist local design duo Kandace and Rob Walker-Bunda of Bunker Design to bring thoughtful vision of the re-design of this historic building to life.

 

“We want this project to show and celebrate all the layers that have accumulated over time to give this great building it’s character and personality,” said K. Walker-Bunda. “Staying true to the historic nature of the building is crucial to the vision of showing the time span this building have lived through.”

 

The exterior architectural and historic character of the Jones Building will remain with modifications to bring the building into current code compliance while also working with the City of Canton to ensure that any new exterior work is in line with the City’s vision and commitment to historic preservation standards. New interior work will celebrate open site lines and allow for light to pass through the interior spaces naturally, with new all-glass storefront and modern touches to show users and visitors the journey through time that this building has endured and will honor.

 

Proposed uses for the redeveloped building will take a mixed use – adaptive reuse – and commercial strength approach, and will potentially include retail, restaurants, and office space.

 

History of the Jones Building

 

Very few commercial buildings in Cherokee County can boast the age of the historic Jones Building in Downtown Canton. The massive building that would stand as a city block in many communities anchors the eastern side of Cannon Park. The building has served as the focal point of the central business district since 1879, when it originally opened as the Jones Mercantile. Serving the residents of Cherokee County with everything from hardware to haberdasheries, food to furniture, and children's toys to caskets, the store was a one-stop shop and the original Cherokee County department retailer. The Jones Mercantile accepted mill currency and store credit, being on the cutting edge of retailing.

 

It originally stood as only half the building mass that is currently visible until a two-story addition was built adjacent to the first structure on the east side along Main Street. By 1921, the expansion had a third story added on that new space and the building's storefront along Main Street was seamlessly designed. The building would undergo a remodel in the 1950s. Finally, in 1973, as was the retail trend, an aluminum and stucco facade was installed covering up the facility.

 

Purchased by Cherokee County in the late 1980s for additional administrative office space, the building was subdivided from large open floor space to office suites for varied County operations. In January of 2017, the City of Canton took ownership of the facility from Cherokee County as part of an asset swap through the consolidation of fire services.

 

City Council immediately hired Lord Aeck Sargent's (LAS) Atlanta Office and the duo of Jack Pyburn and Esther Davis to assist in putting together plans for the renovation of the exterior of the facility. Throughout early 2017, LAS had the building scanned, employed environmental engineers to scan and test building materials, examined contributing elements of the historic building (woodwork, windows, masonry, structure and mechanicals), all to create architectural designs for bidding for construction.

 

In May 2017, City leaders approved the use of a Construction Manager at Risk platform for the work at the facility. The CM at Risk will oversee the project, subcontracting labor to varying groups through an open book system while bidding out all work. This philosophy assists the City with establishing a not-to-exceed budget for the project. The project was two phased: a building envelope renovation and an operational renovation.

 

The first phase includes replacement of the roof structure and renovation of the facade of the facility. This phase included repair and replacement of masonry, windows, and the addition of historically accurate commercial storefront designs. Additionally, during this first phase, the CM at Risk was responsible for the selective demolition of the interior non-attributing elements. During this process, interior walls were removed as well as some of the non-original floor systems used to subdivide the building.

 

In October 2017, Garbutt Construction was hired as the CM at Risk and selective interior demolition, the new roofing system and exterior renovation work began. Construction and renovation lasted for approximately two years.  

CCSD Team Wins at State Robotics Championships

A Cherokee County School District team won at a statewide robotics championship!

 

Sequoyah High School’s team earned runner-up at the Georgia FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition, the highest finish for any CCSD team since the competition began. 

 

The team is coached by Brent Hollers, who teaches career classes at Sequoyah HS and i-Grad Virtual Academy, and parent Lisa Lougheed.  Team members are: Levi Auman, Brandon Buckley, Jordan Buckley, Lily Carras, Bryson Cobb, Gavin Dayton, Xavier Feldman, Micah Gray, Eric Hu, Colin Kennel, Brett Lougheed, Julian Noaker, Bryson Partin, Joseph Thomas, Lucas Thoroughman, Shane Webb and Fernando Zapata.

 

“Congratulations to these skilled and dedicated students and their outstanding coaches for representing their school and our community with excellence,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said.  “Clubs and teams that offer students additional ways, beyond the classroom, to hone and demonstrate career skills are important opportunities that we’re proud to offer in all of our high schools.  We’re very thankful to the teachers, parents, business partners and volunteers who support these programs.”

 

The national FIRST Robotics Competition program gives teams of high school students the opportunity to demonstrate their skills in building and programming industrial-size robots to complete specific tasks.  For this year’s competition scenario, teams were tasked with using “innovative engineering, creative thinking, and teamwork to reimagine the future of safe, high-speed travel, and lightning-fast deliveries to propel the next evolution of transportation forward – in this world and beyond.”  Judges assess the robot’s design and effectiveness and the team’s collaboration and determination.

New Public Art Project Installation on Historic Doss Building in Downtown Canton

This spring will see bright blooms take over the 62-foot-long white wall at North and Lee streets in Downtown Canton as professional artist Madison Beaulieu begins a new public art project. 

 

A finalist in the City’s search for the Railroad Street muralist in 2020, Beaulieu grew up in Cherokee County and has worked as a creative in graphic design and printmaking for the last 8 years. Her studio is located in Woodstock’s Made Mercantile. She has previously created murals in Duluth and Woodstock among others.

 

Beaulieu’s wildflower mural concept is bold and whimsical. A perfect backdrop for visitor photos, the public art piece will not only create community but highlight the City of Canton’s focus on sustainability. Georgia’s popular purple coneflowers are a native perennial while the state’s smooth coneflower variety is listed as endangered. Native wildflowers in local gardens and yards are encouraged to help bolster pollinator populations.

 

“I chose cheery wildflowers as the subject for this mural because they are so important to our local ecosystem,” explains Beaulieu. “Our native wildflowers help make Georgia a beautiful place to live and play! I’m so excited to create this mural with the City of Canton. They are so supportive of public arts and the arts community; I’m honored to work alongside them.” 

 

Members of Canton’s new Cultural Art Commission (CCAC) are thrilled to see their first public art project brought to life. "Whether we are painting a landscape, telling a story, or simply appreciating the artistic experience,” says Jamie Foreman, member of CCAC and owner of Menagerie on Main, “we are all connected. Art is a partner of progress."

 

Volunteers appointed by the City Council and Mayor to the CCAC are Foreman, Elaine Frederico, Amy Kesler, Theresa Shampine, Rob Walker-Bunda, Bryan White, and Haley Whyte. Staff liaison is Canton Theatre Director Kristin Norton. 

 

City Councilor Brooke Schmidt, who works closely with the CCAC, says, “By advancing arts and culture as an essential element of life in Canton, we build community and connectivity while increasing economic development and tourism opportunities. As City leaders and volunteers team up to help residents and visitors want to linger longer in a vibrant Canton, the excitement is palpable.” 

 

Funding for the mural project will be provided through the Canton Cultural Arts Commission (CCAC) and sponsor Thrive Coworking. The City of Canton will unveil the mural with a ribbon cutting. More details to follow in the coming weeks. 

Home sales, Inflation to Affect Property Values Locally

- Trends in real estate are driving home prices up and increasing values across Cherokee County. According to the fourth quarter 2021 U.S. Home Equity & Under Water Report released by ATTOM, 41.9 percent of mortgaged residential properties were considered equity rich. Almost one out of every two homes surveyed in the fourth quarter were equity rich, an increase from 39.5 percent since the third quarter of 2021.

 

That’s good news for homeowners looking to sell. Those sales along with other contributing factors impact assessments conducted annually by the Cherokee County Tax Assessor’s Office. As the assessment process is nearing completion for upcoming assessment notices, the Tax Assessor’s Office reports that 91 percent of tax parcels in Cherokee County have increased in value (99,935 of 109,018). The Office also reports that 2,140 parcels decreased in value, and 6,942 parcels had no change from the previous year.

 

For 2022, the Real Property Growth/Inflation Rate is coming in at about 17 percent, as of March 30. In the past, annual averages have ranged between 4-6 percent.

“These are preliminary numbers and are subject to change as we continue the process,” said Chief Appraiser Steve Swindell.

 

Georgia state law dictates how assessments must be completed, including evaluations and deadlines for exemptions and assessment notifications.

 

“The Cherokee County Board of Tax Assessors follows the appraisal guidelines provided by the Georgia Code and Appraisal Procedures Manual. The goal is to achieve ‘Fair Market Value’ as defined in the code section 48-5-2 (3),” Swindell said. “The appraisal staff uses three approaches to value (sales comparison, cost and income) to determine valuation of properties. Statistical analysis, as provided by law, is used to calculate the level of assessment, uniformity and assessment bias for a group of properties defined by area, neighborhood, or class of property (residential, agricultural, commercial and industrial.)”

 

Property owners whose home is their primary residence are able to file for a homestead exemption by April 1 of the current tax year. The homestead exemption continues without renewal until the property is either sold or change in deed occurs.

 

“We partnered with the county Communications Division to make an extra effort this year to inform the public about the homestead exemption deadline of April 1, as we wanted to ensure property owners were aware of the deadline. We wanted to ensure anyone entitled to the homestead exemption receives one,” Swindell said. “In 2022, our office received 5,809 new homestead exemption applications, with nearly 1,000 received in the final week prior to the April 1 deadline.”

 

A homestead exemption provides a $5,000 reduction of the fair market value, and a 2008 local resolution dictates that once a homestead exemption is granted, that property value is frozen for Cherokee County’s maintenance and operations millage rate until the property changes hands or modifications are made. In addition, there are exemptions for disabled veterans and senior citizens.

 

“The senior homestead exemption is increased each year by the Social Security Index, which saw a 5.9 percent increase in 2022,” Swindell said. “Seniors with a qualified senior homestead exemption will see an increase in their exemption amount this year.”

 

The Tax Assessor’s Office, which is governed by the Board of Assessors, will mail the 2022 assessment notices on May 16, and property owners have until June 30 to file any appeals. The appeals process is explained on each assessment notice.

State Awards Cherokee County $3.9 million for Road Project

– A multi-jurisdictional transportation project recently received a financial boost that will shorten the waiting period for it to commence.

 

Gov. Brian Kemp announced Monday a $17 million investment in transportation infrastructure projects across Georgia, and Cherokee County will receive $3.9 million from the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank for Technology Ridge Parkway Phase I, known historically as the Heard Road Extension. The project is in partnership with the city of Canton, the Cherokee Office of Economic Development and Cherokee County.

 

The total award amount is the sum of a $2.9 million loan with a five-year repayment schedule and a $1 million grant. Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds are planned to be used to repay the note. This is the first time Cherokee County has applied for and been awarded a GTIB loan and grant.

 

“Thank you Gov. Brian Kemp and State Road and Tollway Authority Leadership for the investment in Cherokee County and for inviting us to the Capitol to commemorate the award,” said Chairman Harry Johnston. “We’d like to also thank the city of Canton and the Cherokee Office of Economic Development for their written support of the grant application.”

This is phase one of a five-phase project that will ultimately connect Bluffs Parkway to the Cherokee County Regional Airport. The Technology Ridge project has been in the works for more than a decade – the Technology Urban Redevelopment Plan was adopted in 2011 and identifies the corridor from Bluffs Parkway to the airport as prime location for industry.

 

“Technology Ridge Parkway Phase I is a new roadway that will connect Bluffs Parkway to Heard Road and Fate Conn Road and will be just over a half of a mile,” said Cherokee County Community Development Agency Director Brantley Day.

 

The project will begin with a new roundabout on Bluffs Parkway and ends with a new roundabout installed in the Heard Road/Fate Conn Road intersection. This project will immediately enhance mobility and safety on these roadways while improving critical intersections,” Day said.

 

The project is expected to spur corporate and industry development bringing more jobs to Cherokee County. The new thoroughfare, when complete, will provide easier access from the airport to the businesses in the area.

 

“The first phase of the parkway will deliver essential connectivity while providing a critical alignment for future expansion,” said Marshall Day, Chairman of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development. “It will also ensure opportunity for quality growth with positive economic impact for the region.”

Cherokee Chamber Announces Volunteer of the Quarter

The Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce that Jason Blakey, with Credit Union of Georgia, has been named the Chairman's Council Volunteer of the Quarter for first quarter 2022. He was honored during the Chamber's April Good Morning Cherokee breakfast networking event.

Members of the Chairman’s Council are accepted by invitation only from the Chamber's Board Chair. The Chairman’s Council members are invited to attend Ribbon Cuttings & Ground Breakings, Coffee & Connections…For New Members and special invitation Chamber meetings that aren’t open to the general membership.

 

In determining the Volunteer of the Quarter, attendance at Chamber events is evaluated for all members of the Chairman's Council. "There was no doubt when naming this quarter's honoree as Jason has attended many Chamber events since the first of the year," said Brian Stevens, Chamber Board Chair and CEO & Co-Owner of FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers.

 

For information on the Cherokee County Chamber and its programs, visit www.CherokeeChamber.com.

Cherokee County Marshal's Office conducts underage alcohol operation

The Cherokee Marshal’s Office conducted an underage alcohol sale enforcement detail Friday, April 1. Underage individuals who volunteered to participate in the enforcement detail attempted to purchase alcohol at 73 stores in Cherokee County. Underage operatives were able to purchase alcohol at 11 of the 73 stores.

 

“Cherokee Marshal’s Office will continue to periodically check businesses for these types of violations and encourages business owners to educate and warn their employees on the ramifications and dangers of selling alcohol to underage persons,” said Chief Marshal Jamie Gianfala. “From the results of this operation, it appears there is some work that needs to be done, as having 100 percent compliance is the goal. Checking identification is certainly a good thing and is what we are after. Thank you to the 61 establishments that checked IDs and refused to sell to a minor. We appreciate your efforts in keeping alcohol out of the hands of children.”

 

The following establishments were cited for selling alcohol to a minor:

· Circle K, 8023 Cumming Highway, Canton. Samuel Burdo was cited for selling to a minor.

· Valero, 5963 Union Hill Road, Canton. Jaswinder Singh was cited for selling to a minor.

· Marathon, 2880 Lower Union Hill Road, Canton. MD Islam was cited for selling to a minor.

· Sunoco, 256 Arnold Mill Road, Woodstock. Malek Ghorbani was cited for selling to a minor.

· Walmart, 6345 Bells Ferry Road, Woodstock. Desiree Wilson was cited for selling to a minor.

· Sunoco, 5856 Yellow Creek Road, Ball Ground. Wagner Piraquire Jr. was cited for selling to a minor.

· Hop-In, 514 Arnold Mill Road, Woodstock. Tarunkumar Patel was cited for selling to a minor.

· Shell, 6045 Highway 92, Acworth. Robin White was cited for selling to a minor.

· QT, 4865 Holly Springs Parkway, Holly Springs. Phillip Myers was cited for selling to a minor.

· Marathon, 6742 Bells Ferry Road, Woodstock. Ajay Krishna was cited for selling to a minor.

· Shell, 6135 Hickory Flat Highway, Canton. Michael Golightly was cited for selling to a minor.

During the operation, Sergei Makarov was cited for open container at the 76 gas station at 6080 Highway 92, Acworth.

The Cherokee Marshal’s Office plans to continue these types of operations to combat the illegal sale of alcohol to those under 21 years of age. Anyone wishing to report an establishment that is selling or allowing minors to purchase alcohol is asked to call the Cherokee Marshal’s Office at 678-493-6200.

Parade of Homes Releases List of 2022 Builders and Communities

The Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association (GAHBA) announced today its full list of home builders and communities for the 2022 Parade of Homes. Representing the largest annual spring showcase of new homes across metro Atlanta, the Parade of Homes is slated to take place over the course of three weekends including April 23-24, April 30-May 1, and May 7-8. Prospective home buyers will have an opportunity to tour a wide variety of homes and townhomes in a variety of styles and price points. Admission is free and participants are asked to vote for their favorite homes. In return, everyone who votes will receive a Digital Gift Bag via email in late May after the parade is complete. They will also be entered into a drawing for a chance to win one of two outdoor fireplaces from Haven Design Works, a pair of bikes from Regions Bank, a Yeti Cooler from Construction Resources. Event sponsor PELLA Window and Door of Georgia will also host a Bingo Card to encourage attendees to visit as many homes as possible for a chance to win a 1-night stay at Hotel Avalon and $100 gift card for the upscale eatery, Colletta in Alpharetta.

Builders offering a tour of homes during the 2022 Parade of Homes include:

 

Adams Homes

Brock Built Homes

Century Communities

David Weekley Homes

Eastwood Homes

Fischer Homes

Kolter Homes

McKinley Homes

Meritage Homes

Paran Homes

Piedmont Residential

Smith Douglas Homes

Southwyck Homes

Thomas Communities

Tributary Group

 

Custom home builders - Peachland Homes and McKinley Homes – will offer Virtual Only Tours through the app and ATLHomesParade.com.

The 65+ homes on the 2022 Parade of Homes can be found in the following Metro Atlanta communities and cities:

 

West Highlands in Atlanta

Ten29 West in Atlanta

Saddlebrook in Snellville

Carmichael Farms in Canton

Tiberon on the Etowah in Cumming

Twin Lakes in Hoschton

River Rock in Cumming

Cresswind Georgia at Twin Lakes in Hoschton

Townes at Marietta in Marietta

The Estates at Starr Creek in Cumming

Union Grove in Braselton

Parc Terrace in Woodstock

Creekwood in Powder Springs

Oakleigh Pointe in Dallas

Traditions of Braselton in Jefferson

Kirkview in Marietta

Seaboard Junction in Loganville

Prichard Park in Kennesaw

Turner Village in Woodstock

Brannon Ridge in Oakwood

Hastings Manor in Hampton

Worley Preserve in Jasper

Westbridge in Covington

SouthLawn Townhomes in Lawrenceville

Amberwood in Canton

Victory Place in Acworth

Thacker Farm in Bartow County

Jackson Farm in Cartersville

The Stiles in Cartersville

Escalades in Mableton

Lynwood in Ball Ground

Campbell Manor in Gwinnett County

Waterside at Riverwalk in Gwinnett County

Crossroads at Birmingham in Milton

The Cottages of Lake Lanier in Flowery Branch

Barrett Farms in Marietta

The Retreat at Sterling on the Lake in Flowery Branch

Ashbury in Alpharetta

Glenhaven at Ridgewalk in Woodstock

Thunder Ridge in Dawsonville

 

The event involves self-guided tours of both model and spec homes. Homes on the live tour from participating builders will be open to the public Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sundays from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. An interactive map of Parade Homes will be available to attendees on the Parade of Homes app and website. To learn more about the event, prospective attendees are encouraged to visit www.ATLHomesParade.com.

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