A Gordon County maintenance truck, loaded with about two tons of gravel, fell through the upper level of the two-story parking deck attached to the Courthouse Annex in downtown Calhoun late Tuesday, Jan. 11.
David James, the truck’s driver, had just started scraping snow from the deck’s top level in preparation for the reopening of county offices Jan. 12.
He had scraped about half of the first lane of the deck when his rear wheels fell through the deck’s roadway. His truck’s path could be clearly seen from where he had cleared the snow. About five or six inches of snow was on the deck.
“I felt like my wheels had gone into a grate. It just stopped, and then it started falling backwards,” said James, an 11-year county employee. “Everything just moved in slow motion.”
James, who was not injured when his truck plunged through the deck, said he was lucky the truck fell through rear first.
No one else was in the structure when the portion of the deck, just large enough for the truck to fit through fell.
County Administrator Randy Dowling said the county received a consultants report in late 2010 that said the deck, which was built in the mid-1980s, was structurally sound, and noted that the beams did not collapse during the incident.
“The report we got gave us an estimate of $100,000 to refurbish the deck and bring it up to code and another of $100,000 to tear it down,” he said.
The upper level of the parking deck was removed later during the year, and the bottom level has been used for public parking. A new parking deck is one of the projects included in the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax that Gordon Countians voted in November to continue.
February – Oglethorpe Inn left in the dark
Power was shut off at the Oglethorpe Inn on Redbud Road on Wednesday, Feb. 16, leaving those living there scrambling to find an alternate residence.
John Edens, the owner of the inn at the time said he didn’t have the money to turn the power back on. He said the inn owed North Georgia Electric Membership Corporation (NGEMC) more than $11,500 in overdue charges.
According to Eddie Peterson, Calhoun city administrator, there were more than 80 displaced families on Thursday, Feb. 17, but due to an outpouring of interagency support, there were only 40 families waiting for placement by noon Friday, Feb. 18.
The inn remained open until all of the residents found placement, Peterson said.
The United Way provided emergency funding for some of the families to be housed in the Motel 6, said Vickie Spence, director of United Way. Several local restaurants donated free meals for the stranded residents, and the Voluntary Action Center donated personal items and snack-type items to the residents.
In August, the Calhoun Times learned the maturity date of a loan for Tich Hospitality, the company that owned the Oglethorpe, had been extended.
The final settlement of an Aug. 11 summary hearing concerning the loan, originally issued by Bartow County Bank (now Hamilton State Bank) to Tich Hospitality was private. However, Calhoun City Attorney Bill Bailey stated in an Aug. 12 letter that the balance due on the note was reduced to $1,185,000. He also said the maturation date of the loan was extended to Feb. 7, 2015.
Tich Hospitality, LLC, was once owned by U.S. Congressman Tom Graves and state Sen. Majority leader Chip Rogers.
Bartow County Bank first filed a complaint in Gordon County Superior Court on Jan. 7, 2010, alleging that Graves and Rogers defaulted on a $2.3 million loan made to Tich Hospitality. Graves and Rogers then filed a counterclaim in March 2010 claiming the bank broke its promise in not allowing Tich Hospitality to refinance the loan, according to court records reviewed by the Calhoun Times in May 2010.
Graves’ involvement with the embattled Oglethorpe seems to be winding to an end, however. The loan modification agreement finalized in August was signed by Edens, who bought Tich Hospitality from Graves and Rogers, Bailey noted. Bailey also said Graves is not liable for $30,910 in past due city taxes from 2009 and 2010.
“TICH Hospitality, LLC is a limited liability company,” Bailey states. “John T. Graves, Jr., as a member or former member of the LLC, is not personally liable for any past due ad valorem taxes due to the City of Calhoun for the years 2009 and 2010.”
Since Edens is now a member of the LLC, he is not liable for past due taxes, either, Bailey said in an interview.
Bailey explained that if the city can secure payment of the past due taxes, it will most likely be through a tax sale, which he described as similar in procedure to a foreclosure sale.
The city has a tax lien on the Oglethorpe Inn property that Bailey said in his letter is “superior to any Dead to Secure Debt held by any bank, including Hamilton State Bank.”
In the meantime, the abandoned motel has become an eyesore and a possible hazard for the city.
During a summer work session, city council members briefly discussed installing a fence around the property and eventually demolishing the inn.
According to Bailey’s letter, fence installation or structure demolition can take place only after a hearing in municipal court resulting in a court order “declaring the property a nuisance and ordering the abatement of nuisance.”
The decision to enter into this process falls to the mayor and city council, he said.
March - Pain clinic elicits community concern
A handful of vocal community members gathered to address the Calhoun City Council members Monday night, March 29, with questions about Advanced Wellness, the pain clinic that had recently lost and regained its business license.
They wondered why the business, which was under the investigation of local law enforcement officials and the state medical board, was still in operation.
Calhoun Police Department, accompanied by state medical board officials, entered Advanced Wellness Wednesday, March 16, to take the license in accordance with the city’s nuisance ordinance.
The city had been receiving complaints that Advanced Wellness customers were loitering in the area, and cars full of people waiting to be seen at the establishment were parked in the lots of nearby businesses.
There were rumors that the clinic was serving narcotic addicts. According to Calhoun Police Department Det. Lt. Tony Pyle, law officers in other states had reported that individuals they found with narcotic pills said they got prescriptions for them at Advanced Wellness.
The city restored the pain clinic’s business license after failing to grant the business a hearing before taking the license; city policy states a hearing is required.
By late March, dozens of cars with out-of-state plates as far away as Kentucky, Ohio and Florida, were again parked at the business daily.
Two women who work nearby said they did not feel safe at work because of the clientele who circulate in and out of Advanced Wellness. They and other community members spoke to the Calhoun Times on the condition of anonymity because they said they feared for their safety. One of them said an Advanced Wellness employee had used a gender slur toward her.
The individuals present spoke of a petition circulated throughout the medical community and presented to city officials that protested the presence of Advanced Wellness.
Other members of the community spoke of the difficulties Advanced Wellness patients and employees had placed on their professional lives and asked the city council to do something about it.
City Council did vote in April to put a moratorium on the issuance of new business licenses for pain clinics.
According to city documents, the moratorium was designed to “provide the city of Calhoun an opportunity to develop ordinances and/ or regulations that address the secondary effects of pain management clinics on individuals and the community.”
By August, the employees of Advanced Wellness had apparently vacated the premises, according to Calhoun Police Chief Garry Moss.
Moss said he spoke to the landlord of the building who found only “a few rubber gloves and some paper towels” left in the building.
Advanced Wellness representatives told the federal Drug Enforcement Administration they were leaving the building because their lease was up, Moss said. The landlord, however, told Moss their lease wasn’t up until November, Moss stated.
A state law that passed in July was more likely the cause of the pain clinic’s departure, he said.
The law mandated that no more than 60 pills falling under the classification of narcotic or controlled substance be prescribed to an individual per month, Moss said.
The law “took the profit margin out of it for people driving down here from Kentucky and Ohio” and beyond, Moss explained.
April – Gordon helps tornado victims
Gordon was one of many Georgia counties that pooled its resources to help neighboring communities during the April storms that wreaked havoc throughout the southeast.
Although a few homes in Gordon County sustained damage from fallen trees, there were no reported injuries. Neighboring Ringgold did not fare so well and took a direct hit from a violent tornado.
Eight people lost their lives in that storm, and businesses and homes throughout Catoosa County lay in splinters in the wake of the storm.
The Gordon County Sheriff’s Department, Emergency Management Agency and other local emergency personnel traveled to Ringgold to help out in the aftermath.
Local churches, schools, businesses and community organizations joined forces to send truckloads of donated food, clothing and other needed items to tornado victims in Catoosa and other affected areas, including Dade County and Alabama.