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ESPLOST on the ballot for June 9

Voters will decide the fate of the ESPLOST in Tuesday’s election, a one-cent sales tax through which school officials plan to pay for facility improvements across all county school systems.

June 9 is election day, and the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax will be on the ballot. Revenues collected from the tax are divided between Carroll County Schools and Carrollton City Schools and a small percentage is also given to Bremen City Schools.

There has been an ESPLOST in Carroll County since the first became effective Jan. 1, 1998. The current iteration was approved by voters in 2018 and is set to expire Dec. 31, 2022.

The referendum on the June 9 ballot would be the sixth iteration of the ESPLOST.

The ESPLOST will cover a maximum of five years. The revenue from the ESPLOST will be capped at $143 million and will be divided among the three districts.

Carroll County School District will receive 71.77% or a maximum of $102,631,100. Carrollton City School District will receive 26.23% or a maximum of $37,508,900. Bremen School District will receive 2.00% or a maximum of $2,860,000.

Previous ESPLOST revenue has been able to fund projects such as the Carroll County Performing Arts Center and the North College and Career Academy in Carroll County Schools. The ESPLOST can only be used for facility projects and cannot be used for things such as teacher’s salaries.

The Pope-McGinnis Student Activity Center was funded through a combination of ESPLOST set aside for an auxiliary gym and private donations.

If the referendum passes, the school systems have outlined projects that would be funded with the revenue.

Carrollton City Schools would use the funds largely to pay off bonds that were used to fund the system’s new high school.

Carroll County Schools has divided its planned projects between its five clusters, as well as system-wide projects. Each cluster will have facility and athletic additions, improvements, renovations, and modifications; technology, safety, band, fine arts, and other equipment or upgrades.

At the Bowdon Cluster, the plans at Bowdon High School are a new front hallway, drive and entrance, a band room addition, and facility renovations, modifications, and improvements.

At the Central Cluster, the plans at Central High School are gym and dining room additions, renovations and modifications, media center renovations and modifications, and facility improvements.

At the Mount Zion Cluster, the plans at Mount Zion Middle School are new gym and band room addition; parking lot and drive improvements as well as facility renovations, modifications, and improvements.

At the Temple Cluster, the plans for the schools are new track, field and concession stands as well as facility additions, renovations, modifications, and improvements.

At the Villa Rica Cluster, the plans for Villa Rica High School are to rebuild the stadium, field and track with additional parking as well as facility renovations, modifications, and improvements.

The plans at Sand Hill Elementary School are a dining room addition, classroom replacement and connector halls, and facility renovations, modifications, and improvements. At Villa Rica Elementary School the plans are new classroom addition and connector hall as well as facility renovations, modifications, and improvements.

Cater stresses continuity in re-election bid for school board

Bart Cater is one of two candidates for District Six of the Carroll County Schools Board of Education, representing the Bowdon cluster, seeking the post in Tuesday’s primary.

A member of the school board for over 20 years, Cater is the incumbent for the seat and facing opponent David Smith. He said that he is choosing to run again because continuity is key right now for the board, and his years of experience can help with that.

“One of the main points for the board was how we are trying to make sure that as superintendents change, and board members change, that the system will continue on a path to continued success,” Cater said in a written statement.

“The success of the school system doesn’t come from just the superintendent or the board. It comes from everyone in the system working together with common goals and strategies.”

Cater is a lifelong resident of Bowdon and graduated from Bowdon High School in 1985 before receiving his degree in Electrical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1991. His involvement in the community includes being an active member at Antioch Baptist Church.

While on the board, he said he is proud to be a part of such projects as a high graduation rate, safety initiatives, and projects funded with ESPLOST dollars. The ESPLOST is a one-% sales tax to help fund school facility improvements.

Part of his goals if re-elected include focusing on the 10% of students at BHS who did not graduate and to continue the intentional focus on student and staff safety.

Cater said that he would advocate ESPLOST projects to update and modernize facilities, including the BHS building, parts of which were constructed in the 1950’s.

“It has been an honor to serve as a board member for 20 years. I am not perfect, but I approach every decision with the utmost seriousness,” said Cater in a written statement.

“Simply put, I want to do my small part as a member of my community. If re-elected, I will continue to be a strong advocate where I am able.”

Carrollton man accused of explicit conduct

An 18-year-old Carrollton man was arrested on Thursday after a tip was sent in by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Mason Dale Chappell was arrested by the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office for five counts of sexually explicit conduct of a minor.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) sent a cybertip report to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The cybertip reports were initially sent to NCMEC from Snapchat (a messaging application), as uploaded file information was identified by Snapchat as apparent child pornography.

A GBI special agent was able to track the photos to a residence in Carrollton. The sheriff’s office was assigned the case and allegedly found eight initial “files of interest” in child pornography.

According to officials at the sheriff’s office, Chappell gave investigators a statement during an interview. Officials said he did not know the victims and the photos were obtained over the internet.

Chappell’s bond had not been set as of Friday afternoon and he was still in custody of the Carroll County Jail.

County voters to select several state and local leaders, decide fate of ESPLOST sales tax on Tuesday

Carroll County residents will select several state and local leaders in Tuesday’s primary and decide the fate of the ESPLOST sales tax dedicated to funding school capital projects.

And those who requested an absentee ballot to vote remotely have until 7 p.m. on Tuesday to turn the ballot into the county’s elections office, 423 College St.

Absentee ballots will only be accepted by mail if they are at the elections office by Tuesday, but residents can return their ballots by putting them in a drop box at the office.

Early voting for Tuesday’s primary ended on Friday at the county election office and at Powell Park in Villa Rica. As of Friday afternoon, County Elections Supervisor Greg Rigby said there were 4,383 advanced in-person votes and 10,951 absentee ballots submitted.

On Tuesday, precincts across Carroll will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Rigby said he does not anticipate any locations to be closed. Voters can find their polling locations and sample ballots at the state’s My Voter Page, www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.

More than a million Georgia voters have participated in the primary, including 262,000 in-person voters, according to a release from the secretary of state’s office. Another 810,000 residents returned absentee ballots, about 80% of the total votes cast

“Elections officials across the state have worked throughout the COVID-19 crisis to preserve the ways that Georgia voters prefer to cast their ballots,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a release. “Though we encourage anyone who has requested an absentee ballot to return it by mail or submit it in a drop box, we look forward to providing safe in-person voting on Election Day as well.”

Raffensperger has also worked with elections officials in the 159 counties across the state to provide 35,000 masks to poll workers and other personal protective equipment and sanitation supplies.

On Tuesday, all county voters will decide whether to continue the one cent ESPLOST sales tax collection, which is used to fund city and county school capital projects.

The presidential preference primary that was postponed from March 24 to Tuesday is also on the ballot. The Democratic ballot has 12 candidates, including presumptive nominee Joe Biden. The Republican ballot lists one candidate, President Donald Trump.

District 5 Commissioner Ernest Reynolds is seeking re-election for the seat, but he is being challenged by former District 5 Commissioner Lee Powers and James Fulford, chairman of the county’s Board of Assessors.

Bernice Brooks is challenging incumbent Rob Cleveland for the Carroll County Board of Education District 1 seat. Kerry Miller is challenging incumbent Dr. Robert Pinckney for the District 3 seat on the county school board.

Incumbent Clayton Kierbow is seeking re-election to the District 5 county school board post, but he is being challenged by Jessie Strickland. Meanwhile, incumbent District 6 representative Bart Cater is facing David Smith in Tuesday’s primary.

Voters in west Carrollton will choose between fiscal policy analyst Danielle Fluck, beautician Jacqulene Elaine Bridges and Kroger overnight assistant store leader Rodney Ridley to represent Ward 1. This city council election was postponed from May 19 due to the coronavirus.

Three Carrollton attorneys are hoping to be the county’s next state court judge, including former Carrollton Councilman Met Lane, Erica Tisinger with Greer-Tisinger and Nathaniel Smith with the Law Offices of Nathaniel L. Smith.

Georgia Public Service Commissioner Jason Shaw is seeking re-election and is facing challenger Robert G. Bryant. Meanwhile, incumbent Public Service Commissioner Lauren Bubba McDonald is squaring off against Daniel Blackman and John Noel for another seat on the commission.

Elizabeth “Beth” Beskin and incumbent Charlie Bethel are competing for a seat on the Supreme Court of Georgia. Hal Moroz is challenging incumbent Sarah Hawkins Warren for another seat on the state’s highest court. These posts are non-partisan.

There are seven Democratic candidates challenging U.S. Senator David Perdue, including Sarah Riggs Amico, Marckeith DeJesus, James Knox, Tricia Carpenter McCracken, Jon Ossoff, Maya Dillard Smith and Teresa Tomlinson.

Rep. Drew Ferguson of Georgia’s third congressional district is being challenged by Val Almonord for the post. District 69 state Rep. Randy Nix and Herbert Giles are squaring off for Nix’s seat.

A trio of Democratic candidates are challenging Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan in the state’s 30th district, including Montenia Edwards, Afoma Eguh-Okafor and Triana Arnold James.

Carrollton funeral director Cason Hightower, Bremen attorney Tyler Paul Smith and Bremen teacher Lane Daniel are challenging Carroll County Democratic Chair Pat Rhudy for the state House District 18 seat held by Rep. Kevin Cooke. Cooke joined the Congressional race in Georgia’s 14th district in January set to be vacated by Tom Graves at the end of this year.

Several candidates are running unopposed including:

  • County Commission Chairman Michelle Morgan
  • County Sheriff Terry Langley
  • District 3 County Commissioner Tommy Lee
  • District 1 County Commissioner Montrell McClendon
  • County Solicitor Becky Jackson
  • Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judges John Simpson, Emory Palmer, Travis Sakrison and Dennis Blackmon and Nina Markette Baker
  • Probate Court Judge Edith Haney
  • Chief Magistrate Alton P. Johnson
  • Georgia Court of Appeals Judges Trenton Brown, Christian Coomer, Sara Doyle, Elizabeth Dallas Gobeil, David Todd Markle and Carla McMillan

UWG develops phased reopening plan

The University of West Georgia has developed a four-phase plan for employees and students to return after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the campus to close.

The return to in-person operations will begin Monday, June 15 and take place over the next two months. University officials have developed an expected timeline for returning to in-campus operations in preparation for the fall 2020 semester.

Phase one runs from June 15 through July 5; phase two runs from July 6 through July 19; phase three runs from July 20 through Aug. 2; and phase four runs from Aug. 3 through Aug. 12, which is the first day of fall 2020 classes. This last phase includes students taking classes on campus.

“We are incredibly thankful for the tireless efforts of our faculty and staff in facilitating this transition to remote work and how they have risen to the challenges presented by COVID-19,” said UWG President Dr. Brendan Kelly in a news release.

“I also wish to express my deepest gratitude to the university personnel who have continued to provide essential services on-campus during this time. Because of their efforts, we have the opportunity to return to campus safe and stronger than ever.”

The university will include practices such as proper social distancing measures, keeping people at least 6 feet apart; regular cleaning and decontamination of facilities and workstations; the requirement to wear face coverings in non-private spaces; and effective tools to conduct daily monitoring of employees’ temperatures and other relevant symptoms.

UWG officials said they will be guided by the state of Georgia, University System of Georgia (USG), Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other appropriate governmental or professional organizations to ensure the plans fall in line with best practice safety protocols.

UWG utilized seven working groups made up of cross-functional personnel to develop this approach, and these teams continue to work collaboratively to begin implementing the plan across the university.

“Our hope with these protocols is to build a culture of mutual respect,” Kelly said in the release. “We’re all navigating a great deal of change in a short amount of time, but we are looking forward to welcoming our faculty, staff, and students back to campus over the next two months and for the fall semester.”