Rockmart approves ordinance change for judge residency

Rockmart council members have approved a revision of the ordinance requiring the magistrate judge is a resident of Polk County.

The revision also includes setting a specific term of one year in office, and provides for removal provisions as required by State law and have an effective date and remove conflicting provisions of the City Charter. Prior to the vote, a public hearing was held on the matter.

Andrew Roper is the current magistrate judge. His term will expire on Dec. 31, 2016.

Council members, during the July meeting, also gave the green light to a malt beverage and wine package for the Big Bear, located at 503 N. Piedmont Ave.

The following items listed from the June meeting were also given final approval:

A report from City Clerk Pam Herring, who discussed the growing use of credit and debit cards for paying utility, tax bills and other fees of the City. She reminded the group her initial request was that the City would cover those convenience fees.

The cost is now averaging around $650 per month and the new software will allow passing the convenience fees on to those using the credit cards. Individuals still have the option of paying by cash, check and bank drafts at no extra charge.

FY2017 Capital Budget, Operating Budget and Fee Schedule:

City Manager Jeff Ellis said the fee schedule includes the normal 5 percent increase on garbage in January and 5 percent increase water and sewer in July. Due to the increase in the mandated fees for debt service and ongoing additional costs the recommendation was to increase the sewer fee from 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent of the water charges. These additional funds will be used to retire debt.

He highlighted the budget for the General Fund at $5,851,573 with a contingency of $120,867, stating the Mayor and Council control this. The Water Sewer Fund budget is $4,558,941 with a contingency of $161,335, which is monitored for emergencies.

He noted the FY2017 budget also includes 2 new employees added in the General Fund and 1 in the Water Sewer Fund. He said there was a $10,000 amount to help increase the pay for the library personnel. There is also 3, 1 percent increases for all full time staff.

The recommended FY2017 Capital Budget, Operating Budget and Fee Schedule were approved.

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Memorial scholarship banquet scheduled

The 2016 Mamie R. Hammock Memorial Scholarship Fund Banquet will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27 in the Cedar Lake Christian Center Ledbetter Hall, 1890 Rome Highway in Cedartown.

Featured speaker will be Dr. Beverly Philpot Smith of Rockmart. Other program participants are Crystal Sherfield, first scholarship recipient, Aquatic Wave, Canedra James and Desire Whatley Green.

To purchase a ticket for $20 each, contact Estella McDermott, Patron Hoke, Robert Barton Deborah Jones, Mrs. Gladys Gipson, Demetrius Crispo, Harold Gipson, Mary Callins or Fannie Fain or donate online at

For additional information, call Robert W. Barton at 770-748-1362.

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Rockmart businesses team up for first Adult Field Day fundraiser

A pair of local businesses are teaming up to help raise money for Rockmart Youth Football this fall by holding the first ever Adult Field Day fundraiser at the end of the month.

The field day is set for 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the old Rockmart High School football field on Saturday, July 30.  

Hair D-Lites and Hardkore Fitness have partnered together in hopes of raising enough money to sponsor several youth in the community who would otherwise have trouble paying for needed equipment and pads. Hair D-Lites owner Tandra McClure that in coming up with the idea, she wanted to make sure that she was doing something fun to help the youth who need it. 

Last year was my first experience being a team mom, and I tell you it was a lot of work,” she said. “I was able to experience the stress of the coaches paying out of pocket to help these kids play. Whether it was transporting them to and from games, picking them up for practice, paying for registration, or feeding them. I was shocked to see how much of a struggle it can be for parents, but it takes special people like coaches to step in and fill in the gap.”

Demarcus James, her son and the owner and operator of Hardkore Fitness, will be helping out in organizing the event. 

Teams of 6-8 cost $80 to register and compete, and all those participating must be 25 years or older. Teams can be co-ed, but must have a name and a team color. 

Entry into the Field Day will be $5 for adults, and $3 for children. All money raised will go toward supporting Rockmart Youth Football players. 

Games during the field day include, but are not limited to classics like the Tug of War, egg race and sack race, but also some newer ones like body hula hoop relay and blindfold water bucket fill up. 

Those interested in participating can contact McClure at 706-844-7867 or James at 972-623-7691.

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Former Polk County Sheriff’s deputy arrested on battery, false statements charges after alleged inmate abuse

The GBI arrested a former Polk County deputy Wednesday for allegedly tazing a restrained inmate at the Polk County Jail on July 7.

Dallas Battle, 61, who previously served with the Floyd County Police Department, is charged with felony violation of oath of office, making a false statement and misdemeanor battery, according to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation press release.

He resigned from his position at the jail on July 8 and turned himself in Wednesday and was released on bond.

Chief Jailer Al Sharp said jail staff saw evidence of the incident when they reviewed footage from a camera after the inmate complained.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office and the Polk County District Attorney requested a GBI investigation after the incident, the release stated. Once the investigation is complete, the results will be turned over to District Attorney Jack Browning.

“It saddens me that one of our employees did something like that, but I want everyone to know that we don’t tolerate these kinds of things happening,” Sheriff Johnny Moats said. “Up until this incident, he was a good employee.”

He added that his office didn’t conduct background checks on Battle or any other hired by the previous administration.

Battle was employed by FCPD for 17 years. He was fired by Chief Bill Shiflett on May 18, 2007, for violating departmental policies after what Shiflett termed “inappropriate behavior.”

It was later revealed that he had been accused of rape by a Northwest Georgia woman, but a Floyd County grand jury did not indict him.

Battle was the lead investigator in the Harper-Reynolds murder case in Rome. Richard Scott Harper and Michelle Reynolds are serving prison time for the July 5, 2004, killing of Reynolds’ husband, Thad John Glenn Reynolds.

Polk Standard Journal Editor Kevin Myrick contributed to this report.

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Commissioners file ethics complaint against fellow board member over budget vote

A trio of Polk County Commissioners filed a complaint against fellow Commissioner Jason Ward over a vote he cast on a budget amendment in June.

Polk County’s Ethics committee gathered for an opening hearing to take in a complaint against Commissioner Jason Ward filed based on questions they have about his right to vote on a budget amendment that would have eliminated the position of assistant county manager, a job he had applied for and asked commissioners to reconsider him for in writing.

Commissioners Jennifery Hulsey, Scotty Tillery and Ray Barber sought clarification over whether it was unethical for Ward to vote on the amendment, and on his conduct following attempts to cut the position from the county administration.

Their issues revolve around e-mails sent to the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia legal counsel asking for advice on whether Ward was allowed to vote on issues involving the position of the assistant county manager.

The trio’s complaint contended that by county ordinance, he should have abstained from the vote. Their filing also took issue with statements Ward made in previous coverage of the board’s votes on the budget.

The committee took in the complaint during their July 19 session, along with an attachment detailing specific issues the trio of commissioners have with Ward, and supplementary e-mails to provide backing evidence for what the committee could consider.

The ethics committee is appointed as a pair by the chair of the commission, and one by the committee itself after it was appointed. It is made up of John Ragland, who chairs the committee, and Ron Ray and Travis Ragsdle, and all three are residents of Polk County, Denton said.

Because it has been some time since the committee has heard complaints, Denton went over their powers which include the right to subpoena, conduct hearings, take evidence and to also adopt complaints, notices, applications for reinstatement and other “written instruments necessary or desirable under these rules.”

Once finished with handling the complaint within the committee, they’ll release their findings to the Board of Commissioners who will then decide on what action to take with the recommendations from the committee.

Denton said that as of Tuesday afternoon, no further hearings had been filed.

During the meeting, Ward also filed a rebuttal to the complaint made against him, and included some charges of his own.

Those included breaches of executive session privilege by Scotty Tillery and Ray Barber, a conspiracy to remove Denton as the county manager and replace him with Ward, and defense of his actions following the June 28 meeting and statements to the Standard Journal.

Below is the original memorandum of complaint filed by Barber, Hulsey and Tillery. Find the full list of issues, plus Ward’s response, in the attached PDFs. 

“We are very concerned with statements that Commissioner Jason Ward has made concerning Executive Sessions and other situations that we presented to our County Attorney, Brad McFall (see attachment).

We feel our concerns were not sufficiently answered. Many questions were not answered, and we are requesting an ethics committee review of the comments we referenced in the attached letter sent to Attorney McFall, and we would like an outside counsel to work with our county ethics committee as well. We would like to see individuals reviewing this who have not had any dealings or know anything concerning these issues to take a look at the concerns we feel the citizens of Polk County would want us to address. We are asking the Polk Ethics Committee meet as soon as possible to review our concerns, and we would like to know their findings by our August meeting.

Commissioner Ray Barber, Commissioner Scotty Tillery and Commissioner Jennifer Hulsey

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The Tech Corner from the July 20, 2016 edition of the Standard Journal

The Tech Corner is a weekly technology news and advice column presented each week courtesy of Melvin McCrary at Ga. Computer Depot in Cedartown.

Facebook launches Open Cellular — An open-source Wireless Access Platform

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Wednesday the creation of a new open-source wireless communication platform called Open Cellular that can be easily deployed in remote locations by anyone.

Open Cellular is a doorbell-sized hardware device that could be attached to a pole or tree at a range of heights from where it can deliver a wireless network, from 2G cell-phone networks to higher speed LTE, and Wi-Fi networks like those inside your home, or local coffee shop.

Facebook plans to open source the designs for this device so that service providers, researchers, and others can use its designs and control software for free to build their own boxes that are cheap to purchase and maintain.

“We designed Open Cellular as an open system so anyone—from telecom operators to researchers to entrepreneurs—can build and operate wireless networks in remote places,” Zuck said. “It’s about the size of a shoe box and can support up to 1,500 people from as far as 10 kilometers away.”

OpenBTS and YateBTS help communities replace expensive cellular network infrastructure with open source software.

Thanks to the Australian government and a company called Range Networks, you’ll soon be able to find a signal near several research facilities on the continent.

Range has already brought GSM service to Macquarie Island, a small island just outside the Antarctic Circle. This is preferable to Wi-Fi because it provides wider coverage while using less energy. And although the network has a satellite uplink to connect it with the rest of the world, it doesn’t depend on satellites for local communications, which is essential to the safety of field researchers.

GSM networks like the one on the island usually cost about a million dollars to build, says Range Networks CEO Ed Kozel. But Range is able to bring the technology to Antarctica for just a few thousand dollars using an open source platform called OpenBTS, short for Open Base Transceiver Station. All you need to run a GSM network with OpenBTS is radio software and an off-the-shelf Linux server.

Thanks to its barebones approach, the technology is a way of bringing cell service to all sorts of remote populations, from Antarctica to rural Indonesia. Big telecommunications companies are unlikely to build traditional networks in such places because they just wouldn’t be profitable. But the economics of open source are very different.

A search and rescue team in Iceland, used the software to turn one of its helicopters into a flying cellphone tower that can be used to triangulate the location of missing persons.

He’d also like to revolutionize infrastructure the way Android has revolutionized mobile computing. “What Android did for the handset world was enable a whole new wave of companies and technologies it produced a lot of new products and new competition in the smart phone market,” he says. “What Android did for the handsets we’d like to do for the network.”

Gift Card Scams

Recently, brands such as Target, Starbucks, Costco, Shell, Zara, Winstream, Wal-Mart, or Asda are being used as a front for the latest phishing scams.

This scam comes on Facebook or email from crooks claiming to represent Starbucks, Zara, or Costco. If you click on the shared link, you will end up on a webpage encouraging you to share the “offer”, post something nice about Costco/Starbuck/Zara, and like a Facebook page.

While on the site, victims are giving out their personal identification information, leaving themselves open to identity theft. The gift card, never comes.

There is another scam that brings up Dell Computers’ name. Large retailers such as Costco, Wal-Mart, Asda, or Target advise their customers that they rarely if ever offer these kinds of deals to customers, and never through unsolicited email campaigns. The real ones do have marketing campaigns encouraging people to “like” their posts and share them, but giving away $500 vouchers to millions of Facebook users just doesn’t happen.

Security Alert: New and Cheap Ransomware for Sale on the Dark Web

A new ransomware is being promoted through aggressive advertising campaigns on the Dark web. As we have previously stated, we will never reveal any details or how to get to these sites.

The creators have even uploaded a video to YouTube, showing it in action: It gives the victims 96 hours to pay the ransom or it will delete a random file from the victim’s PC every 6 hours. Also it will add the extension “.locked” to all kidnapped files.

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Challenges Hackers to Create Automated Hacking System

We know that humans are too slow at finding and fixing security bugs, which is why vulnerabilities like Heartbleed, POODLE and GHOST remained undetected for decades and rendered almost half of the Internet vulnerable to theft by the time patches were rolled out.

Now to solve this hurdle, DARPA has come up with an idea: To build a smart Artificial Intelligence System that will automatically detect and even patch security flaws in a system.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has selected seven teams of finalists who will face off in a historic battle, as each tries to defend themselves and find out flaws without any human control.

The DARPA Cyber Grand Challenge will be held at the annual DEF CON hacking conference in Las Vegas next month.

The winner team will be awarded a prize money of $2 Million for building a system that can not only detect vulnerabilities but also write its own patches and deploy them without crashing.

Walker said software bugs go undetected for an average of 312 days, which hackers can often exploit. In fact, even after detecting the flaws, the human takes much time to understand the bugs, develop patches, and then release them to the broader community.

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Water Main repairs coming Thursday for area around MLK Boulevard, Rock Street in Cedartown

Residents around the area of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Rock Street – along with a few others – are expected to have low water pressure for a fix to city plumbing problem coming up, according to a release form the city Tuesday afternoon.

Public Works Director Kelvin Garmon said in the statement that crews will be repairing a water main located in the Rock Street/Merits Avenue/Jones Street/Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. area on Thursday, July 21.

The estimated time of repair is from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m., according to the release, at which time residents living in the area will be without water service.

“Please understand this repair is necessary and every effort will be made to complete the task as quickly as possible,” the city’s release stated.

The public works crew placed advisory notices on the door knobs of the residents that will be affected by the disruption in service.

During the repair, Rock Street to MLK Blvd. to East Ellawood will be closed to non-residential only. Also during this time, residents living in the Hickland/Pine Crest/Rogers Trail area may experience periods of low water pressure.

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Standard Journal Area Calendar of Events from the July 20, 2016 edition

Need to get an item onto the Area Calendar of Events? E-mail or today! All items must be in at least 2 weeks before the event to appear in the Standard Journal on time.

Polk School District has announced open house will be held, beginning Aug. 2 and will continue Aug. 3 – 4.

The schedule includes: Aug. 2 – CHS – seniors, 6 to 8 p.m. and RHS – freshmen 6 to 8 p.m.

August 3 – CMS – 6th grade, 1 to 3 p.m.

August 4 – All elementary, 2 to 4 p.m.

All middle schools, 4 to 6 p.m.

All high schools, 6 to 8 p.m.

Jason Purser, new pastor at New Prospect Baptist of Rockmart, has announced that Vacation Bible School is scheduled July 26 – 29.

Classes for all ages will be taught from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Supper will be served each day of VBS.

Family Day for registration will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 23 and will feature a live petting zoo. You can pre-register online at

A prayer on the square will be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays during July in front of the Polk County Courthouse on Main Street in Cedartown.

This is not a protest rally but a time for prayer for every challenge in life. It is open to the public.

Tandra L McClure, owner and operator of Hair D-Lites Beauty Salon, Rockmart, has announced Hair D-Lites and Hardkore Fitness are hosting the 1st Annual Adult Field Day to help sponsor some players for the Rockmart Youth Football team. There will be a host of vendors and activities for kids while the adults play. Admission is $5 adults $3 children

Contact info: 706-844-7867 Tandra McClure

Alzheimer’s Cafe will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15 at the Cedartown Church of God. Located at 448 West Ave.

Alzheimer Association officials have announced that all programs are free but registration is needed. For more information, call 800-272-3900.

Dallas Second Baptist Church will celebrate homecoming on Sunday, July 24, beginning at 10:30 a.m. with the Bro. Vermon Parmer preaching and Zion Quartet singing.

Revival will begin at 7:30 p.m. Monday and continue through 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 27.

Bro. Vermon Parmer will be preaching, and there will be special singing each night.

The church is located at 413 West Memorial Dr. in Dallas, Ga. Pastor is Rev. Paul Hebert.

The Farmer’s Market at Berry College is expanding to 4 days a week from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Berry College’s Student Enterprises started the market on Wednesday, July 13. Shoppers can find vegetables, eggs, cheese, and herbs from Season’s Harvest, Martha’s Herbs, Blue Hen Eggs and Jersey Milk. The daily market will be located in front of the Berry College Police Department across from the school’s main entrance.

All markets are free and open to the public

A back-to-school clothing drive will be held in the activity building, located back of Bellview Baptist Church, located on Bellview Road, Rockmart, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 6.

The church is accepting donations of gently used clothing to help families with children returning to classes in August. The event is open to the public and there is no charge for items received.

Additionally, snacks, coffee and juice will be available for breakfast. For more information about the event, call 770-684-3941 or email You can also register online at

The North Georgia General Missionary Baptist Association will hold 4th Sunday Fellowship Service at 6 p.m. July 24 with Flat Rock Baptist Church, 848 Cunningham Road, Rome, Ga. Rev. Scott McClure is the pastor.

The guest speaker will be Rev. B.J. Sims, Pastor, Friendship Baptist Church of Cedartown.

The Formby-Pope family reunion will be held from 12 to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 30 at The Depot, located at 180 West Elm Street in Rockmart.

Hamburgers and hotdogs will be provided. If you plan to attend, please bring a side dish, condiments or deserts.

All family and friends are invited. For more information, call Joan at 828-421-3264 or 828-524-9082.

Ferst Foundation of Polk County will present a Symphony of Choirs at 3 p.m. Aug. 6, 2016 in Rockmart Civic Auditorium. Admission is free.

This is an annual fundraising event showcasing regional choirs, soloists and instrumental groups.

Life Line Screening, a leading provider of community-based preventive health screenings, is pleased to offer a preventive health event at Cedartown Church of God on Aug. 5, 2016.

Five screenings will be offered that scan for potential health problems related to: blocked arteries which is a leading cause of stroke; abdominal aortic aneurysms which can lead to a ruptured aorta; hardening of the arteries in the legs which is a strong predictor of heart disease; arterial fibrillation or irregular heart beat which is closely tied to stroke risk; and a bone density screening, for men and women, used to assess the risk of osteoporosis.

Register for a Wellness Package, which includes 4 vascular tests and osteoporosis screening from $149 ($139 with our member discount). All five screenings take 60-90 minutes to complete. In order to register for this event and to receive a $10 discount off any package priced above $129, call 1-888-653-6441

The 14th annual Masonic Golf Tournament will be held at Cherokee Country Club in Cedartown Friday, July 22.

Registration starts at 9 a.m. with a shotgun start at 10 o’clock. Cost to sponsor a hole is $100 and the fee to play is $100 per golfer, which includes green fees and 4 mulligans per player.

Fliers and other information are available from Rockmart/Davitte Lodge members. For other information, contact Del Rayburn, 770-684-5207 or 404-936-0151 or Harold McDurmon, 404-379- 2136.

The local vegetable market will open at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 28, 2016 in Peek Park in Cedartown. The market will be open from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and Friday or until the vegetables is sold.

The monthly spaghetti dinner at American Legion Post 12 in Rockmart will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 20.

Spaghetti, meatballs, garlic toast and salad will be on the menu. For $5, you get all you can eat.

The University of Georgia Small Business Development Center in Rome along with the Atlanta Street Food Coalition will host the Street Food 101 training program in Cartersville on August 12, 2016.

Street Food 101 is an in-depth workshop designed to guide you through the ins and outs of mobile food entrepreneurship. The workshop will cover the dos and don’ts of social media and Internet marketing.

The workshop will be held at the Cartersville-Bartow Chamber of Commerce on August 12. For more information, call Kinsey at 706-622-2006.

Movies are shown in the Cedartown Library, located 545 East Avenue, at 2 p.m. Thursdays and 1 p.m. Saturdays. Popcorn is available for 50 cents and soft drinks for 75 cents. Shows are rated PG.

The schedule will include McFarland USA at 2 p.m. July 21 and 1 p.m. July 23.

For more information, call 770-748-5644.

Polk / Haralson Christian Life Center (Camp Antioch) continues a summer of events for adults and children.

July 20-24 Northbrook United Methodist will be staying at the camp and doing mission projects at the Murphy-Harpst Home.

Abundant Life Ministry will hold their annual Boy’s Camp at Camp Antioch July 27-31.

If you would like to make a reservation for your group to use the camp, email

Yorkville Baptist Church will host homecoming services at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, July 24.

Singers will be the Joymakers Quartet. Everyone is invited to attend.

The local Board of Elections has announced meetings in 2016 will follow this schedule: 3 p.m. July 29, 10 a.m. August 9, 10 a.m. September 13, 10 a.m. October 11, 10 a.m. November 14 and 3 p.m. December 9.

These meetings will be held in the Elections Office Conference Room, 144 W. Ave., Suite D, in Cedartown.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) will begin fall semester soon. Returning students in construction or any of the various programs GNTC offers on five different campuses, as well as online, can sign-up for classes. New student registration will be held July 28. New student application and testing deadline for the fall semester is July 18. For more information, visit or call Georgia Northwestern at 866-983-4682.

Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Support Group in Polk meets the first Monday of each month at First Baptist Church of Rockmart, 311 E. Elm Street. The facilitator is April Williams. For more information about this group, call April Williams at 770-546-5188.

The following are dates for July 2016 Kiwanis Club meetings.

July 22: A visit and tour of the new Polk / Floyd Hospital. Most of our members have had one or more opportunities to tour the hospital. This meeting will emphasize and explain the importance of the pediatric care services of the Polk/Floyd Medical Center. Floyd will host and provide lunch.

Celebrate Recovery continues to meet in the First Baptist Church of Rockmart, 311 E. Elm St., Monday nights with dinner at 6 p.m. A large group gathers at 7 p.m. and small share group at 8:00 p.m.

Polk County Board of Health has announced its 2016 meeting schedule in the Polk County Health Department, 125 E. Ware St., Cedartown: August 11 and Nov. 10, 2016.

Soup and “Savior”, a local non-profit organization, meets from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays to provide needed items to deserving people.

This includes a free meal (soup), clothing and gives other assistance. Meetings are held at Glad Tidings, located at 703 Robert L Parks Blvd in Cedartown. Donations are accepted.

“Revival Fire” is the title of a presentation by Charles G. Garrett, which is featured on Charter Channel 181 at 9 p.m. every Sunday night. He said this is his 17th year in Polk County.

Narconon would like to remind families that the use of addicting drugs is on the rise, take steps to protect your family from drug use.

Call for a free brochure, screenings and referrals, 800-431-1754.

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Drug Task Force raids net marijuana, two arrests from Polk County grow operation

Two people were arrested late last week following months of investigations into two plots of marijuana being tended in in the northwest corner of Polk County near Cedartown.

Ralph Smith, deputy commander of the Polk County Drug Task Force, said that an anonymous tip months back put police on a path to find the fields. One off of Highway 100 near Lime Springs Church, and the other off Highway 100 near Friendship Road.

Both locations were raided and 140 plants were seized between the two spots, where Smith said $140,000 in marijuana was seized.

“We started watching the grows several months ago, to see who were headed to them or responsible for them,” Smith said. “Once we identified the suspects coming in and out, we made the arrest and collected the evidence.”

On July 15, Randy Van Earley, 57, of a 545 W. John Hand Road, Cedartown, and Carl Wayne Forsyth, 67, of 4170 Treat Mountain Road, Cedartown, were taken into custody and jailed in the evening.

Earley faces six counts of purchase possession, manufacture, distribution or sale of marijuana and remained in jail on a $135,100 bond.

Forsyth faces three counts of the same charges and remained in jail as of press time Monday on a $90,100 bond.

Smith said they are working to apprehend a third suspect in the case as well.

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Update: 3 officers dead, 3 hurt in Baton Rouge convenience store shooting

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Three law enforcement officers were killed and three others wounded Sunday morning in a shooting near a gas station in Baton Rouge, less than two weeks after a black man was shot and killed by police here, sparking nightly protests across the city.

One suspect in the shooting was killed and law enforcement officials believe two others might still be at large, said Casey Rayborn Hicks, a spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office. The city was on high alert, officials said.

The shooting — just before 9 a.m., less than 1 mile from police headquarters — comes amid spiraling tensions across the city — and the country — between the black community and police. The races of the suspects and the officers were not immediately known.

Gov. John Bel Edwards rushed to the hospital where the shot officers were taken.

“Rest assured, every resource available to the State of Louisiana will be used to ensure the perpetrators are swiftly brought to justice,” Edwards said in a statement.

The shooting took place at a gas station near a fitness center on Airline Highway, Baton Rouge Police Cpl. L’Jean Mckneely Jr. said. The slain shooter’s body was next door, outside a fitness center. Police said they were using a specialized robot to check for explosives near the body.

On Sunday afternoon, more than a dozen police cars with lights flashing were massed near a commercial area of car dealerships and chain restaurants on Airline Highway, not far from police headquarters. Police armed with long guns on the road stopped at least two vehicles driving away from the scene and checked their trunks and vehicles before allowing them to drive away.

That area was about a quarter of a mile from a gas station where almost nightly protests had been taking place against the recent police shooting.

Baton Rouge Police Sgt. Don Coppola told The Associated Press earlier that the officers were rushed to a local hospital. Coppola said authorities are asking people to stay away from the area.

Multiple police units were stationed at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, where spokeswoman Ashley Mendoza said five patients from the police shooting, all “law enforcement professionals” had been taken. A police officer with a long gun was blocking the parking lot at the emergency room. Of the two who survived the shooting, one is in critical condition and the other is in fair condition.

Officers and deputies from the Baton Rouge Police Department and East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office were involved, according to Hicks.

Police-community relations in Baton Rouge have been especially tense since the killing of 37-year-old Alton Sterling, a black man killed by white officers earlier this month after a scuffle at a convenience store. The killing was captured on cellphone video and circulated widely on the internet.

It was followed a day later by the shooting death of another black man in Minnesota, whose girlfriend livestreamed the aftermath of his death on Facebook. Then on Thursday, a black gunman in Dallas opened fire on police at a protest about the police shootings, killing five officers and heightening tensions even further.

Over the weekend, thousands of people took to the streets in Baton Rouge to condemn Sterling’s death, including hundreds of demonstrators who congregated outside the police station. Authorities arrested about 200 people over the three-day weekend.

Michelle Rogers, 56, said the pastor at her church had led prayers Sunday for Sterling’s family and police officers, asking members of the congregation to stand up if they knew an officer.

Rogers said an officer in the congregation hastily left the church near the end of the service, and a pastor announced that “something had happened.”

“But he didn’t say what. Then we started getting texts about officers down,” she said.

Rogers and her husband drove near the scene, but were blocked at an intersection closed down by police.

“I can’t explain what brought us here,” she said. “We just said a prayer in the car for the families.”

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