Polk BOE holding personnel meeting Saturday

Polk BOE holding personnel meeting Saturday

CEDARTOWN — The Polk County Board of Education has called a meeting for Saturday morning and plans to go into closed session to discuss personnel issues.

The Polk County Standard Journal received notice of the meeting Thursday morning.

When asked if the meeting involves an investigation into Superintendent Darrell Wetherington, Chairman Tommy Sanders declined to confirm or deny.

In an article published earlier this week, board members Hal Floyd and James Foster confirmed the school system’s attorneys are investigating allegations of improper conduct made against Wetherington.

Sanders said there are no plans to take any votes during the meeting, which will be held at 9 a.m. on the second floor of the Southcrest Bank building, 967 N. Main St.

Sanders said the board is meeting at Southcrest Bank because they had originally planned to hold a retreat there over the weekend. The city of Cedartown owns the building.

“Information will be provided so that everyone is on the same page,” Sanders said. “There will be no decisions made. We’ll be starting the meeting and go into executive session, and come back out and close the meeting.”

Wetherington, who had been principal at Cedartown High School, became superintendent of the system on Jan. 1. He was the lone finalist for the position after William Hunter retired at the end of 2016.

 
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Chamber bringing back leadership program in 2017

Chamber bringing back leadership program in 2017

Change coming for vendor cancellation policy at the Homespun Festival, Chamber going to get involved in Drugs Don’t Work program

More details are soon to come on a new leadership program being put together by the Polk County Chamber of Commerce this month.

For the first time since 2013, a countywide leadership class is getting ready to launch with the idea that it will be open to just more than Chamber members.

Tuition costs are coming down for the program as well according to the Development Authority of Polk County’s president Missy Kendrick, who has been helping spearhead a committee putting it into motion.

She said the committee has taken what has worked well in past leadership programs and added to it from others that have worked elsewhere to bring the leadership program back.

“We chose the modules and classes we thought would work best for Polk County,” she said.

Final details before signups can begin are being ironed out, Kendrick said, and a forthcoming announcement with more information is expected before the end of February.

The Polk County Chamber of Commerce’s board approved moving forward with implementing the program during a vote in their first meeting of 2017 on Jan. 18.

Kendrick said it would be sometime during the summer months before the program would be rolled out.

Need for sponsors for the program was also pointed out, and those interested in helping out with costs associated with the leadership program should contact Chamber executive director Tamaka Hudson for more on how to help.

Sponsorship costs will help in deferring the tuition for those who want to participate in the leadership program said 2017 Chamber board chair Britt Madden Jr.

“I’m really excited about what I’ve heard coming out of this committee,” Madden said. “We will have a leadership class here in 2017.”

Chamber looking at new policy for Homespun cancellations

A new policy for how to handle cancellations of vendors for the annual Homespun Festival was tabled to clarify the language, though the intent is clear: there will be no refunds if cancellations aren’t received within 60 days of reserving a spot.

Hudson asked for the new policy to be approved by the Chamber board during their January meeting ahead of signups set to start soon for the annual festival to end confusion on how to handle those who have to pull out at the last minute.

“We do not need to refund for cancellations,” she said. “We have to be able to plan since this is part of our operating budget.”

But she understands that the unexpected sometimes happens, and wants to accomodate vendors when possible. So long as cancellations are made in writing within 60 days – preferably by e-mail – a credit is given for the following year’s Homespun Festival based on the new plan.

Weather won’t be a good reason anymore for vendors to cancel at the last minute.

Credits for vendors who have to cancel last minute would only be good for a year. So if last minute issues come up for a business who wants to participate in Homespun in 2017, their vendor space credit would only be good until 2018.

The policy tabled also allows for vendors, after they are approved by the Chamber staff, to allow another of their choosing to use the credit for the space as well.

Board member Cody Nichols asked that the wording be clarified since there was confusion over how that policy of allowing a second to use the space would work.

“I agree we should have a policy, but I think it needs some clarification,” he said.

All agreed to meet sooner than the planned board meeting in March to approve a revised policy that cleared up the language in a to-be-scheduled February session.

The policy is meant to mirror other festivals around Northwest Georgia who have a similar vendor cancellation agreement in place, including the Cedar Valley Arts Festival.

It’s rare, Hudson said, but vendors sometimes run into unforeseen issues and have to call off coming to the festival.

She said typically there is no issue finding someone else to take the place of a vendor pulling out if they do so early, but can be difficult if they do it later.

The July festival in downtown Rockmart is the Chamber’s largest fundraiser annually, accounting for a good portion of their operating budget. It annually brings in on average between $17,500 to $19,000 in funds.

There was no policy for cancellations in place prior to the creation of this new language, Madden said.

Chamber board OK with going for Drugs Don’t Work program

A new resource Hudson wants to bring to the Chamber will give Polk County businesses large and small a program an option for keeping their workplaces drug free.

Hudson asked the board to allow her to pursue going after a grant and resources to help businesses take part in the Drugs Don’t Work program, which was started in 1993.

Taking part in a training class and getting access to resources will be the first stage of getting involved in the Drugs Don’t Work program for businesses, but there’s also a small grant that will be available in 2021 after the Chamber gets on a list to participate.

Though many businesses will already have a drug policy in place, Hudson said, the idea is to get small businesses involved and show industries interested in coming to Polk County they take keeping drugs out of the workplace seriously.

Participating in the Drugs Don’t Work program doesn’t require a stringent policy requiring random testing, but helps businesses become eligible for benefits for being a part of it, especially from insurance providers.

Simply providing materials and resources also cost nothing for the Chamber to get involved.

Board members approved the measure to move forward on getting involved in the program.

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The Tech Corner for the Jan. 18, 2017 edition

The Tech Corner for the Jan. 18, 2017 edition

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

Form grabbing malware capable of stealing information before encryption

Form grabbing malware is capable of intercepting requests such as usernames and passwords for sites like Paypal and the user’s banking information before they are encrypted. Form grabbers typically gain access as a Trojan horse. All intercepted credentials are then sent back to the Command and Control Server where they would be sold in bulk to other criminals willing to use them.

LG’s new LED TV

This television has 4K Ultra HD resolution and HDR into a razor-thin panel (0.2”) that mounts to the wall with a magnetic mounting system. The components are to an accompanying sound bar, and the result is a design that will literally reshape televisions for years to come.

Samsung Chromebook Plus

Samsung’s just-announced Chromebook Plus is everything a person could want from a Chromebook in 2017. The 12.3-inch touchscreen display features HD resolution and support for a built-in S Pen stylus. The 2.0GHz eight-core processor packs plenty of power. The hinge design allows the screen to rotate all the way open so the device can be used as a tablet. And it ships with the Google Play store preinstalled, giving users access to millions of Android apps in addition to apps made for Chrome OS.

Energous WattUp

This is the second consecutive year that Energous WattUp long-range wireless charging solution. What changed in 2017? WattUp is no longer just an exciting futuristic technology only available in demos. Energous announced a number of partnerships that will see commercially available products launch with support for the first version of the WattUP wireless charging solution.

Air TV Player

Dish’s AirPlay TV in an Android TV box that takes nearly everything great about streaming devices and adds an over-the-air HDTV antenna into the mix. This allows streaming TV shows and movies from services like Netflix and Hulu, plus it includes free live broadcast TV from all the major networks including ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC in 1080p Full HD.

AirBar

AirBar is a brilliant little device that plugs into the USB port on a 13.3-inch MacBook Air and sits beneath the display. Using a special sensor array, the AirBar can see touches to the laptop’s screen, allowing users to control the machine as though it were equipped with an actual touchscreen.

AirBar is a tiny strip that plugs into the USB port on your PC (now including the MacBook Air) and turns non-touch displays into touch-friendly devices.

To accomplish this, the plug-in device uses magnets to attach to the bottom of your screen and emit an invisible light field over the monitor. This light field measures finger position to act as a sort of hacked touchscreen and gesture control center for non-touch friendly devices.

Users are holding on to older laptops longer than ever before. If moving to a touchscreen device is your only reason for upgrading, AirBar makes a lot more sense.

PowerVision PowerRay

PowerRay, a remote-controlled submersible with a built-in 4K video camera and a fish finder, not only allows you to capture high-resolution video of aquatic life, but it works to improve your chances of reeling in a nice big catch.

More Windows 10 changes unveiled

Microsoft has started public testing on the next major update for Windows 10. Many of the new features are for the Edge browser, but tweaks to security and usability are also on the way.

Microsoft Edge is getting a potentially useful change with the addition of an extended toolbar at the top of the screen. Rather than just showing a list of tabs with their titles and a tiny icon (known as a “favicon”), there will now be a thumbnail graphic for each showing what the entire page looks like, somewhat like a contents section at the front of a magazine.

Edge is also getting some features that are common in rival browsers. Users can save their list of open tabs so that they can close the entire browser (or even shut down the computer) and then reopen the tabs automatically upon restarting.

Edge will also block Flash content by default unless it’s from a trusted source; users can still click on the relevant page section to activate the contentExtortionists Wipe

Thousands of Databases Attacked, Victims Who Pay Up Get Stiffed

Tens of thousands of personal and possibly proprietary databases that were left accessible to the public online have just been wiped from the Internet, replaced with ransom notes demanding payment for the return of the files.

Adding insult to injury, it appears that virtually none of the victims who have paid the ransom have gotten their files back because multiple fraudsters are now wise to the extortion attempts and are competing to replace each other’s ransom notes.

Shodan, a specialized search engine designed to find things that probably won’t be picked up by Google, lists the number of open, remotely accessible MongDB databases available as of Jan. 10, 2017.

Shodan, a specialized search engine designed to find things that probably won’t be picked up by Google, lists the number of open, remotely accessible MongDB databases available as of Jan. 10, 2017.

Verizon Enterprise Solutions managed to leak the contact information on some 1.5 million customers because of a publicly accessible MongoDB installation.

Immutable truths about data breaches

-If you connect it to the Internet, someone will try to hack it.

-If what you put on the Internet has value, someone will invest time and effort to steal it.

-Even if what is stolen does not have immediate value to the thief, he can easily find buyers for it.

-The price he secures for it will almost certainly be a tiny slice of its true worth to the victim.

-Organizations and individuals unwilling to spend a small fraction of what those assets are worth to secure them against cybercrooks can expect to eventually be relieved of said assets.”

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Letter to the Editor: Residents asked to speak for officer pay raises

Letter to the Editor: Residents asked to speak for officer pay raises

My fellow Polk County residents,

I live in a fine community where it is quite common for citizens to approach me and ask what they can do to help us. I know police officers don’t always have such a relationship with the people they serve and I am most grateful for support like this, especially these days. I am about to ask you to help me and all the deputy sheriffs and county/city police in this state.

In 2016 there were 140 law enforcement officers who lost lives in the line of duty in this country. Of these deaths, 106 men and women were local city/county police and deputy sheriffs, 19 were state officers, 6 were federal officers, and the remaining 9 were territory, college, or transit officers.

The loss of 140 officers’ lives in a year is unfortunately not that unusual. What is different is the fact that 65 of those officers died as a result of gunfire, which represents a 69 percent increase in such cases from 2015. This is not something that is just occurring in the big cities. In the last two months alone there have been 9 officers shot within 200 miles of where I’m sitting and 5 of them were killed. Georgia ended 2016 ranking 4th in the nation in line of duty deaths.

Even more unusual this year are the occurrences of officers being ambushed simply because they are the police. Of the 65 killed by gunmen last year, 21 of the officers were ambushed. This is the first time in my career that I can ever remember officers being shot as they sat in their cars or fired upon when they arrived on the scene of a bogus call. This is genuinely unprecedented in our history, and everyone in our profession is on edge and worried as never before.

As a sheriff, my single biggest difficulty has been the inability to hire and retain qualified officers. This is not unique to Polk County, but a systemic problem throughout Georgia law enforcement. Our very best officers almost always leave local law enforcement agencies after a few years and go on to better pay and benefits with state and federal agencies. The Georgia Sheriffs’ Association did a survey last November with 76 of the 159 sheriffs reporting that they had lost more than 500 of their deputies to state law enforcement agencies over the last 10 years. I remind you those figures came from less than half of the sheriffs and didn’t include the number officers who left city agencies for state jobs. City and county law enforcement agencies have truly become nothing more than the training grounds for our state law enforcement agencies. The constant cost associated with this turnover and training can hardly be quantified, and it is patently unfair for the local taxpayers to repeatedly foot this bill.

Our plight of hiring and retaining personnel was exponentially exacerbated last September when Governor Deal announced that ALL state law enforcement personnel would be receiving a 20 percent increase in pay. Let me be very clear here, I absolutely support those officers getting a raise and think they deserve it. On the other hand though, if the state officers deserve a 20 percent increase, local city and county officers deserve the same increase if not more.

With these new increases in pay a Georgia State Patrol Officer after completing his/her basic training now makes $46,422.00 per year. I remind you that this is their beginning pay level. There are three pay levels of “Trooper” that go up to $61,825.00 per year before even being promoted to the rank of corporal. The average compensation of a Georgia Deputy Sheriff after completing basic training is only $29,900.00 per year. These state officers are being paid by you the taxpayer, and we need to be able to explain to your local law enforcement officers just why they are worth so much less. These state agencies are support agencies and virtually all of them close their offices at five every day and very few of them regularly work on weekends, holidays, or nights. The dangers of the job and such disparities in pay have led to the crisis situation local law enforcement agencies find themselves in today. We simply have no way to compete with the state, not to mention federal agencies, anymore, and we absolutely cannot afford to lose any more of our personnel.

Georgia Sheriffs are going to be seeking the enactment of legislation this year which will mandate that any full-time, certified peace officer be paid AT LEAST the beginning salary of a Georgia State Patrol Officer. Critics of this effort are going to shout loudly that this is simply a local matter and shouldn’t be addressed with a state law. Sheriffs will first counter that by saying that even though local taxpayers are the ones who foot the bill for our own salaries, its state law that mandates the minimum salary for all sheriffs in Georgia.

Many years ago our General Assembly recognized that our local school systems had a similar problem acquiring and retaining qualified teachers. To cure that problem they enacted legislation that mandated a statewide minimum pay scale, insurance, and retirement system commensurate with education and experience for all of our local educators. Had those laws not been passed, the disparities in education from one county to another would be profound today. Surely our deputies and city officers, the men and women who go headlong into harm’s way every day, deserve to be treated similarly as our teachers have been.

The pay increases we are proposing will need some sort of tax increase for funding, and we believe it to be blatantly unfair to place the burden of it on the property owning taxpayer. I certainly don’t enjoy paying taxes, and all law enforcement officers pay taxes just like you do. We believe the only way funding for the increases we are proposing can be equitably accomplished is through an additional penny of sales tax which would be solely dedicated and restricted to fund only local city and county law enforcement officers’ salaries and benefits.

Did you know that you are paying the rent of convicts who are released from prison for three months (http://www.dca.state.ga.us/housing/specialneeds/programs/rph.asp)? Did you also know that you were giving tax credit incentives to hire convicted felons (http://www.georgia.org/competitive-advantages/tax-credits/work-opportunity-tax-credits/ and http://georgiaopportunity.org/assets/2014/10/GCO-Report-workforce-web.pdf)? It seems to me that we are making great efforts to help criminals, and it seems we could in turn provide a minimum salary to those who are risking their lives every day to apprehend them.

It has become incredibly hard to hire an officer, and if this crisis isn’t addressed in some manner very soon, there will be dire results to the safety of the public. We never close, and when you call 911 it’s a local deputy or county/city officer who will be responding to your call.

I am asking you to write, email, or call your state senators and representatives and tell them to support and vote for legislation that will require your local officers be paid at least the starting pay of a state trooper. If you don’t know who or how to contact your legislators, please contact me and I will personally provide you with their contact information.

Your local officers need your help and support now more than ever, and I implore you help them in the same manner your state officers have been helped.

Most sincerely,

Sheriff Johnny Moats

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Small projects finishing up with DAPC

Small projects finishing up with DAPC

Business developments are brewing, but projects aren’t quite there yet as new Development Authority of Polk County president provided updates for their board’s first meeting of 2017.

DAPC President Missy Kendrick said during her updates to the board in their Jan. 13 meeting that prospects are still in the works on both existing and new industries, but that it’s too early to say they are close to being finalized.

She did have one good piece of news for local leaders who have used SPEC buildings in the past to entice new industries. Miura’s boiler plant in Rockmart is at the end of their abatement period, and the building had been officially turned over at the end of 2016.

Kendrick also said the DAPC has been helping HON Company locate some needed warehouse space in the area, and is also helping another existing industry in forthcoming expansion plans.

For the time being, one of the goals of the DAPC and other municipalities for new signage to greet drivers as they enter Polk County is moving forward this month.

Polk County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tamaka Hudson said that new gateway signage is soon to be delivered and that County Public Works crews will be handling installation in several locations along major thoroughfares.

“This is a project that’s been a long time coming, and we’re glad that it is finally getting done,” Hudson said.

Board members also discussed Polk County’s recent move into Tier 1 status for job tax credits on the state level. The move from Tier 2 to Tier 1 gives more incentives for businesses and industries to hire in Polk County, giving employers $3,500 per employee for every job created in a business after two new hires.

Kendrick said “it’s the closest thing we can get to providing cash” to employers for hiring, since the tax incentives once their business income is covered can then be applied toward state withholding taxes.

Board member Jason Ward said he felt the window in which employers would be able to take advantage of the credits was small, he said, since Polk County was low on the list and would likely move back up to Tier 2.

Kendrick agreed, since counties are assessed annually for whether they qualify for the incentives based on unemployment, poverty rate in comparison to the local population, and average income for those employed and living within the county that is part of the incentive program.

The board also heard from Carroll EMC President Tim Martin, who talked about the longtime service of the electric cooperative and the 1,000 customers they serve in Polk County.

He also briefly discussed the coming broadband access study done in Polk and surrounding west Georgia counties, which is set to be released later this year.

Kendrick also talked about how she’s beginning to look to make changes within the DAPC’s committees and programs to better serve the community, merging areas of focus and working toward creating a leadership program with other groups in the coming months.

“It looks like we’ll be rolling out something this year,” she said.

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Restaurant scores in Polk County from the Jan. 18, 2017 edition

The following restaurant scores were posted to ga.healthinstepctions.us as of Jan. 13, 2017. Check back in February for more scores in the Polk County Standard Journal.

Best Western – 100 E. John Hand Road, Cedartown – Dec. 19, 2016, 95

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Big Springs Place – 131 MElissa Lane, Cedartown – Dec. 2, 2016, 93

Brother Joe’s Coffee – 1194 East Ave., Cedartown – Jan. 6, 2017, 100

Buffet Queen – 301 N. Main St., Cedartown – Jan. 11, 2017, 71

Captain D’s – 615 N. Main St., Cedartown – Dec. 23, 2016, 97

Cedar Springs Health and Rehab – 148 Cason Road, Cedartown – Dec. 19, 2016, 95

Cherokee Country Club – 150 Club Dr., Cedartown – Jan. 3, 2017, 90

Dairy Queen – 123 S. Piedmont Ave., Rockmart – Dec. 13, 2016, 93

Dawn’s – 110 Herbert St., Cedartown – Dec. 20, 2016, 100

Dog Gone Good Foode Base Operation – 113 McDowell Road, Rockmart – Dec. 20, 2016, 100

El Nopal of Cedartown – 1494 Rome Hwy., Cedartown – Dec. 19, 2016, 94

Hawg Holler BBQ – 110 Sycamore Grove Ct., Rockmart – Jan. 6, 2017, 95

Hibachi Express – 1755 Nathan Dean Pkwy., Rockmart – Dec. 20, 2016, 98

Highland Rivers Center RTU – 180 Wateroak Drive, Cedartown – Dec. 21, 2016, 90

Highland Rivers CSB – 424 S. Main St., Cedartown – Dec. 21, 2016, 100

Hometown Pizza and Grill – 246 W. Elm St., Rockmart – Dec. 6, 2016, 85

House of China – 636 Piedmont Ave., Rockmart – Dec. 29 2016, 72; Jan. 9, 2017, 94

KFC/Taco Bell – 130 Felton Dr., Rockmart – Dec. 20, 2016, 89

Knuckle Head Cafe – 217 W. Elm St., Rockmart – Jan. 13, 2017, 94

Linda’s Place – 480 Nathan Deak Pkwy., Rockmart – Dec. 7, 2016, 90

Nana’s Place – 414 E. Gibson St., Cedartown – Dec. 22, 2016, 100

Pirkle’s Deli – 306 Main St., Cedartown – Dec. 21, 2016, 94

Pizza Hut of Rockmart – 1000 Nathan dean Pkwy., Rockmart – Dec. 5, 2016, 88

Taqueria Michoacana – 511 West Ave., Cedartown – Jan. 12, 2017, 97

Tequila Restaurant – 1703 Nathan Deak Pkwy., Rockmart – Dec. 29, 2016, 93

The Avenue – 1229 Rockmart Hwy., Cedartown – Dec. 7, 2016, 100

Timbo’s Smokehouse – 125 E. Sewell Road, Aragon – Dec. 20, 2016, 100

Vickie’s Country Kitchen – 884 Judkin Mill Road, Cedartown – Dec. 20, 2016, 94

Wendy’s of Rockmart – 1911 Nathan Dean Pkwy., Rockmart – Dec. 12, 2016, 88

Zaxby’s of Rockmart – 1945 Nathan Dean Pkwy., Rockmart – Dec. 13 2016, 98

Zorba’s – 805 N. Main St., Cedartown – Dec. 1, 2016, 86

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