Paulding kept its city leadership in place and saw millions of dollars’ worth of governmental and infrastructure projects either open, begin construction or clear hurdles in 2019.
MACLAND ROAD WIDENING: Paulding motorists were to see the beginnings of a four-year project to rebuild Macland Road as a boulevard in 2020.
GDOT in November revealed its plans to put the project out for bid by May 2020 and begin construction in the summer of 2020, said GDOT spokesman Joe Schulman.
The road, which is Ga. Hwy. 360, then was set to undergo a $54 million project to widen it to a four-lane, divided road with a 20-foot grass median for 6.2 miles from New Macland Road in Powder Springs to Charles Hardy Parkway in Dallas by 2024.
PITBULL RESCUE FACILITY OK’D: Longtime pitbull dog advocate Jason Flatt convinced county leaders in October to clear the way for him to build a new rescue facility for the dog breed in rural western Paulding.
The Paulding County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to rezone almost 46 acres at New Vinson Mountain Road and Crawford Road for future construction of the facility operated by the nonprofit Friends to the Forlorn Pitbull Rescue Inc. to house about 60 dogs.
Opponents of Flatt’s plan included neighboring land owners who cited the canine breed’s history of being involved nationally in some human deaths from dog bites.
They also said a rescue operation would negatively affect neighboring property values; and cited other concerns such as barking noise and dogs being dropped off without notice.
JUVENILE CRIME A CONCERN: A murder and an armed robbery brought the issue of juvenile crime into focus for Paulding residents in 2019.
Seth William Wyatt, 15, of Old Harris Road in Dallas was arrested and charged as an adult with murder and gang-related crimes in early February after deputies said he shot and killed an 18-year-old Douglas County resident near Hiram High School.
In August, two 16-year-old girls were charged with the armed robbery of a Racetrac convenience store near WellStar Paulding Hospital in Hiram only weeks after the store opened.
Investigators from Hiram and Paulding County later said they were part of a crime spree by a group of young people who went through driveways in the Forrest Hills neighborhood in Dallas looking for unlocked vehicles containing valuables.
A 17-year-old, Jyreeh Taron Grove of Dallas, was charged with robbery and battery Nov. 1 after he allegedly tried to snatch the purse of a 79-year-old woman less than a block from Dallas police headquarters.
COSTCO MOVES CLOSER: County government leaders made it a priority throughout the year to help broker a deal for retailer Costco to buy land for a new store on Charles Hardy Parkway in Dallas.
The county provided information and expertise early in the year, followed by the Paulding County Board of Commissioners approving a half-million dollars’ worth of infrastructure for the new store and adjacent land, including traffic signalization equipment and sewer and drainage lines.
Costco, which typically employs around 200 at each store, then was issued a building permit valued at $17.6 million in November, county officials said. It reportedly closed on the purchase of the land for construction of the new store in December.
The retailer had first submitted plans in mid-2018 for a store on the site. Its latest plans called for a 135,000-square-foot store on 21 acres on Ga. Hwy. 120, also known as Charles Hardy Parkway, in Dallas.
It latest plans also included a 716-space parking area and possible future gas station on the north side of Hardy Parkway adjacent to Gerber Collision and Paulding Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram.
ELECTRIC CO-OP BEGINS WORK ON NEW HQ: GreyStone Power Corp. broke ground on its new headquarters facility at the corner of Ridge Road and Ga. Hwy. 92 in July.
The cooperative, which provides electricity to parts of eight counties, then was issued a building permit for $15.7 million in October. Completion was expected by December 2020, a news release stated.
It will serve as a larger location for the cooperative which employs about 270, serves additional contractors and hosts an annual meeting of members at a 16-acre site it has occupied in eastern Douglas County since 1963.
Its new headquarters will operate on a 55-acre site and include a three-story headquarters building, operations and engineering facility, warehouse, and vehicle maintenance and metering shop.
PAULDING TESTS NEW VOTING MACHINES: Paulding was among six counties the Georgia Secretary of State’s office used as test sites for its new Dominion Voting Systems machines Nov. 5 before using them statewide in Georgia’s Presidential Preference Primary in March 2020.
The Paulding County Elections and Voter Registration office used about 200 new paper-based voting machines to conduct municipal elections for Dallas and Hiram and a countywide vote on continuation of a 1% Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for education.
Elections officials reported a few glitches with the part of the system used to electronically verify voters’ identities. However, they were able to use other means to ID them in an effort not to delay voting.
The county also received 480 new machines for future elections, said election supervisor Deidre Holden.
Her office conducted the elections after Holden was elected in April to help lead a new statewide election workers organization called the Georgia Association of Voter Registration and Election Officials.
It was formed by the merger of two long-standing groups whose members were involved in conducting Georgia elections for half a century.
DALLAS BALLOT UNCERTAINTY: Dallas voters did not know until days before the election whether they would be voting Nov. 5 or later for their next mayor.
Longtime Dallas businesswoman Narda Konchel qualified in August to challenge incumbent Mayor Boyd Austin in the general election.
Austin later challenged her candidacy before the Paulding County Elections Board, which ruled in September that she be disqualified because she could not prove she met the requirement for being a city resident for one year before qualifying.
Konchel ultimately appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, which rejected her request to delay the mayor’s election despite her claim the elections board held her to an illegally high standard of proving she was a city resident. The court’s ruling came 10 days after advance voting had begun.
VOTERS LIKE FAMILIARITY: In the Nov. 5 election, Paulding voters countywide and in two cities chose to keep familiar faces in office and a longstanding sales tax for educational purposes in place.
• 72% of voters chose to renew a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for educational purposes through 2026.
The 1% sales tax on retail goods — which has been in place since 1997 — can legally produce up to $120 million through the five years it is authorized to exist. However, Paulding County School District officials estimated only about $113 million will be raised.
Voters also approved a $30 million bond issuance to begin construction immediately on a new middle school in northeast Paulding and additions and renovations to existing schools in other parts of the county.
The money is set to pay off the new bond financing and debt left over from construction in past decades.
• Hiram voters narrowly chose Councilman Frank Moran by 16 votes over Daniel Blount Jr. in the mayor’s race.
Moran replaces Teresa Philyaw, who won election to Moran’s open council seat rather than re-election to a second term as mayor. He also will replace Philyaw on the Paulding County Airport Authority and Paulding County Industrial Building Authority.
Voters also chose for Hiram to be among those cities the state’s “Brunch Bill” law allowed its restaurants to begin serving alcohol on Sundays at 11 a.m. rather than 12:30 p.m.
• Dallas voters chose incumbent James Kelly Jr. over challenger Brian Hardin, and incumbent Leah Alls over challenger Ryan Ayers, for city council seats. Mayor Boyd Austin was unopposed for a seventh term after Konchel lost her appeal to delay the election.
SCHOOL DISTRICT ADVANCES: The Paulding County School District made news in areas other than the ESPLOST vote.
• The school board chose to end its use of a private company, Aramark, for all janitorial needs in the school district and approve Superintendent Brian Otott’s plan for a “hybrid” service using both private and school district employees.
The school district had outsourced its custodian service to Aramark since 2015 as a way to save on personnel costs.
However, board members’ support for the company steadily eroded amid complaints about its quality of work and other areas, and they asked Otott to find an alternative system for cleaning school district buildings.
• The Paulding County School Board approved a 2020 budget of $296.1 million that included a 5% pay increase for all 3,500 employees.
It also included a reduction in the school district’s Maintenance and Operations property tax rate from 18.879 mills to 18.750 mills.
• Education accreditation agency AdvancED in February gave Paulding County schools full district-wide re-accreditation through 2024.
• Paulding County schools as a district exceeded the state average in 22 of 24 subject areas on the Georgia Milestones assessment in August; while the district’s four-year graduation rate rose to almost 89% in 2019 — nearly 7% higher than the state average, according to the Georgia Department of Education in September.
• The school board approved a new three-year contract for Otott which kept him employed as superintendent through mid-2022.
Board members cited a number of 2019 school district accomplishments —such as the Milestones results, graduation rate increase and district reaccreditation — among the reasons for the new contract.
• The Paulding County College and Career Academy opened in August in part of the New Hope Education Center on Dallas-Acworth Highway. It offered Paulding students dual enrollment and apprenticeship opportunities in such areas as cybersecurity and manufacturing.
The board also prepared for the 2020 opening of its second magnet program, the Academy of Computer Science and Technology, at Hiram High School.
• Science teacher Chelsea Sell of Austin Middle School was named the Paulding County School District’s 2019-20 Teacher of the Year May 7.
• The school district in June hired Marietta City Schools Chief Operations Officer Erick Hofstetter to hold the same position in the Paulding County School District.
• Its transportation director, Trey Studstill, was a major influence on legislation which the General Assembly approved and Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law in February. The law required motorists to stop for school buses with warning signs engaged on both sides of a street unless it was separated by a grass median.