Stormy, wet weekend in store to welcome May

April showers will carry into May as rainy weather and possible thunderstorms are forecast throughout the weekend.

The National Weather Service forecast calls for storms throughout the night Saturday and into Sunday. A few could bring high winds but the chance of severe weather appears low.

Up to a half inch of rain is possible after 8 p.m. Saturday, with more rain and gusty winds likely through the day Sunday and until Sunday night. Temperatures will drop into the mid-60s overnight and rise back into the upper 70s on Sunday.

Most of the showers will clear out overnight Sunday but the chance of storms lingers through the early part of the week, with a 40 percent chance of precipitation Monday and Tuesday.

Rainy skies Saturday led to the move of the Rock in the Spring benefit concert for Challenged Child and Friends being moved from the Brenau University amphitheater to the indoor venue at Grove Street Station in Gainesville.

Stormy, wet weekend in store to welcome May

Spring Chicken Festival draws crowds hungry for samples, local art, parade

Gainesville again showed why it’s called “poultry capital of the world” Saturday at the 12th annual Spring Chicken Festival.

The event brought together chicken lovers to not only taste the best recipes Georgia has to offer but also to check out local art and other sponsors.

“It’s a full day of fun,” said Regina Mansfield, Main Street Gainesville manager.

The festival’s profits go toward both the Main Street Gainesville and Keep Hall Beautiful organizations, which help with community projects and cleaning up Hall County. Mansfield and Kelly Norman, director of Keep Hall Beautiful, organized the event.

“It helps out our small businesses with grants,” Mansfield said. “It’s also just a fun festival.”

For $5, each person could go to any of the booths and sample the food with a “cluck card.” Every card has 10 spaces punched once its holder tried a sample.

“You can easily feed a family of four for $20,” Mansfield said.

The Wright family came from Flowery Branch to try out the samples.

“It’s just something to do,” Mark Wright said. He owns Wright Creations, a garment printing business located in Gainesville, and runs it with his wife Lisa Wright. “We’ve never been before.”

Some people, like Ricky Rich and Sheri Rich, have come to the festival almost every year since its inception. As a result, they know which booths are new and which are old favorites.

“I try to go to the newer ones, or the independents,” Sheri said, standing in line for the Truelove BBQ’s booth. “I love that it’s growing year after year.”

“It’s a great community event,” Ricky said. “The eating’s good, too.”

The duo came as a team to tackle the plentiful booths’ offerings together. Their favorites were the Bourbon Kiss booth and the Gainesville Fire Department’s stand.

Dan Yarck, a retired Hall County Fire staff member, has also been coming since the first year.

“(I come to) sample the food and enjoy the people,” Yarck said. He was with his daughter, Tara Quatro, and his granddaughter, Olivia Quatro.

Tracy Troutman brought along some of her students. She’s an art teacher at Fair Street School, and celebrated the event by wearing a fluffy white chicken hat.

“It’s an old hat,” she said, bought 20 years ago when she and her husband were in New York for the Macy’s Day Parade. When she bought the hat, it was so they could find each other if they got lost in the crowd.

Now, 20 years later, she still stuck out from the crowd and her students could easily find her in the groups of people.

She brought along a group of fifth-graders who entered a float in the festival’s parade, showing off the school’s Reading Bowl members. The float itself read: “Why did the chicken cross the road?” with “To get to the books!” on the opposite side.

They were most impressed with Truelove BBQ’s stand, and used the last punches on their cards to eat the paradise-flavored wings again.

Once the event was over, awards were given out to booths with the Best Chicken, the People’s Choice award and a Showmanship award.

The Mojo Voodoo BBQ booth was decorated like a pirate ship, complete with a man dressed up as a pirate, and all of the workers had skull makeup painted on. They came all the way from Greenville, S.C. for this year’s chicken festival.

Other vendors included Lazy Bear BBQ, Chipotle Bros., Ninja Pig, Smokin’ Butts, Taters, Georgia Mountain BBQ, Mule Camp Tavern and High on ‘Cue, among others.

Spring Chicken Festival draws crowds hungry for samples, local art, parade

Hall’s population boom to 300K by 2040 brings challenges

If the Atlanta Regional Commission’s projections come true, Hall County’s population will grow dramatically over the next 25 years.

The predicted demographic changes will have a major impact on key employment sectors, new commercial and residential development, health care costs and school development, according to local government officials and business leaders.

Hall County will add over 127,000 residents by 2040, bringing the total population to just over 328,000, according to the ARC forecast. That would mark a 64 percent increase.

The ARC’s 20-county Atlanta region, which includes Hall, will add 2.5 million people by 2040 for a total of more than 8 million.

Gwinnett, Fulton, Cobb and DeKalb will add the most people, but metro Atlanta’s outlying counties will grow at faster rates, according to the forecast.

The impact of a population surge in Hall will be felt differently in certain areas of the county.

For example, the urban core of Gainesville is attractive to newcomers who desire living near retail centers and public services, while South Hall caters to more affluent residents looking to escape the sprawl of metro Atlanta.

“The data does indicate that all of the local jurisdictions in Hall will need to plan for growth and the corresponding need for services, including transportation, public safety, parks and leisure services, and other health and human services,” Gainesville City Manager Bryan Lackey said. “It is a problem that many communities around this state and region would like to be faced with.”

Rusty Ligon, Gainesville’s community development director, said he is not surprised by the population projections for Hall given that the county and city each issued a record number of building permits in 2015.

“It’s obvious that Gainesville is a desirable location for both residential and commercial development,” Ligon said.

Ligon said meeting the demand for services and housing from new residents is something officials have been considering as they develop and implement new strategic plans to guide and manage growth downtown.

“We are working to attract residential development in and around the downtown area,” Ligon said.

Wanda Creel, superintendent of Gainesville city schools, said her team is constantly monitoring growth and development forecasts, and working closely with city planning officials and local business leaders to understand where changes are taking place in the community.

Determining funding, building capacity and capital spending priorities is dependent on good forecasts and understanding changing demographic needs, Creel said.

“We will just continue to look at the data in order to serve the individual needs of our students,” she added.

LATINO GROWTH

About 59 percent of students in Gainesville schools are Latino/Hispanic. That number is likely to grow based on the ARC forecast, which predicts that more than 80,000 new residents in 2040 will be Hispanic.

Creel said it will be imperative to attract and retain strong teachers with English-language teaching certifications as a result.

The ARC estimates that Hall’s population will be 42 percent Latino overall in 25 years, a jump from 28 percent in 2015.

“I think the analysis indicates that policy makers and local officials need to embrace and to respect the needs, challenges and opportunities of the growing strength of the Latino community,” Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, said.

As an example, Gonzalez said he hopes the estimates for Latino growth will persuade Gainesville officials to eliminate at-large voting for City Council elections, and replacing it with a district voting process where only voters in a particular geographic area select a candidate from their ward to represent them.

Frank Norton, president and CEO of The Norton Agency real estate firm in Gainesville, said he believes the estimates for Latino growth are too low.

“We’re going to end up with more than that,” he added.

Norton said Latinos/Hispanics already make up the backbone of the regional economy, working jobs in construction, food processing and automotive care, for example.

And housing is going to be needed for a new generation of owners.

Mimi Collins, CEO of The Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville, said Latinos are becoming better represented in local professions and community boards.

She expects this trend to only continue.

“If we’re a smart community, we look at it as an opportunity to engage,” Collins said.“I want us to challenge that preconceived idea that all of them will be on the lower end of the economic spectrum.”

DEVELOPMENT

The entire 20-county Atlanta region will add 1.5 million jobs by 2040, according to the ARC, and Hall’s economy will add 38,650 jobs — a growth rate of 41 percent.

Many of those jobs will come in retail. And retail tends to follow rooftops.

But a lack of affordable housing continues to be an “Achilles heel” and “our biggest challenge as a community,” Norton said.

Providing affordable places to rent and home will be critical to meeting the job and service demands of a growing population, but too many substandard, aging and costly units are a major drag, Norton said.

More diversity of housing choices is needed, as are more “in-town” units, he added.

The upside, Norton said, is that Gainesville and Hall remains more affordable than neighboring Forsyth County, which will grow at the fastest rate, according to the ARC forecast, with its population projected to more than double to 430,000 by 2040.

Norton said he estimates the cost of living to be 12 to 18 percent cheaper in Hall than Forsyth, making it attractive to working families.

The ARC predicts that the number of construction jobs in Hall will double by 2040.

Norton said he believes the ARC forecast is a conservative estimate. Now that the economic recession is fading from view, a new surge is likely.

“We’ve been in the population growth doldrums,” he said.

Hall County Commissioner Scott Gibbs said he too believes the estimates are on the low end.

“While I still think ARC may be underestimating, it is more in line with what we see coming down the line,” he added.

But the ARC projections provide county officials with new ammunition in their continued fight to prove that the proposed Glades Reservoir is needed to secure an adequate drinking water supply for local residents.

Officials with the state Environmental Protection Division said earlier this year that the proposed 850-acre reservoir in North Hall would only be needed to augment flow on the Chattahoochee River downstream of Lake Lanier.

That announcement came after new state population projections substantially lowered estimates for growth in Hall through 2050 to about 318,000 residents, or only 280,000 by 2040.

“We still stand behind our numbers,” Gibbs said. “It reflects our growth.”

HEALTH CARE

The ARC forecasts that residents in Hall who are 65 and older will make up 17 percent of the population in 2040, up from 13 percent today.

The challenges of caring for new and aging residents are something that Collins, of The Longstreet Clinic, already finds concerning.

Today’s middle-aged adults are more obese than any previous generation, and medical complications that will arise in this demographic as they enter their 60s will be dramatic, Collins said.

“I think that is going to be a certain burden on our health care system and our community as we see that population grow,” she added.

The ARC predicts a surge in job growth in the health care sector, particularly among practitioners, across Hall over the next few decades.

They will be needed to handle the unique health care demands of a diverse community, including more Latinos and immigrants.

“We have to be aware of the cultural differences in our population,” Collins said. “It’s true that different ethnicities have different risk factors.”

Hall’s population boom to 300K by 2040 brings challenges

Volunteers’ helping hands keep the paddles moving at USA team trials

A major month of events is underway at the Lake Lanier Olympic Park, starting with the U.S. canoe and kayak team trials that began Friday.

And each event requires a variety of volunteers to make sure everything is well-done.

But it’s the biggest competition of the three the venue is hosting, the Pan American Championships set for May 19-22, that will require the most volunteers.

Tate O’Rouke, volunteer coordinator for the Pan Am games, said Thursday the group has a little more than half of the 550 volunteers needed.

Cheryl Smith plans to be a volunteer for this weekend’s U.S. trials, the May 4-8 Canadian team trials and the Pan Am games, a final qualifier for the Olympics this summer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Smith and her husband, Pete, have been volunteering since around 2000, when she went on a trip to Poznan, Poland, to take in the significance of international canoe and kayak competitions. They also volunteered at the 2003 World Championships on Lake Lanier.

This weekend, Cheryl Smith will be a boat control volunteer, measuring the weight and length of competitors’ boats to make sure they’re within the rules. In between her work, she planned to take a break to cheer for her daughter, Morgan Smith, who is competing and hoping to secure a spot on Team USA.

Smith said volunteers are vital in helping things run smoothly and adjusting if they don’t. The main thing, she said, is making sure unforeseen problems are handled in a way that doesn’t disrupt competitors and spectators.

“If the event runs smoothly, people want to come back,” Smith said.

O’Rouke said a wide range of volunteer opportunities are still available, including parking, ground maintenance, safety boats, driving VIP shuttles, presenting awards, opening ceremonies help and concession stands, to name a few.

She added that having bilingual volunteers will be vital with so many athletes coming from South America.

Volunteers will receive a jersey and refreshments while working the event. They are encouraged to attend one of three orientation sessions at the Lake Lanier Olympic Park boathouse set for 2-4 p.m. May 14, 2-4 p.m. May 15 and 5-8 p.m. May 16.

Volunteers can sign up on the Olympic Park’s website, http://ift.tt/1QGsLII.

O’Rourke said volunteers are a vital part of making the Pan Am Championships successful.

Cheryl Smith said she enjoys seeing the Canadians and other teams come back to Lake Lanier year after year, seeing them grow as people and athletes. She said the facility is something those who travel here drool over.

“We are so lucky to have this venue here,” Smith said.

Volunteers’ helping hands keep the paddles moving at USA team trials

Business advisory group SCORE forming chapter in Hall

A salesman, an engineer and a civic club member came together at the right time, the three said, and a new Northeast Georgia SCORE chapter was born.

About 30 people met Wednesday to hear about and discuss the new chapter of the national organization, which aims to provide advice and assistance to area businesses. It will be the sixth SCORE chapter in the state.

The salesman is Charles White, a Hall County retiree and a member of Wisdom Keepers, a program for community members 55 and older started by the of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s Vision 2030 group.

The engineer is Fred Eyerman, president of the Richmond, Va., chapter of SCORE. The civic club member is Bill Sanders, district manager for Jackson EMC.

White and Eyerman will serve as co-chairmen of the committee for SCORE.

Sanders said he had been asked by the Rotary Club of Gainesville to lead a committee “to get a mentoring program started.”

He credited Robert Horn and White with providing the impetus to start the new chapter. The Wisdom Keepers program also has been involved in the discussions and in providing potential mentors.

“You have coffee together and the next thing you know, it starts rolling downhill and you can’t even control it,” Sanders said.

SCORE was started in 1964 through the Small Business Administration.

Art Slotkin, the Georgia director for SCORE, said, “We want to make sure every person we touch has the support they need.”

The local chapter will focus on small businesses. Eyerman said Hall County has 3,350 businesses with 10 or fewer employees.

Sanders will provide an office with phone and meeting space for the new group. He said the Jackson EMC building has space available.

He praised the experience and business knowledge in the retiree community in Hall County.

“There are a lot of people” in Hall County with the experience and interest to help, Sanders said.

Eyerman said SCORE mentors “are committed to a client’s success,” and Slotkin emphasized the group’s advisory boards, which he characterized as “like a board of directors, except it’s free.”

The Northeast Georgia chapter also will emphasize reaching potential businesses in the Hispanic community. White said the group hopes to recruit five or six Hispanic businesspeople to form a subgroup and offer services.

Sofia J. Lukas, senior campus director for Interactive College of Technology, asked how information might reach Hispanics who “don’t know what SCORE is.”

Slotkin noted, “That’s why you’re here.” He said the chapter hopes to recruit a more diverse group of mentors.

“SCORE mentors traditionally have been old white men,” he noted.

Slotkin also pointed out the Atlanta chapter works with the Korean Chamber of Commerce. Eyerman said about 40 percent of Gainesville’s population is Hispanic.

The new chapter will focus on Hall and then Jackson counties, but it will serve 12 counties, including north to the state line.

Sanders said individuals interested in SCORE may call 770-538-2522 and leave a message or forward calls.

Business advisory group SCORE forming chapter in Hall

Buford man seeks immunity from charges in South Hall shooting

A Buford man charged with shooting another man in his leg and jaw last year is seeking immunity, claiming he was justified to do so.

Geoffrey Mack, 65, is accused of aggravated assault, aggravated battery, false imprisonment and reckless conduct related to an incident on March 20, 2015. He was charged in a Feb. 11 grand jury indictment with Cornelio Lazarescue, who was accused of stalking Mack’s wife, Cheryl Mack.

“Mack contends that he was justified in using force against Mr. Lazarescue … due to Mr. Lazarescue’s stalking of (Mack’s) wife, entrance onto (Mack’s) property, threatening and aggressive behavior toward (Mack) and his physically attacking (Mack),” according to the motion for immunity.

Authorities responded to the shooting at Maple Valley Drive in Buford. Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Deputy Nicole Bailes said at the time of the incident that Cheryl Mack called Gwinnett County 911 about a man following her from a Gwinnett County park.

Mack’s attorney Clinton Teston said he did not wish to comment beyond the language of the motion filed.

Lazarescue filed a lawsuit through attorney Michael Hirsh against Mack, claiming Mack demanded Lazarescue get out of the car, then shot him.

The indictment claims Mack shot Lazarescue in the leg and jaw and detained him without legal authority.

Mack seeks immunity under a section of code referred to as “use of force in defense of self or others.”

A hearing has been scheduled in the coming weeks for Mack’s motion.

Buford man seeks immunity from charges in South Hall shooting

UGA students seek solace, mourn 4 lost in crash

One of two survivors of a car crash that killed four University of Georgia students earlier this week remained in critical condition Friday, a hospital spokesman said.

Students prayed, wept and consoled one another on the Athens campus. The hashtag #GeorgiaStrong trended on social media. And flags across Georgia flew at half-staff Friday, two days after the deadly crash.

The students’ white Toyota Camry crossed the centerline and was struck by an oncoming blue Chevy Cobalt on Wednesday night on Georgia State Route 15, the Georgia State Patrol said.

The Camry’s driver, 21-year-old University of Georgia senior Agnes Kim of Snellville, remained in critical condition Friday, said Mike Pilcher, a spokesman at Athens Regional Medical Center.

“For an unknown reason, (Kim) lost control of (the Camry), began to rotate counterclockwise and entered the southbound lane,” according to the state patrol report released Friday.

Kim was in a coma late Thursday, her pastor, Lee Mason of Classic City Church in Athens, was quoted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as saying. Pilcher said he couldn’t comment further on Kim’s medical condition due to federal privacy laws.

Kim is scheduled to graduate next month with a business degree, the university said.

The students killed were Kayla Canedo, 19, and Brittany Feldman, 20, both of Alpharetta; Christina Semeria, 19, of Milton; and Halle Scott, 19, of Dunwoody, the State Patrol said.

Semeria was ejected from the vehicle, according to the report.

The driver of the Cobalt, 27-year-old Abby Short of Demorest, was treated at the hospital after the crash, but has since been released, Pilcher said.

The investigation will involve revisiting the scene of the crash to re-create what happened using a computer program, Georgia State Patrol Capt. Mark Perry said Friday. The agency’s Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team will return to the site to create a scale representation of the scene, he said.

If there are any charges as a result of the crash, they would not come until the accident reconstruction team completes its work at the scene and surviving motorists can be interviewed, Perry said.

A candlelight service is planned for Tuesday evening on the campus to remember the four students and 22 other members of the university community who have died in the past year.

The service is an annual event to honor university and employees who passed away. It holds special significance this year, coming shortly after the car crash.

Names of the 26 students, faculty and staff members who have died will be read aloud on the steps of the chapel, following by the toll of the chapel bell and the lighting of a candle as each name is read.

On Friday, Mason and his wife, Lisa, returned to the hospital to pray over Kim, whose condition was mostly unchanged from the day before, Lisa Mason told the Atlanta newspaper.

“You’re happy that she’s alive but it’s a very weird relief,” Lee Mason said, noting that four lives were lost. “You have four sets of parents whose worst nightmare came true.”

Times staff reporter Nicholas Watson and Associated Press reports contributed to this story.

UGA students seek solace, mourn 4 lost in crash

No obvious signs of trauma on body recovered from Lake Lanier

A man whose body was pulled from Lake Lanier on Thursday afternoon had no obvious signs of trauma, authorities said.

Jason Blalock, 37, of Buford, was last seen Saturday at a party near Sunset Cove on Lake Lanier before his body was recovered by authorities.

Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy Chad Mann said the autopsy for Blalock should have taken place Friday, but there were no updates Friday evening.

“There were no obvious signs of trauma on Jason Blalock, but nothing will be official until the autopsy has been completed,” Mann said.

Blalock was an 11-year veteran of the DeKalb County Fire Rescue.

No obvious signs of trauma on body recovered from Lake Lanier

Pizarro, Vargas y Farfán fuera de lista previa de Perú para la Copa América

Los atacantes Claudio Pizarro, del Werder Bremen alemán, y Jefferson Farfán, del Al Jazira emiratí, y el defensa Juan Manuel Vargas, del Real Betis español, no están incluidos en la lista provisional de cuarenta convocados de la selección peruana para disputar la Copa América Centenario.

Pizarro, Vargas y Farfán fuera de lista previa de Perú para la Copa América