Senior care safety bill gets quick passage in Georgia House

A bill sponsored by an East Cobb legislator to increase protections for residents of senior care homes and require stronger training measures for employees at those facilities easily passed the Georgia House on Friday.

State Rep. Sharon Cooper
State Rep. Sharon Cooper

HB 987, introduced last week by State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-East Cobb), passed by a vote of 160-1 and will now go to the Senate.

You can read the bill here. Cooper, a retired nurse, is the chairwoman of the House Health and Human Services Committee.

Her bill increases safety regulations for nursing homes and other senior care facilities, and raises maximum penalties for abuse and neglect cases.

Under HB 987, senior care facilities with memory care services must be certified. They also must make more detailed financial reports and provide more training for caregiving staff and administrators.

The bill was heavily pressed by senior advocates, including the Alzheimer’s Association of Georgia, following an investigative series by the AJC about injuries and deaths of senior-care residents due to abuse and neglect.

One of those deaths took place August 2017, when Adam Bennett, a 91-year-old resident at the Sunrise at East Cobb facility on Johnson Ferry Road, was found badly injured in his room. He later died at WellStar Kennestone Hospital due to what the Cobb Medical Examiner’s Office concluded was blunt force trauma.

Landon Terrel, a caregiver at Sunrise, was charged with elder abuse and also was tried for murder. A mistrial was declared on the murder charge, but he was sentenced to serve five years in prison and five on probation for elder neglect.

During the trial, some of Terrel’s coworkers testified he had been the subject of complaints from other residents and the court heard he had been fired from other caregiving jobs for neglecting patients.

Bennett’s family has sued Sunrise Senior Living, which operates more than 300 senior facilities in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.


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East Marietta Little League opening celebration postponed

It’s going to be a bit chilly Saturday morning—just above freezing, according to the local weather forecast—and as a result the East Marietta Little League has postponed its opening day festivities.East Marietta Little League

They were supposed to take place at 9 a.m. Saturday at Sewell Park, but the event has been pushed back to the same time, the same place, next Saturday, March 7.

Saturday’s first slate of games is still scheduled to go on. By later Saturday morning, we’re expecting sunshine with high temperatures nearing 50.

The Little League season starts Friday and Saturday for East Side Baseball at Fullers Park and on Saturday for Sandy Plains Baseball at Carl Harrison Park and Sweat Mountain Park.

East Marietta’s Opening Day event includes special guests, team introductions and a ceremonial first pitch.

Next Saturday is projected to be warmer, in the high 50s.


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Cobb elections qualifying, presidential early voting next week

Candidates for federal state and local elected offices in Georgia will be qualifying next week as early voting in the state’s presidential primary also gets underway.East Cobb advance voting

Qualifying will be Monday-Friday of next week. To be more specific, the process begins on Monday, March 2, at 9 a.m. and concludes next Friday, March 6, at 12 p.m.

Cobb Elections has more information here about qualifying for offices in Cobb County, with a link to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office for state-level qualifying.

The Georgia presidential primary is March 24, but early voting can be done from March 2-20 at selected locations in the county.

For next week, those locations will be the Cobb Elections Office (736 Whitlock Ave.) and the Cobb Senior Wellness Center (1150 Powder Springs St.).

The East Cobb Government Service Center (4400 Lower Roswell Road) will have early voting on Saturday, March 14 and March 16-20 for the presidential primary.

Presidential primary early voting in East Cobb also will take place March 16-20 at Noonday Baptist Church (4120 Canton Road) and Tim D. Lee Senior Center (3332 Sandy Plains Road).

Voters in the presidential primary will choose either a Democratic or Republican ballot. In the latter, only incumbent President Donald Trump’s name is listed, per a decision by the Georgia GOP (sample ballots shown below).

Cobb elections qualifying

All existing Cobb precincts will be open on primary day, March 24, and some polling places have changed, including several in East Cobb.

The Georgia general primary is May 19, and the ballots will be Democratic, Republican and non-partisan.

Among the local races in East Cobb that figure to be highly contested are the 6th Congressional District, Cobb Commission District 2, Cobb Board of Education Post 5 and State House District 43.

Cobb Commission Chairman, all legislative seats, all U.S. House seats and both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats will be up for grabs.

The deadline to register to vote in the general primary is April 20.

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Final Four-bound: Wheeler boys, Kell girls and boys play on

Wheeler basketball
Wheeler shut down Berkmar defensively in a scrappy, physical game at Wildcat Arena. (East Cobb News photos and slideshow by Wendy Parker)

The high school basketball season will extend into the weekend for three East Cobb teams when they play in the Georgia High School Association Final Four.

The Wheeler boys led the whole game Wednesday, then fought off a late challenge from Berkmar, to advance with a 53-43 win at Wildcat Arena in the Class 7A tournament.

At the same time, the Kell boys went on the road and downed Buford 57-45 in Class 5A. On Tuesday, the Kell girls remained undefeated with a 64-54 win over Jones County.

On Saturday, all three teams will compete in the semifinal rounds on neutral sites. The Wheeler boys face Milton in Buford at 4 p.m.

Also at 4 p.m. Saturday, the Kell boys will play Dutchtown in Fort Valley, followed by the Kell girls against Eagle’s Landing at the same venue.

For the Wheeler boys, it’s their first trip to the Final Four under third-year coach Larry Thompson.

“It feels great; this is a place that’s rich with tradition,” he said. “This is what people expect here.”

Thompson succeeded the legendary Doug Lipscomb, who guided Wheeler to six state championships between 1994 and 2015. The last was when the Wildcats’ star was Jaylen Brown, now playing for the Boston Celtics in the NBA.

These Wildcats are built around defense. In the playoffs so far, they held Etowah to under 50 points, scraped by Shiloh with a 65-64 overtime win and also wanted to hold Berkmar under 50.

“That was our game plan,” Thompson said, and for the first half Wheeler didn’t give the Patriots too many good shots.

Wheeler got some key 3-point shooting to build a 31-18 lead, but Berkmar fought back in the third quarter. An alley oop slam dunk cut the Wildcats’ lead to 39-34, and Wheeler led 41-36 going into the fourth quarter.

“We knew they’d make a run,” Thompson said. “I just told our players to persevere. Play tough.”

He had to call a couple of timeouts early in the fourth quarter before Wheeler regained a double-digit lead with 4:20 to play when Prince Davies fed Ja’Heim Hudson for a dunk.

That brought the Wheeler students to their feet, and they remained standing and jumping for joy with the players, as the clock expired.

The Wildcats will be facing Milton for a second time this season, after losing to the North Fulton school 64-62 in late January.

The Final Four experience will be new for both Kell teams, which will be making their semifinal debuts.

The Lady Longhorns are 31-0 and have been rolling for most of the season, with only two close calls since region play began. The Kell boys are 26-5 on the season.

The state championship games will be played next weekend in Macon.

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East Cobb food scores: Red Curry; Ege Sushi; Panda Express; more

Red Thai Curry, East Cobb food scores

The following East Cobb food scores from Feb. 24-28 have been compiled by the Cobb & Douglas Department of Public Health. Click the link under each listing for details of the inspection:

Arbor Terrace of East Cobb
886 Johnson Ferry Road
February 27, 2020 Score: 99, Grade: A

Blue Moon Pizza
2359 Windy Hill Road, Suite 100
February 25, 2020 Score: 98, Grade: A

Ege Sushi & Japanese Cuisine
2100 Roswell Road, Suite 2112
February 26, 2020 Score: 90, Grade: A

Em Kitchen 
4400 Roswell Road, Suite 154
February 27, 2020 Score: 81, Grade: B

Marlow’s Tavern
2960 Shallowford Road, Suite 109
February 26, 2020 Score: 94, Grade: A

Panda Express
4275 Roswell Road
February 24, 2020 Score: 100, Grade: A

Pita Mediterranean Street Food
2960 Shallowford Road, Suite 112
February 25, 2020 Score: 83, Grade: B

Red Curry Thai
4724 Lower Roswell Road, Suite 500
February 25, 2020 Score: 83, Grade: B

Taquito Express
3065 Shallowford Road, Suite A
February 26, 2020 Score: 96, Grade: A

Wildwood [email protected] 
3200 Windy Hill Road, Suite 150
February 25, 2020 Score: 100, Grade: A

WingStop Delk 
2900 Delk Road, Suite 100
February 27, 2020 Score: 92, Grade: A

2080 Lower Roswell Road
February 25, 2020 Score: 91, Grade: A

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Cobb commissioners appoint Jackie McMorris as county manager

Jackie McMorris was named the new Cobb County Manager Tuesday by the Cobb Board of Commissioners, after serving as the second-in-command since 2017.

Jackie McMorris, Cobb County Manager
Jackie McMorris

McMorris was confirmed by a vote of 4-1 after being nominated by Chairman Mike Boyce.

Lisa Cupid, the South Cobb Commissioner, was the only vote against. She said while she supported McMorris, she wanted a more thorough hiring process.

Reading from a lengthy prepared statement, Cupid said “I think the world” of McMorris, who “will make a fine county manager.”

But since the position is the highest-ranking in county government, Cupid said she was troubled there was no discussion among the board or typical interviewing steps taken.

She said that processes—which includes meeting with board members and the county manager and being recommended by a hiring committee—are being followed to fill another high-level position, Director of Support Services.

Cupid has been critical of what she says were expedited processes recently to hire new County Attorney William Rowling and Police Chief Tim Cox.

“My commitment to an open hiring process has not changed,” said Cupid, who complained that commissioners discussed McMorris’ appointment in executive session only on Monday.

“I think this process was unfair to the candidate, to the board, to other possible candidates and to the public. She has become part of an unnecessary and unfair political problem.”

Cupid, who’s running for chairman, acknowledged that Boyce has the authority to do what he did, “but the full implementation does not necessarily make it right.”

East Cobb commissioner Bob Ott responded that he didn’t think the hiring process was unfair.

“What is unfair is to drag Dr. McMorris through the mud on what is a procedural issue,” he said, also reading from written remarks.

“She doesn’t need to be protected from anything. Her record, her education, her job performance speak for themselves.”

Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, also of East Cobb, said McMorris “is the only choice for this position. . . I have no reservations at all about the process or the appointment.”

McMorris came to Cobb in 2013 as public services director, after serving in executive positions with Cherokee County government and the Fulton District Attorney’s office. She holds a doctorate in adult education and will succeed retiring County Manager Rob Hosack on April 5.

After the vote, McMorris thanked the board, and emotionally talked about its support for her after her husband died six weeks ago.

“I truly believe I was chosen for this job because this board because I was the most qualified,” she said.

“I am here for you. All I have to give you is my service.”


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GreenWise opening nears as Sandy Plains MarketPlace takes shape

GreenWise Market Sandy Plains MarketPlace
East Cobb News photos and slideshow by Wendy Parker

The Publix supermarket chain will soon open its first GreenWise organic products store in Georgia at the new Sandy Plains MarketPlace, but an opening date has not been determined.

The store received a business license from the Cobb Community Development Agency earlier this month, but other steps need to take place before the opening process can be finalized, according Brenda Reid, a spokeswoman at the Publix Atlanta regional office.

She told East Cobb News that “we don’t set the opening date” until receiving a certificate of occupancy from the county. But she did say that “we’re pushing forward to be ready” for a tentative target date of April 15.

Reid said she could not confirm a report that the Florida-based grocer is opening another Publix at the intersection of Roswell Road and Johnson Ferry Road in East Cobb.

The Atlanta retail news site ToNeTo reported last week that a traditional Publix store is coming to the East Cobb Crossing Shopping Center, next to Dick’s Sporting Goods, in space formerly occupied by K-Mart.

Within the radius of that intersection is a Whole Foods Market as well as Sprouts and Trader Joe’s. The nearby Target store also has a grocery section.

Reid said that location “is not on my confirmed list,” meaning property that either has a signed lease or has been purchased. “I don’t have any more information.”

East Cobb Crossing map

Publix operates stores in the Johnson Ferry corridor at the Woodlawn Point Shopping Center only 1.2 miles away, and at the Shallowford Corners Shopping Center, 3.5 miles away.

That corridor also includes two Kroger stores and a Wal-Mart store with a full grocery section. Lidl, a discount grocery retailer, is planning to occupy space at Woodlawn Square after The Fresh Market closed last fall.

Another Publix, at East Piedmont Road and Roswell Road, is 4.4 miles west of the new store, and a Walmart Grocery at Roswell Road and Old Canton Road is four miles away.

Other Publix locations in East Cobb include 2900 Delk Road (at Powers Ferry Road), 1860 Sandy Plains Road (at Scufflegrit Road) and 4750 Alabama Road (at Old Mountain Park Road).

GreenWise is a new concept for Publix, which has six such stores already in operation in Florida, South Carolina and Alabama. The East Cobb store is among the six being planned or under construction.

The GreenWise store will be located just across Sandy Plains Road from a Publix at the Highland Plaza Shopping Center, at the intersection of Shallowford Road.

Reid said that’s the oldest Publix in metro Atlanta, having opened in November 1992, and it’s “one of the more high-volume stores” among the 150 in the area (25 stores are in Cobb County alone).

GreenWise offers organic and natural products, including personal care items, as well as what Reid said will be a “large” area for prepared foods, including grab-and-go items.

There will be a selection of fresh meat cuts, including varieties of bacon cured on the premises.

The personal care items will include hair care, bath and beauty items, vitamins and supplements, aromatherapy and homeopathic products and first aid items.

Other things to note about the GreenWise concept, Reid said, is that the store will have a contemporary layout, and even the employees’ uniforms will look different from those who work at Publix.

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Most of Sandy Plains MarketPlace (3460 Sandy Plains Road), located on the former site of Mountain View Elementary School, is still under construction. Jim ‘N Nicks Bar-B-Q has opened, as has a Synovus Bank branch. A Clean Juice store is slated to open in mid-March.

Other businesses include Hollywood Feed, an organic pet food store; First Watch, a breakfast-brunch-lunch eatery; MOD Pizza; Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar; Dogtopia; Banfield Pet Hospital; Diesel Barbershop; and Sandy Plains Dental Group.

Fuqua Development, which has been building the 73,000-square-foot shopping center, recently sold it for $43.8 million to Orkin & Company, an Atlanta-based real estate investment firm, according to the business publication BisNow Atlanta.

The report said the acquisition does not include a self-storage facility under construction that’s located next to the Mountain View Community Center.

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Self-service car tag renewal kiosk opens in East Cobb

East Cobb Government Center, Cobb Police Precinct 4

Like several other locations in Cobb County, the Georgia Department of Revenue has opened a third self-service car tag renewal kiosk in East Cobb.

The kiosk is located at the East Cobb Government Service Center (4400 Roswell Road), near the Cobb tag office located there.

It’s open from 6 a.m. to midnight daily, and motorists who need to renew their tags can do so quickly, with the following requirements:

  • A vehicle must be registered in a county with self-service availability;
  • A motorist must have a valid Georgia State driver’s license;
  • A motorist’s address must be correct on the renewal notice;
  • A motorist must have proof of liability insurance on file;
  • A motorist must have a vehicle emission inspection form.

Georgia DOR has installed similar kiosks in Cobb at the Cobb tag office (2932 Canton Road), which is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, and at the Shallowford Falls Kroger (3162 Johnson Ferry Road), which is open from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily.

After a customer’s renewal is approved, the machine prints new tags.

For more on the self-service kiosk centers, click here.


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Cobb SPLOST renewal open houses include 4 East Cobb venues

Sandy Plains road work, Cobb SPLOST renewal
Road work on Sandy Plains Road funded in the current Cobb SPLOST was recently completed, after several months of delays (ECN file).

The current Cobb government SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) runs through the end of 2021, but on this year’s ballot a referendum may be included to extend the one-cent tax for six more years starting in 2022.

No project list has been made public yet, but Cobb government will be holding open houses starting next week through early May to get feedback from citizens.

The first meeting, in fact, will be held next Tuesday, March 3, at the Piedmont Church (570 Piedmont Road) in northeast Cobb.

The SPLOST pays for transportation projects, maintenance and technology upgrades for county government facilities (including parks, libraries and senior centers), public safety equipment and maintenance (here’s the January update for the current 2016 SPLOST) and related expenses.

The other meetings in East Cobb will be at East Cobb Library (April 1), the Tim D. Lee Senior Center (formerly the East Cobb Senior Center, April 14) and the Sewell Mill Library and Cultural Center (May 5).

The full schedule is listed below; all sessions run from 6-8 p.m. and times, dates and locations are subject to change (you can track them here).

The open houses will include potential projects to be considered (by county staff and commissioners) and will allow citizens to ask questions of department leaders and offer feedback and suggestions.

Cobb commissioners would have to pass a resolution to place a referendum on the November election ballot.

More on the SPLOST program can be found here; and the current 2016 SPLOST list of projects can be found here.


Tuesday, March 4 Piedmont Church 570 Piedmont Road
Wednesday, March 4 South Cobb Community Center 620 Lions Club Drive, Mableton
Thursday, March 5 Vinings Bank 4135 Atlanta Road, Smyrna
Tuesday, March 10 Acworth Community Center 4361 Cherokee St., Acworth
Wednesday, March 11 West Cobb Regional Library 1750 Dennis Kemp Lane, Kennesaw
Wednesday, March 18 Smyrna Community Center 200 Village Green Circle, Smyrna
Thursday, March 19 Ben Robertson Community Center 2753 Watts Drive, Kennesaw
Wednesday, March 25 Freeman Poole Senior Center 4025 S. Hurt Road, Smyrna
Thursday, March 26 Threadmill Complex 5000 Austell-Powder Springs Road, Austell
Tuesday, March 31 Shiloh Hills Church 75 Hawkins Store Road, Kennesaw
Wednesday, April 1 East Cobb Library 4880 Lower Roswell Road
Thursday, April 2 South Cobb Recreation Center 875 Riverside Parkway, Austell
Tuesday, April 7 St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church 2160 Cooper Lake Road, Smyrna
Tuesday, April 14 Tim D. Lee Senior Center 3332 Sandy Plains Road
Wednesday, April 15 Cobb County Civic Center 548 South Marietta Parkway
Thursday, April 16 Cobb Senior Services 1150 Powder Springs St., Marietta
Tuesday, April 21 Ron Anderson Recreation Center 3820 Macedonia Road, Powder Springs
Wednesday, April 22 West Cobb Senior Center 4915 Dallas Highway, Powder Springs
Thursday, April 23 North Cobb Senior Center 3900 S. Main Street, Acworth
Tuesday, May 5 Sewell Mill Library & Cultural Center 2051 Lower Roswell Road


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East Cobb Rotary marks fundraising with Giveback Celebration

East Cobb Rotary Dog Days Run
The East Cobb Rotary Dog Days Run is the primary fundraiser for the organization, which handed out more than $80K to community groups in 2019. (ECN file)

The Rotary Club of East Cobb announced this week it surpassed its 2019 fundraising goals for nearly two dozen local charitable organizations and is having a special “Giveback Celebration” event Tuesday evening at the Piedmont Church.

The club raised more than $82,000 (the goal was $80,000), mostly through the Dog Days Run 5K race each August at the McCleskey-East Cobb Family YMCA.

The Rotary started the race in 2005, mostly by members who are running enthusiasts, and it’s grown to more than 900 runners last year.

Among the local beneficiaries and projects are:

  • Boy Scouts of America
  • Camp Kudzu
  • Camp Trach Me Away
  • Center for Family Resources
  • Cobb Library Foundation
  • Davis Direction Foundation
  • East Cobb Robotics
  • Family Promise
  • FODAC – Friends of Disabled Adults & Children
  • Georgia Care Connection Office
  • Good Samaritan Clinic of Cobb
  • Kidz 2 Leaders
  • Lekotek
  • Loving Arms Cancer Outreach
  • MDE School
  • Project Mail Call
  • Public Safety Celebration—Cobb Co. Public Safety
  • Rally Foundation
  • REAP (Reading Is Essential for All People)
  • Revved up kids
  • WellStar Community Hospice
  • McCleskey-East Cobb Family YMCA
  • AVID Wheeler High School

“Although it’s always satisfying to exceed expectations, what’s exciting is the impact this will have on the receiving organizations,” said Tammy Palmgren, East Cobb Rotary president-election and chairwoman of the Dog Day Run and the Giveback Celebration. “Seeing these connections made in real time always makes the Give Back Celebration quite an emotional experience.”

The East Cobb Rotary distributes funding after receiving applications from local organizations, and evaluation by a grant committee.

The club decided to hold its Giveback Celebration in the evening, instead of during its usual 7 a.m. Wednesday breakfast meetings at Indian Hills Country Club, due to larger crowds and to have more time to spend with the organizations it works with.

“I am hopeful everyone at the celebration will come away from the evening with a feeling of being one hundred percent appreciated and acknowledged,” Palmgren said.


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East Cobb Biz Notes: Mellow Mushroom opens on Johnson Ferry

Mellow Mushroom Johnson Ferry

The long-awaited return of Mellow Mushroom to the Johnson Ferry Road corridor is here.

The pizza restaurant opened its doors at 11 a.m. Monday in the Woodlawn Square Shopping Center, in the former Muss & Turner’s/Common Quarter Space.

Opening hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. seven days a week, and here’s the menu.

It’s been almost a year since the Atlanta-based chain announced it was returning to this part of East Cobb, when the Fountains of Olde Towne gave way to the Northside medical center on Johnson Ferry.

Mellow Mushroom got an alcohol license last fall, then renewed it over the winter, due to unspecified delays.

The restaurant is continuing its hiring process, and anyone interested in applying should e-mail [email protected] or talk to a manager in person.

East Cobb resident recognized by Forbes

For the second year in a row, Atlanta-based Merrill Wealth Management Financial Advisor Benny Varzi, an East Cobb resident, has been recognized on the Forbes “Best-in-State Wealth Advisors” list.Benny Varzi, Merrill Lynch

Varzi joined Merrill Lynch in 2009 and is Senior Vice President, Wealth Management Advisor, Senior Portfolio Manager with the Atlanta-based Varzi Group.

His area of emphasis has been portfolio management. Varzi holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Kennesaw State University and has Certifications of Portfolio Management from The Babson School of Executive Education in Boston, DePaul University in Chicago and The University of Chicago Booths School of Business.


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91-year-old man dies after Sunday crash on Sandy Plains Road

Sandy Plains Road crash

Cobb Police said a 91-year-old man died Sunday after his car crashed with another on Sandy Plains Road, near the entrance of Mountain View Elementary School.

John A. Spadafora, of Marietta, was pronounced dead at WellStar Kennestone Hospital, according to a release from Cobb Police Monday.

Police said Spadafora was driving a black Mazda truck south on Sandy Plains Road at 5:38 p.m. Sunday, attempting to make a left turn onto Davis Road, when it collided with a gray Infiniti.

Sgt. Wayne Delk, a Cobb Police spokesman, said Spadafora was taken to the hospital with serious injuries, but that his condition worsened and he died Sunday night.

The driver of the Infiniti, John Hamm, 42, of Roswell, also was hospitalized at Kennestone but does not have life-threatening injuries, according to police.

Cobb Police said the crash remains under investigation, and anyone with information is asked to call 770-499-3987.

The incident was the third fatal crash of the weekend in East Cobb.

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