East Cobb traffic alert: Sandy Plains Road closed due to gas leak

Sandy Plains Road closed

Cobb Police just issued a notice that a stretch of Sandy Plains Road near Scufflegrit Road is closed because of a gas leak.

The portion of Sandy Plains that is shut down in both directions is between Broussard Way and Rosebriar Drive, both residential streets, and the closure could last for several hours.

Police and fire crews are on the scene. The closest alternates are Canton Road and the Canton Road Connector to the west and Scufflegrit Road and Piedmont Road to the east.

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St. Ann Catholic to hold Cobb emergency preparedness training classes

Submitted information:

Cobb CERTThere are two Cobb County Community Emergency Response Team training opportunities in February and residents are encouraged to sign up now.

Cobb Senior Services Wellness Center, 1150 Powder Springs Street, MariettaClasses will be held from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on three consecutive Wednesdays (must attend all three classes), Feb. 5, 12 and 19.To register, contact Tracy Shehab at [email protected].

St. Ann’s Catholic Church, La Salette Hall, 4905 Roswell Road, MariettaClasses will be held from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. on three consecutive Saturdays (must attend all three classes), Feb. 22, 29 and March 7.To register contact Linda Walsh, RN at [email protected] or call 770-552-6400 ext. 6019.

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Cobb Police Coffee With a Cop meetings coming in Precinct 4

Submitted information about several upcoming Cobb Police Coffee With a Cop meetings, where the public is invited to bring questions and discuss crime and public safety issues with Precinct 4 community officer Nathalie Jegg:Northeast Cobb car crash, Cops on Donut Shops

  • Tuesday, February 11, 10:00 AM to noon at IHOP, 3130 Johnson Ferry Road
  • Tuesday, February 186:00 PM to 8:00 PM at Starbucks, 2424 Roswell Road
  • Monday, May 4 10:00 AM to noon at Jacobs Java 1350 Terrell Mill Road

Upcoming major/public events for Cobb Police Community Affairs:

  • Ride with the Blue Charity Motorcycle Ride on Sunday, April 19 at Jim Miller Park time TBA (for more info contact Officer Granell at, [email protected])
  • Copz, Kidz, & Chicken event at Zaxby’s, 2981 Delk Road, April 22 from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM. A portion of the proceeds to benefit Brumby Elementary School to pay down outstanding school lunch debts (for more info contact Officer Jegg at [email protected]bbcounty.org)

 

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Cobb public safety step-and-grade plan approved unanimously

Susan Hampton, Cobb public safety advocates
Susan Hampton

Cobb public safety personnel will be receiving a new salary structure that becomes effective in March.

The Cobb Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 Tuesday night to implement a step-and-grade plan that will provide for incremental pay boosts, based on years of service and other factors.

Details of the plan were revealed last week as a “next step” toward increasing salary and benefits for Cobb public safety workers. Commissioners last year approved a seven-percent raise and a one-time bonus after coming under pressure from public safety personnel and community activists.

“This is a step forward,” South Cobb commissioner Lisa Cupid said before the vote. “It is not a panacea.”

The new plan kicks in March 22, and all qualified personnel in Cobb police, fire and sheriff’s departments will move up a step at that time.

The additional funding will come to $5.7 million for the current fiscal year 2020, which goes through the end of September.

The step-and-grade plan would increase starting pay for entry-level police officers, sheriff’s deputies and firefighters from $41,000 a year to $46,000.

Salaries for the highest police officer and firefighter positions would range from $67,290 to $103,626. For rank-and-file sheriff’s deputies, that top-end range would be $48,435 to $74,590.

Unlike other step-and-grade pay models—including the Cobb County School District—the Cobb public safety raises would not be automatic, and would have to go before commissioners during the annual budget process.

East Cobb commissioner Bob Ott was absent from the meeting.

“We still have work to do, but a lot has been done in the past 11 months,” said Susan Hampton of East Cobb, an advocate with the Cobb County Public Safety Foundation.

She urged commissioners to “never allow public safety to be removed as the No. 1 priority in future budgets.”

But another public safety advocate, Kimberly Peace Hill, was irate, saying “this scale does nothing for retention.”

She told commissioners that “if you’re going to do this, don’t drop the ball. Give them [public safety employees] a commitment.”

Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren, whose department is understaffed, said the step-and-grade plan “is outstanding. It’s long overdue.”

The commissioners’ comments were brief, with East Cobb commissioner JoAnn Birrell pledging that “as long as I’m in this seat, [public safety] will be my No. 1 priority.”

North Cobb commissioner Keli Gambrill voted for the measure, but wondered how the plan will be financed in the long haul since the county brings in $21 million less in property tax revenues ($392 million) than it pays for county employee salaries ($414 million).

She wanted future public safety raises to be tied to additional revenues from the state tag and ad valorem tax, the source of most of the funding for the step-and-grade costs.

“I hope our actions over the last year will show we are moving in the right direction.” Cupid said.

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East Cobb resident earns Cobb Chamber’s public service award

Susan Hampton, Cobb Chamber public service award
Susan Hampton with outgoing Cobb Chamber of Commerce president Mitch Rhoden. (Cobb C of C photo)

At its annual gala dinner Saturday, the Cobb Chamber of Commerce presented East Cobb resident Susan Hampton with its Mack Henderson Public Service Award, given to “someone who is outstanding in their commitment and dedication to enhancing the quality of life for the citizens of Cobb County.”

Hampton has organized the East Cobb Business Association’s appreciation events for Cobb Police Precinct 4 officers and Cobb Fire personnel, and is part of the newly formed Cobb County Public Safety Foundation.

Over the last year, she has been outspoken in favor of better pay and benefits for Cobb public safety workers.

In being presented the award Saturday, the Chamber called Hampton a “tireless advocate for Cobb’s public safety personnel. Whether it’s acting as a vocal supporter for higher wages or organizing an appreciation event for local law enforcement, this award winner devotes her volunteer efforts to the community she serves.”

Hampton also is active with the Cobb County Coalition of Business Associations, “working with the coalition’s founders and other committed volunteers continuing the legacy of Barbara Hickey, lending her hand whenever it is needed,” according to the Chamber’s presentation.

The Cobb Chamber also honored former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson at the gala dinner. The Republican from East Cobb was presented with the Chamber’s Senator Johnny H. Isakson Leadership Award, which has been renamed in his honor.

The Chamber has dedicated the 10th floor of its new offices at 1100 Circle 75 Parkway in Isakson’s name.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, Cobb chamber
Retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson speaks at the Cobb Chamber gala dinner Saturday. (Cobb C of C photo)

 

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Three people injured, two seriously, in Woodstock Road crash

Woodstock Road crash

Three people were taken to WellStar Kennestone Hospital Saturday night after their car crashed with another vehicle on Woodstock Road in Northeast Cobb, according to Cobb Police.

Officer Sydney Melton said in a release Sunday morning that Dorothy Graham, 81, and Victoria Graham, 67, both of Marietta, suffered serious injuries. Cline Graham, 74, of Marietta, had non-life-threatening injuries, Melton said.

Melton said they were in a blue 2008 Honda CR-V traveling westbound on Woodstock Road at 9:44 p.m. Saturday when Cline Graham, the driver, tried making a left turn onto southbound Mabry Road.

The Honda hit a silver 2014 Jeep Wrangler that was heading east on Woodstock Road, according to Melton. She said the Jeep’s driver, Brittany Bonner, 18, of Marietta, did not require medical attention at the scene.

Melton said the crash is still being investigated and that anyone with information is asked to call the Cobb Police Selective Traffic Enforcement Program Unit at 770-499-3987.

 

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Revised Cobb public safety step-and-grade would cost $5.7M

Cobb County Chairman Boyce, revised Cobb public safety step and grade

With a new budget season on the horizon, Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce said this week his agenda for 2020 is clear-cut.

He told members of the East Cobb Business Association on Tuesday that his top budget priorities are to keep the current property tax millage rate in place, and continue reducing the amount of money the county borrows from the water fund.

Another major objective he’s bringing up next week is a revised step-and-grade salary proposal for public safety personnel that he said “is a really big deal” for police officers, firefighters, sheriff’s deputies, sworn personnel and others.

“There’s nothing else on my plate,” Boyce said during a luncheon at the Olde Towne Athletic Club.

After the Cobb Board of Commissioners approved a one-time bonus, a seven-percent pay raise and an outline for a step-and-grade plan last year, Boyce floated a more detailed proposal last fall that fell flat with some of his colleagues or public safety leaders.

On Tuesday, Boyce will present a revised proposal that would cost an additional $5.7 million annually: $2.1 million for police, $2 million for fire and $1.6 million for the sheriff’s office.

Boyce wants to fast-track this proposal as well, having it take effect for the pay period starting on March 22, if approved.

According to a summary of the proposal included in the commissioners’ meeting agenda, $3.3 million of that new revenue would come from state title and ad valorem tax (TAVT) collections, with $1.1 million coming from the county’s general fund, and another $1.1 million from the fire fund.

The step-and-grade structure is similar to what Cobb County School District employees receive—annual, incremental and automatic raises based on a combination of factors, including years of service, promotions and performance reviews.

Under the revised proposal, the starting salary for an entry-level police officer, sheriff’s deputy or firefighter would jump from around $41,000 a year to $46,000, with the highest salary at that position earning $70,840.

Salaries for the highest police officer and firefighter positions would range from $67,290 to $103,626. For rank-and-file sheriff’s deputies, that top-end range would be $48,435 to $74,590.

The pay raises would be around three percent; under the draft proposal, however, they would not have been automatic and the salary boost would be subject to a performance review.

The revised numbers are slightly higher than what was presented in October. (For the full step-and-grade breakdown chart, click here, and for other proposed public safety salary ranges, click here.

After the ECBA luncheon, Boyce told East Cobb News said he is confident the new formula “is the issue that will restore confidence” to current public safety personnel, and will help with recruiting and retention.

He said that “we’ve engaged the officers,” and that “the key to me is, can we do this without a millage increase?”

For those critical of the draft proposal in October, the revision may pose similar concerns. East Cobb commissioner Bob Ott said then that the plan wouldn’t be step-and-grade if it needed annual budget approval.

Included in the recommendation in Tuesday’s budget item is language that would “authorize the County Manager to proceed working with county staff to develop a policy to review the Step & Grade Plan on an annual basis to determine effectiveness including an annual step as a top priority in future adopted budgets.”

Boyce, a Republican from East Cobb, is seeking re-election in November. His declared opposition includes South Cobb Democratic commissioner Lisa Cupid and East Cobb Republican Larry Savage, who ran for chairman in 2012 and 2016.

Two years ago, Boyce angered fiscal conservatives with a millage rate increase that didn’t address public safety staffing shortages and morale problems over pay and retention.

During last year’s budget deliberations, public safety staffers and advocates, as well as community leaders, implored commissioners to take measures to address what they termed a “crisis.”

One-time bonuses approved in May were promised as a “first step,” and when commissioners approved the fiscal year 2020 budget in July, it included a seven-percent raise for public safety employees.

Tuesday’s commission meeting is at 7 p.m. in the second floor board room of the Cobb government building, 100 Cherokee St., downtown Marietta. You can read through the full agenda by clicking here.

 

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Fundraising continues for survivor of fatal NE Cobb crash

NE Cobb car crash survivor

A 16-year-old girl who was seriously injured in a two-car crash that took the life of a Kell High School student last week is recovering, and her friends are raising money for her hospital bills.

The Zaxby’s restaurant at 2756 Sandy Plains Road will donate 10 percent of its receipts from 5-8 p.m. Tuesday for a girl named Emily.

According to a Go Fund Me account set up by Peyton Miller, nearly $19,000 has been raised for Emily (in photo above), who’s a student at Lassiter High School.

The girl was not identified by Cobb Police since she is a juvenile. Kayleigh Neste, 17, a senior at Kell, was killed in the crash, which took place January 12 on Jamerson Road near the Kell campus.

Police said Neste’s Nissan lost control heading westbound on Jamerson and crashed into a Kia driven by the 16-year-old that was heading eastbound.

Both girls were taken to WellStar Kennestone Hospital, where Neste was pronounced dead.

The Zaxby’s fundraiser was announced in Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell’s weekly newsletter on Friday (flyer at right).

According to a message posted by Miller on the Go Fund Me page for Emily, “Major surgeries have been completed for now and she is looking 100 times better.”

 

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Jamerson Road crash kills teen girl; another seriously injured

Jamerson Road crash

A teenage girl was killed and another suffered serious injuries Sunday night in a two-car crash on Jamerson Road, according to Cobb Police.

Officer Sydney Melton, a police spokeswoman, said Kayleigh S. Neste, 17, of Kennesaw, was pronounced dead after being taken to WellStar Kennestone Hospital.

Neste was a student at Kell High School.

A 16-year-old girl, who was not identified, also was taken to Kennestone, with serious injuries that were not specified, Melton said.

Police said the crash happened at 7:14 p.m. Sunday on Jamerson Road at Navilly Way, near Kell High School. A westbound-traveling white 2008 Nissan 350Z driven by Neste lost control and collided with a white 2012 Kia Forte, heading east and driven by the 16-year old.

Neste’s car caught fire after the crash, and Melton said bystanders helped her out of the car and also pulled the Kia away from the Nissan before it could catch fire.

The 16-year-old girl was trapped inside the Kia until fire and rescue crews could free her, Melton said.

Melton said the crash remains under investigation and anyone with information should call Cobb Police at 770-499-3987.

 

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East Cobb traffic alert: Storm leaves roads blocked by trees

Cobb storms block roads

Cobb County government is saying Saturday night that thunderstorms that came through late this afternoon have left some roads blocked by trees.

Those roads include portions of Old Canton Road, Post Oak Tritt Road, Bill Murdock Road, Casteel Road and Bishop Lake Road.

A message sent out by the county around 7:30 p.m. Saturday wasn’t more specific, except to say that it was responding to at least two dozen calls, and likely more, around Cobb.

The county said Cobb police and fire/rescue crews that have responded thus far haven’t reported any injuries.

Cobb EMC is updating its power outage map (see above), which as of 8:30 p.m. included some locations in East Cobb. The biggest cluster was in the Terrell Mill/Powers Ferry area, with nearly 500 outages reported.

More than 200 outages were reported in an area around Lower Roswell Road and the South Marietta Parkway, around 30 off Canton Road near Morgan Road, and 20 or so off Lower Roswell, east of Johnson Ferry Road.

Georgia Power showed some outages on its map around the Noonday area, also around 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

 

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Top East Cobb stories for 2019: Homeowner charged with murder

Jake Horne, East Cobb shooting victim, East Cobb man indicted murder
Jake Horne was taken off life support after being shot outside an East Cobb home in March; the homeowner, Larry Epstein, was charged with his murder.

A quiet East Cobb neighborhood became the focus of an intense law enforcement presence one afternoon in early March 2019 after two home contractors were shot in what some residents thought was an active shooter situation.

Cobb Police ordered residents to stay inside as they closed off Wellington Lane, off Johnson Ferry Road, and sent in SWAT officers and a mobile command unit.

A nearby resident told East Cobb News she’d never seen so much police concentrated in the area, a situation drawing heavy metro Atlanta media coverage as well.

A resident of Kensington, the neighborhood in question, told East Cobb News that “they have us pretty blocked in but not giving any info. They are in SWAT gear with guns drawn.”

Read the stories

An hour or so after police came to the scene, the standoff ended peacefully when Larry Epstein, a resident of the Wellington Lane home where the shootings occurred, surrendered.

Two electrical contractors doing work at his home were rushed to WellStar Kennestone Hospital.

One of them, Jake Horne, 21, of Kennesaw, was taken off life support and pronounced dead the following morning after being shot in the head. Gordon Montcalm, 37, of Buchanan, Ga., was listed in serious condition and faced a long recovery.

Epstein, 69, was charged with murder and he remains in the Cobb County Adult Detention Center after being denied bond.

During his probable cause hearing, police said Epstein had accused the workers of killing pet ducks at the home, although there was no evidence of those acts.

The families of the victims were left to scramble to raise funds for medical and funeral expenses, and to comprehend what had happened.

“This is a boy that would give you the shirt off of his back. He had a heart of gold,” said Lisa Godsey, Horne’s aunt, who lives in California. “He thought of everyone else before himself.”

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Cobb Opioid Fatality Review Project completes first review

Cobb Opioids Fatality Review Project

Last fall we reported on some sobering numbers of opioids deaths in Cobb County, which has the highest overdose death rate in the state of Georgia.

A number of initiatives have been begun to address those trends, including the Cobb Opioid Fatality Review Project under the auspices of the Cobb District Attorney’s Office. That project received a nearly $900,000 U.S. Justice Department grant to cover three years.

On Wednesday DA Joyette Holmes sent out the following message about the project’s first review:

In the DA’s Office, Judicial Case Manager Latoya Inzar and Inv. Matthew Mize are dedicated to the Fatality Review Project.

“Cobb County completed its first opioid fatality review (OFR) on Nov. 20, with great participation from stakeholders and the U.S. Department of Justice,” Inzar said. “We were able to review three recent overdose deaths, and recommendations followed to improve policy and practice. As the OFRs are still new to Cobb County and the state of Georgia, our team will continue to improve the process.”

Among the accomplishments, Inzar created a treatment guide and community resource booklet of food, housing, healthcare and other resources available to Cobb residents impacted by the opioid crisis.

Project leaders have attended various trainings, and they participated in Marietta Police Department’s opioid symposium in September. They regularly review findings of the Cobb Medical Examiner on overdose deaths and are engaged in mapping and analyzing individual cases.

Mize, who works to identify the drug dealers behind overdose deaths, said: “The significance of this work is that it will save lives, but more importantly, we aim to transform the lives of those suffering from addiction so that they may reach a sustainable recovery.”

In 2018, Cobb recorded 95 overdose deaths.

Here are more resources collected on the county government’s opioids awareness page, and more background information from the Cobb Community Alliance to Prevent Substance Abuse. The CDC also has more data about opioid deaths in Cobb.

 

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