Cobb County Government

National agency honors safety village

A structure in the Cobb County Safety Village was recently recognized as an “Outstanding Achievement in Public Health” by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The village is a safety training environment where children and adults learn about public health, safety and emergency preparedness through interactive learning modules and activities. This year, Cobb Public Health designed a six-part education project with the goal of creating and implementing hands-on interactive safety and preparedness training for children that aligns with local, state and federal guidelines. The project was specifically designed for presentation in the miniature public health building in the Cobb Safety Village. More than 20,000 students are expected to complete the safety education in 2011.

Water System honored for education

Cobb County was recently honored as the 2011 WaterSense Promotional Partner of the Year by the Environmental Protection Agency. Cobb educates consumers on water efficiency through events and presentations, leading to an 80 percent familiarity of WaterSense among local consumers, compared to just 10 percent a few years ago. Cobb began its water efficiency program in 2005 and has seen its per capita water use drop from 126 gallons per person, per day in 2005 to 113 per person per day in 2010. Conservation is extremely important because while 75 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, only 1 percent is available for human use.

folks buying books
Cobb County Water System Senior Project Manager Kathy Nguyen accepted the award on behalf of the agency.

Also, the U.S. population has doubled over the past 50 years and withdrawals from public water supplies have tripled. Since 2006, the WaterSense program and its partners, including Cobb, have helped Americans save 125 billion gallons of water and more than $2 billion in water and energy bills, according to the EPA.

Public meeting for Vinings Vision Plan

Cobb County Community Development Planning Division is hosting the third public meeting for the Vinings Vision Plan, the master plan currently underway for the Vinings community. The third public meeting will be held 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17 at the Vinings United Methodist Church at 3101 Paces Mill Road. The Vinings community is welcomed to come help shape the future of Vinings.

Local families to receive assistance

The Center for Family Resources has provided Thanksgiving food boxes to local families in need for 26 years. This year, CFR will provide up to 1,500 Cobb families in need with everything they need to enjoy a meal at home together. Due to the economy, CFR continues to see a large increase in requests for assistance. This year’s Thanks for Giving effort will require more than 70,000 food items. Thanks for Giving would not be possible without the support of local residents, schools, businesses and civic organizations. The non-profit organization relies heavily on these groups to make the Thanksgiving food distribution possible. Distribution of food boxes to registered families is scheduled for Nov. 18-19 at Jim Miller Park. To learn more about sponsoring Thanks for Giving 2011, hosting a food drive or volunteering, visit

Weekend performance in Mableton

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr. will be presented by the Theatre Project at Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre, Nov. 4-6. The show times are: Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Participants are encouraged to bring dinner and enjoy the show with the whole family. Tickets are $5 and children 12 and younger are free. Tables that seat four are available for $30. To purchase tickets or for more information, call 770-819-3285 or visit Mable House is located at 5239 Floyd Road in Mableton.

Book club for a community of readers

The Cobb County Public Library System is participating in “On the Same Page,” an initiative organized by the Little Shop of Stories in Decatur. The goal of the program is to foster a community of readers by bringing families together around the same book. This year’s book selection is “The Phantom Tollbooth,” written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer. Programs have been planned in conjunction with the initiative: Thursday, Nov. 3 at 3:30 p.m. at Acworth Library. The library is located at 4569 Dallas St. in Acworth. For more information, please call (770) 917-5165. Tuesday, Nov. 8 at 4 p.m. at Mountain View Regional Library. Mountain View Regional Library is located at 3320 Sandy Plains Road in Marietta. For more information, please call (770) 509-2725. Friday, Nov. 11 at 3:30 p.m. at South Cobb Regional Library. South Cobb Regional Library is located at 805 Clay Road in Mableton. For more information, please call (678) 398-5834. Saturday, Nov. 19 at 11:15 a.m. at the Central Library. The Central Library is located at 266 Roswell St. in Marietta. For more information, please call (770) 528-2331.

Commissioner to meet with public

District Three Cobb County Commissioner JoAnn Birrell will host a town hall meeting 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 3, at Piedmont Church, 570 Piedmont Road, Marietta. Town halls are an excellent opportunity for residents to talk directly with their elected officials and learn about issues and progress around the county. For more information, call 770-528-3317 or visit

Honoring those who take the risks

Special to CobbLine

The Cobb Chamber of Commerce honored Cobb County’s finest Oct. 4 during the organization’s annual Public Safety Appreciation breakfast at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

The sold out event drew a record-breaking crowd of 600 guests and kicked off Public Safety Appreciation Week, a community-wide effort to say “thank you” to the men and women who work to keep Cobb County safe.
Several awards, including the Public Safety Employee of the Year, were presented.

Nominations were received from public safety agencies throughout Cobb County, including police, fire, sheriff’s office, campus police and EMS.
Public Safety Employee of the Year
Officer Brett Gossett of the Cobb County Police Department was named the 2011 Public Safety Employee of the Year.

Gossett’s conduct both on and off duty sets an example for fellow employees to follow, plus he is supportive and works to promote staff morale. He enhances the department’s reputation through work with schools and advocacy groups across Cobb County.alt

folks buying books
Cobb County Chamber of Commerce Public Safety Appreciation Chair Ray Rodriguez, Cobb County Police Officer Brett Gossett, Sen. Johnny Isakson and Cobb County Police Chief John R. Houser at the Oct. 4 Public Safety Appreciation breakfast.
folks buying books
The Cobb County Crimes Against Children Unit was recognized with the Distinguished Achievement Award for its work.

As the shift trainer for active shooter drills, Gossett has helped line up training facilities and developed training for his fellow officers to initiate some of the most challenging contingency plans.

In his law enforcement career, Gossett has performed life-saving measures. His thorough police work and investigation skills brought about the end of a major local drug operation and he displayed decisive action and calm under pressure in response to a domestic violence call.
A young family man, Gossett is also a dedicated professional who has made cases and performed deeds in his short career that many long-time veterans have not. He is an exemplary model of law-enforcement professional who has already “been there and done that,” working every day to make the community a better place to live.

Award of Merit
The Award of Merit recognizes an individual for an act of courage, demonstrating genuine care and concern for the residents of the community and going above and beyond the call of duty, often resulting in a life being saved. There were two deserving recipients this year.

• Cobb County Fire and Emergency Services Medical Operations Team. It is a highly specialized team of nine paramedics and three EMTs who provide medical support for all special operations teams within Cobb County Public Safety. The team operates on a day-to-day basis as an advanced life support engine company within the fire department.

• Cobb County Police Crimes Against Persons-Crimes Against Children Unit. It has taken the lead in child abuse investigations and has an active role in protocol development and training. It plays a vital role in ensuring collaborative, efficient and effective investigations, as well as successful subsequent case management. It is a member of SafePath’s Prevention Arm and helps advocate for legislation to better protect children.

Distinguished Achievement Award
The Distinguished Achievement Award recognizes an individual whose service and performance has exceeded the requirements of the job. For 2011, the Cobb Chamber honored two public safety officials:

• Maj. Cliff Kelker, Marietta Police Department.

• Officer Nicholas Leone, Cobb County Police Department. Leone, who joined in 2003, was commended during his first precienct assignment with recovering more stolen autos in one year than any other officer in the history of the department. As a founding member of the Violent Incident Prevention and Early Response Unit, he leads it in felony arrests.

The Medal of Valor
The Medal of Valor is the highest award recognizing an individual for an act of bravery in a life-threatening situation. The award is only presented when a deserving candidate is found. This year the Medal of Valor was presented to Patrol Lt. Cliff Yeager of Southern Polytechnic State University. 


Commission seeks award nominees

The Cobb County Board of Commissioners and the Cobb Community Relations Council invite nominations for the 2012 Creating Community Awards. The purpose of the awards is to recognize an individual, team or organization that has done something unique in making a positive contribution to the inclusion of any of the diverse communities in Cobb County. Those groups could be identified as race/ethnicity, age/generational, religious, grender, disabled or handicapped gender. Each commissioner will receive nominations from his or her district. A committee will be formed to choose each recipient. Nominations should be turned in to the appropriate commissioner by Thursday, Jan. 12. A dinner will be held Thursday, March 15, at Piedmont Church to celebrate the award recipients and their work. For more information, please go to the Web site of the Cobb Community Relations Council, Cobb Community Relations Council homepage.

Volunteer program keeps pages turning

By Gary A. Witte
Staff Reports

During her typical work week, Patty Latch doesn’t get much face time with volunteers.

Then there are weeks the Cobb County Public Library System program coordinator spends 12-hour days working with about 100 of them.

The semiannual sale is the most prominent example of how the volunteer program keeps the library system operating, as well as how county staff help to continually draw them back.

Latch said there are people who have assisted with the sale since before her daughter was born. Her daughter is now 20 years old.

“They’ve become like family,” she said. “They look forward to seeing each other.”
Both Latch and Central Library Manager Alexandra Beswick coordinate the work of volunteers for the system.

Where book sale volunteers make the money-raising event possible, daily volunteers who reshelve materials, process materials and even teach classes, free up the regular staff for essential duties.

“We wouldn’t be able to get our work done if we didn’t have the volunteers to help us,” Beswick said.alt

folks buying books
Cobb County Public Library System Program Coordinator Patty Latch wheels a cart through the setup of the October book sale at Jim R. Miller Park in Marietta. She coordinates, oversees and works with the volunteers who spend the week sorting through an estimated 200,000 to be sold. 
folks buying books
Cobb County Central Library Manager Alexandra Beswick talks to volunteer Ken Story of Marietta, one of those who reshelve materials, thereby saving the county money and freeing up staff for its work.

The most recent sale in October raised more than $37,000, Latch said. These funds are placed into the library system’s book budget, which is used to buy new material for the system. Combined sales of the year’s previous events raised about $80,000.

Budget reductions have made fundraising even more important. Aside from the funds raised, the volunteer program has saved the library system more than $374,000 through September this year and has had 100 volunteers or more help each month since May, according to records.

As important as volunteers are to the libraries, county employees who work with them have proved important to the volunteers.

Fran Jackson of west Cobb said she has volunteered for the sale for seven years and credits Latch’s work with continually bringing people in to help.

“She knows something about everyone,” Jackson said. “She says something nice to everybody. I think that’s a personal touch that keeps us coming back here.”

Bud Loewenthal of east Cobb has worked the sale for 14 years and organizes fellow members of the Marietta Golden K club to come with him.

He said Latch works extremely hard throughout the week-long setup, carrying boxes and sorting books herself in addition to coordinating the volunteers and organizing the sale. She always has a smile to offer, he added.

“I don’t know how she does it,” Loewenthal said, pointing to all the issues she has to deal with.“I wouldn’t want to do it. The success of the whole program is a tribute to Patty.”

Loewenthal pointed out that the volunteers are also some of the best customers for the sale, since they will buy books and then donate them back to the library – only to buy more at the next event.

Latch, who has worked for the system for 34 years, said numerous civic organizations offer volunteers to help with the sale, including the Golden K clubs, Friends of the Library and the Library Foundation.

She complemented county parks and recreation personnel who help with the setup and added that Lockheed Martin employees as well as high school students also provide volunteers.

Many repeat the experience every year.

She said every time the event comes around, volunteers spend time catching up with each other’s lives. When a volunteer broke her knee before the winter sale, everyone asked for news of her condition.

“They’re very much attached to each other,” Latch said.

In one case, a high school student who started volunteering has since graduated with her doctorate and now teaches at Kennesaw State University. And she still helps with the sales, Latch said.

The weekend sales themselves create an almost concert-like atmosphere, with hundreds of people flooding into two warehouse-like buildings at Jim R. Miller Park to paw through the items offered.

“Whoever thinks reading is dying has never been to one of our book sales,” Latch said.
Her volunteer coordination duties outside the sale include arranging the schedules of people who have been sentenced to community service and are working off their time through the library system.

The semiannual event, however, requires a hands-on approach from Latch and her typically working up to 12 hours a day for about 10 days.

“I’d say it’s the most intense week,” Latch said. “Other things are really busy, but it’s the only time I’m working 12 hour days.”

Meanwhile, Beswick coordinates the daily volunteers who come into the Cobb County libraries to help. While some shelve materials, others work on special projects.

One of those volunteers includes Marietta resident Ken Story, who worked as a page at the county library system until budget cuts resulted in his layoff in April.

Story credited Beswick, Library System Director Helen Poyer and other library employees with his willingness to come back and offer his time for free.

“They’re such great people,” Story said. “They did all they could...I’m going to volunteer as much as I can.”

The system has had about 245 people apply to become volunteers at the library system since January, Beswick said.

Not everyone follows through on the initial application, but even when a volunteer can only offer to help for one or two hours a week, it can cumulatively make an impact.
“It all adds up,” Beswick said.

Those who are interested in volunteering with the library should inquire at their local branches or call Beswick at 770-528-2367. A list of volunteer jobs available can be found on the Web site