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Rockdale County looking for new director, deputy director of transportation
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CONYERS — Like many other governments and businesses during the current economic climate brought on by the pandemic, Rockdale County government is looking to fill a number of positions, with 26 job openings listed on the county website, including the director and deputy director positions in the Department of Transportation.

John A. Moretto was named DOT director in January 2020, succeeding Brian Allen, who had been director since 2017 (Allen remains as a consultant with the county). Moretto is a civil and transportation engineer with more than 23 years of extensive transportation and government-related experience. Eighteen of the 23 years included strong leadership management training of designers, engineers, operators, and traffic signal technicians.

In June of this year, the Board of Commissioners approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority (ATL) and $105,000 as a grant match for the development of a transit master plan. At the time, Rockdale County Commission Chair Oz Nesbitt Sr. credited Moretto for making sure the county followed the correct path to determining what type of transportation is needed, adding that in a call he had earlier in the day with Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff, that Ossoff was excited for Rockdale County.

“We got with Chris Tomlinson, the executive director of ATL and part of the conversation today with Sen. Ossoff, talked about everything that Moretto talked about,” Nesbitt said on June 22. “So we are high up on the radar and we’re moving. But had we not pumped the brakes and followed his (Moretto’s) leadership to do it the way it needs to be done, we never would have been able to get to the point where we’re at with ATL and Chris Tomlinson and all the folks on the state level, let alone what’s happening on the federal level.”

According to Toni Holmes, director of Talent Management for the county, Moretto voluntarily resigned and deputy director Michael Anderson had an “involuntary separation,” which by definition means “a separation initiated by the employer against an employee’s will and without his or her consent for reasons other than misconduct, delinquency, or inefficiency.”

Rockdale County lists the starting annual salary for director of transportation, depending on qualifications and experience, to be between $106,000-$120,000. The starting annual salary for deputy director is listed between $78,000-$101,000.

Piedmont Rockdale to add in-patient beds, update other departments
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CONYERS — Piedmont Rockdale Hospital recently launched a $12.6 million project that will add in-patient beds and make other needed renovations to the hospital.

Construction, which began in July, includes completing a new 21-bed in-patient unit; renovating the hospital’s kitchen and two of its existing medical floors; replacing the roof on Building A; and converting two observation rooms to fully-equipped patient rooms.

When completed, the hospital’s capacity will increase from 138 to 161 acute care beds.

“This project is critical to continuing our long tradition of serving Conyers and surrounding communities,” said Blake Watts, chief executive officer of Piedmont Rockdale Hospital. “Our goal is not only to improve patient access and care, but to also modernize and improve our hospital campus for our patients, visitors and staff.”

Phase one of the project will focus on creating the new 21-bed unit on the second floor of Building A, as well as converting the two observation rooms. The first phase is expected to be completed in January 2022. The second phase includes the remaining work of renovating and updating the patient rooms on MedSurg 1 and MedSurg 2 and should be finished by the middle of 2022.

“We’re confident that these enhancements will make things better and easier for our patients,” said Watts.

In June, the Georgia Department of Community Health granted Piedmont Rockdale a Certificate of Need for the project. The hospital has partnered with architecture firm TVS Design and SSR Engineering firm for project design.

McCarthy Building Companies is serving as the general contractor for the project.

“As our community grows, we need to ensure that we’re adapting and upgrading our amenities for our patients,” said Watts. “Overall, Piedmont Rockdale is focused on developing patient care areas and support departments that expand the hospital’s campus, while also providing the best in patient care and experience.”

For more information on Piedmont Rockdale Hospital, please visit www.piedmont.org/rockdale.

Blake Shelton to recognize Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale health district director, Dr. Audrey Arona, as a local hero at upcoming concert in Duluth
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The head of the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale Health District is being recognized as a local hero by a country music star for her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blake Shelton, who will bring his Friends and Heroes Tour to the Gas South Arena on Sept. 18, picked health district director, Dr. Audrey Arona, as a local hero who will be recognized at the upcoming concert. Arona, whose name was submitted by officials at the arena, will receive a prize pack that includes front row tickets to Shelton’s concert next month.

“As we get back to events, Dr. Arona has gone above and beyond to make herself available to the Gas South District team,” Gas South District’s Chief Operating Officer Stan Hall said. “She kept us up to date on best practices for the safety of our guests, performers, and staff. She absolutely has earned the title of ‘hero.’”

Arena officials praised Arona for her leadership of the health district during the pandemic, including her role in getting the Gas South District to be a mass COVID testing site last year as well as well as her updates to local leaders about the current situation with the disease in Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale counties.

Shelton — who is perhaps known as much for his role as a coach on the TV show “The Voice” as for his music career — will be joined on his tour by Lindsay Ell, with Martina McBride, Tracy Byrd and Trace Adkins set to make special appearances. He has had 36 Top 10 singles over his career, including 28 No. 1 songs and has sold more than 11 million albums in the U.S. during his career.

He recently released the album, “Body Language,” which includes the No. 1 hit, “Happy Anywhere,” on which he sang with his new wife, former No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani.

Gas South Arena officials said tickets purchased for 2020 tour dates that had to be rescheduled because of the pandemic will be honored and additional tickets can be purchased at www.blakeshelton.com.

It’s the right thing to do

In today’s edition of the Citizen we have commentaries from two individuals with an important message — if you are eligible, get the COVID-19 vaccine. David Kent, CEO of Piedmont Newton Hospital, represents the medical community; Pastor David Armstrong-Reiner, of Epiphany Lutheran Church, represents the faith community. Each has seen the toll this virus is taking on their communities and on us all. Please read their words and heed their message.

Those who don’t have underlying medical conditions and have chosen to remain unvaccinated say that they are entitled to their personal choice. There’s no disputing that. Unfortunately, their choice puts everyone else at greater risk. Nine out of 10 people now hospitalized in Georgia with COVID-19 have not been vaccinated; 99% of those dying from the virus have not been vaccinated. The virus is now attacking a younger population of the unvaccinated than in the previous surge. The rate of those fully vaccinated in Newton County as of Thursday was an abysmal 36%. Rockdale’s rate of 43% is better but still not good enough.

There are many myths and misconceptions about the virus. There are some who, through the use of social media, spread this misinformation and seek to fuel vaccine resistance because it reinforces their own choice to remain unvaccinated. Who will hold these “influencers” responsible when those who follow their “guidance” lose their lives?

While misinformation about the virus abounds, there is one central truth about the vaccine — it saves lives. It can save your life, and it can help you save the lives of others. We urge you now: Do the right thing; get the vaccine.

Covington Police detective fired after domestic dispute
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COVINGTON — A detective with the Covington Police Department has been fired after officers were called to an apartment complex Monday morning where the detective was allegedly involved in a domestic dispute.

Detective Pokey Daniels was arrested on charges of battery under the Family Violence Act, cruelty to children, interference with a 911 call and criminal trespass. According to the CPD, Daniels was already on administrative leave and under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for an unrelated issue at the time of his arrest. He was subsequently terminated from the CPD. The results of the GBI investigation are under review by the Newton County District Attorney’s Office.

Daniels was arrested after officers with the CPD were called to the Wellington Ridge Apartments shortly before 11 a.m. Monday where they made contact with a female victim and neighbors who had witnessed the alleged incident involving Daniels. After interviewing the victim, with whom Daniels shares a child, witnesses and Daniels at the scene, officers determined there was probable cause to arrest Daniels. He was taken into custody and transported to the Newton County Detention Center.