Kaleidoscope Supported Employment is Transforming Lives in Walker County

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Gary Moore works Monday through Friday, cleaning bathrooms and break areas at Roper Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of GE Appliances, a Haier Company.

Gary loves his job with I H Services and he’s liked by his co-workers, who bring him cake on special occasions and check on him when he’s sick.  “I’ve got a bunch of friends, they all miss me when I’m not here,” said Moore. “When I was out, they all sent me $360.”

You wouldn’t know it by his job performance, but Gary has a disability.  “We have about 40 others in our program who are out there working in the community, living full, rich lives feeling that they are contributing to their world,” explained Rebecca Clark, Supported Employment Coordinator for Kaleidoscope, a program of Lookout Mountain Community Services.  Clark works with area employers to educate them on how hiring someone with a disability not only benefits the community, but also makes business sense.

“Many times in the past, people with disabilities were thought to be unable to hold jobs and when given the opportunity, we see they can make very important and valuable contributions to the workplace,” said Clark.

As Gary’s supervisor, Ciara Norman knows that first hand. “He seasoned, of course he knows the routes and the ways way better than anybody else, but he knows how to interact with everyone here a little better.”

Kaleidoscope provides support along the way to clients and employers too.  Everyone in the program has a job coach who works to match the job seeker’s abilities and interests with potential positions. Once hired, Kaleidoscope assists with pre-employment paperwork, provides training and coaching on job responsibilities, and helps both parties understand the impact of changes at work, like new duties or a supervisor switch.

Darlene Cannon, Job Coach, said “To help make that transition to where they are able to communicate together so she knows how Gary works and why he does his job the way he does his job.”

Gary has been on the job for nearly 18 years… and says he’d be bored if he wasn’t working. “I enjoy it, because I’m used to doing it at home.”

For more information on becoming a client or business partner, contact Kaleidoscope at 706-375-2142.

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Walker County Tax Commissioner Offices to Close for State Mandated System Upgrade

Rock Spring, GA – The Walker County Tax Commissioner offices in Rock Spring and Rossville will close to the public at Noon on Thursday, May 23rd and not reopen until 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 28th.  The closure is necessary to install Georgia DRIVES, a new state-mandated vehicle registration and titling system.

Every resident with a birthday in late May and early June should process their vehicle transactions on or before May 20th to avoid any issues, as some vehicle services will be reduced after that date in preparation for the system upgrade.

“Every employee in our office has been working diligently to learn this new system,” said Carolyn Walker, Tax Commissioner.  “We won’t be as fast as we have been with the old system for a while, until we have everything committed to memory. We appreciate your support and patience during this transition.”

This system upgrade will impact all local tag offices in Georgia, not just Walker County.  Statewide, all county tag offices will be unable to process vehicle transactions during the upgrade.

Georgia DRIVES will modernize the data input system for tags and titles, provide agencies with interconnectivity and improve the customer experience by expanding the ability for mobile, Internet and kiosk transactions.

Additional information about Georgia DRIVES can be found online at georgiadrives.com.

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How Walker Works – Elections Office Prepares for the Transition to a Board of Commissioners

LaFayette – The first Board of Commissioners election doesn’t take place until 2020, but the staff at the Walker County Elections Office is already hard at work making sure every voter is placed in the correct district.

Danielle Montgomery, Director of Elections, says “We are working with the GIS for Walker County and trying to get each street in each district so we have every street in every district so we can put that into our system and that way if someone looks up on their My Voter Page they can see what district they are in.  It is a long and tedious process.”

It could take several months for Montgomery and her team to complete this task.  Meanwhile, voters with questions about which district they are in can contact the Elections office for verification.  “We have some maps and we’d be glad to answer any questions or emails about what district they are in, because we can see it, but we haven’t gotten it into the system where they can see it.”

As for those wanting to run for office, Montgomery says there are some important steps to consider before moving forward.  “You need to fill out a Declaration of Intent, it’s also known as a DOI, before you can accept money.  So, no business cards no signs or anything until you’ve completed this Declaration of Intent.”

Forms can be obtained from the Elections Office on the bottom floor of the courthouse in LaFayette.  For additional information, call (706) 638-4349 or email the Elections Office at elections@walkerga.us.

Four district commissioners and an at-large chairperson will be on the ballot.  Party qualifying takes place in 2020 from March 2nd through the 6th with the Primary scheduled for May 19th.  Those wanting to run as an Independent should contact the Elections Office to learn more about that process.  “It’s a little bit more in depth than running under a party system,” says Montgomery. 

The General Election is set for November 3, 2020.  The inaugural group of District Commissioner’s and Board Chair takes office January 1, 2021.

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How Walker Works – Business License

Starting a business in Walker County will soon be more straightforward.  Beginning July 1st, 2019, entrepreneurs will be able to stop by the county’s Planning office and obtain a business license.

Jennifer McSpadden, Owner, Pie Slingers Pizzeria, says “It’s a sense of pride, it kicks everything off and you get excited about opening your business and getting it started.”  McSpadden adds the process of starting a business in Walker County has been confusing.  “In every other location that I’ve opened, and I’ve had four other locations besides here in Walker County… the first step to opening a business is acquiring a business license.”

The Small Business Administration, financial planners like Dave Ramsey and others all advise this step, since a business license is required to complete many start-up functions.  “So they kind of hit that roadblock when they are going to get set up for business insurance or a business loan or even to get set up as a wholesale vendor sometimes they are asked where is your business license,” says Lacey Wilson, President, Walker County Chamber of Commerce.

Along with offering benefits to business owners, consumers will now be able to see which businesses are following the rules and which are not.  Licensing will also provide more accurate economic development data to help recruit industry… data not currently available in the community, because it’s unclear just how many businesses and skilled workers exist.  Wilson adds, “So, if we have an automotive supplier and they’re coming to the area and want to know information about similar businesses, we don’t have that information. If you have a large manufacturer who is locating maybe to another county in our region and they want to know if Walker County is a good fit for their suppliers, we also don’t have that information to be able to give them.”

While licensing begins July 1st for new businesses, existing businesses have until January 1st, 2020 to obtain a license.  There’s a nominal fee of $50 to $150 for the license, depending on the number of employees.

When all the other businesses need to have one, there is accountability to our county.  We all have to have a state license or sales tax license, but to have local accountability and know that your are providing locally.  And then our local government can help us in that they understand we’re a part of their growth and sustainability is very important to us,” says McSpadden.

The cities within Walker County already require a business license.  The new county license only applies to businesses operating in the unincorporated areas.  The application process will open in late May/early June.

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