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'Off the deep end excited' — Locals headed to Indianapolis to see UGA play for the national title

Christy McCall has been a Georgia football fan all her life. She and her husband have been season ticket-holders for more than a decade, attending big games home and away.

But they’ve never been to a national title game, something that will change Monday night when the Buford family takes its seats at Lucas Oil Stadium to watch their beloved Dawgs take on SEC rival Alabama for the championship.

“We are very excited,” Christy McCall said. “My husband is off the deep end excited. This is the one we have all been waiting 42 years for.”

Georgia’s last national title came in 1980, but the Bulldogs are slight favorites to win Monday night. Christy McCall will be there along with husband Scott and daughter Ansleigh — a math teacher at Mill Creek High School — hoping to see their team take home the elusive title.

It’s a game the McCall family couldn’t bear to miss. After losing to Alabama in the SEC title game, Christy McCall said her family opted to buy tickets for the team’s semifinal game in the Orange Bowl but decided to forgo buying tickets for the national title game. That quickly changed after the excitement of beating Michigan in the semifinals.

“Once we won the Orange Bowl and everything was so exciting, we decided to buy tickets to the natty,” she said. “We were not going to miss the show.”

For the McCalls, cheering for UGA is a family affair. While neither Christy nor her husband attended Georgia, all three of their girls have — with two of them — Carleigh and Hayleigh — being Double Dawgs with undergraduate and graduate degrees from the school.

Saturdays in the fall are always spent in Athens for UGA home games, with the girls joining their parents at their weekly tailgate in Five Points. That time together means as much as cheering for the Dawgs, Christy McCall said.

“It’s our family time,” she said. “We have fun every week, win or lose. That’s what we take away from it.”

The family, which left Sunday morning for the eight-and-a-half hour trek to Indianapolis, plans to make more memories with this trip. They have reservations at a local steakhouse and plans to check out the happenings in and around the game with other members of their Athens tailgate group.

While all of that will be fun, the elusive title would make the trip unforgettable. However, Christy McCall said she remains cautiously optimistic.

“The memories of this season have been spectacular,” she said. “(No matter what happens) the Dawgs have given me more than I could ever give them.”


Two of Gwinnett's waste haulers suspend some services due to COVID-related staffing shortages — PRINT ONLY

Two of the five companies that provide solid waste collection services for Gwinnett County government announced this past week that they will suspend some of their services due to high numbers of employees who have gotten sick from COVID-19.

Republic Services and Waste Management announced they would suspend the services to focus the efforts of their remaining staff on collecting garbage. Republic is suspending its recycling, bulky items and yard waste collections while Waste Management is suspending bulky items and yard waste collections.

Waste Management does plan to continue collecting items for recycling, however.

“One of the waste haulers told me as of Monday of this week, he had 17 drivers out — 17 — due to COVID-19,” Gwinnett Commissioner Kirkland Carden told the Daily Post.

Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson announced Republic’s temporary suspension of some of its services at a commission meeting on Tuesday while county officials announced on Thursday that Waste Management would suspend some of its services.

“We apologize for the inconvenience this temporary service interruption is causing residents,” Republic officials said in a statement on Tuesday. “Like many industries all over the country, we are trying to manage a severe manpower shortage.

“The COVID Omicron variant continues to hit our operations hard. We currently have approximately 20 percent of our Gwinnett workforce on quarantine. There will continue to be temporary service disruptions for recycling, bulk materials and yard waste in the coming days. We ask for and appreciate your patience as we work to get past these issues.”

On Thursday, Waste Management officials said, “In response to the limited workforce, we are temporarily suspending Yard Waste and Bulk Item Collection Services. Garbage and recycling services will remain the same. Rest assured, we are working tirelessly to remedy the situation. We appreciate your patience and understanding while we navigate these challenging circumstances.”

Gwinnett cities that use Republic Services and Waste Management are also experiencing the same issues that the county announced this past week. Duluth, Grayson and Auburn use Republic Services while Norcross, Peachtree Corners, Berkeley Lake, Lilburn and Sugar Hill use Waste Management.

Republic and Waste Management are also two of the three companies that provide sanitation services in Suwanee.

The suspension of non-trash collection services comes as new COVID-19 case numbers skyrocket as the Omicron variant spreads around the world.

Some of the cities, particularly the ones who use Waste Management, had been advising residents to expect trash pick up delays at the end of 2021 because of COVID-related issues.

The service delays were one of the issues commissioners discussed at a meeting to talk about hauler-related issues on Tuesday.

“(Residents are) telling us their neighborhoods look like war zones and third world countries — is what they’re saying in their emails — and trash is blowing all over the place,” Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson said. “And, they won’t bring their cans back in because they think somebody is coming.”

But, the suspension of bulky item and yard waste collections by both companies, and Republic’s decision to suspend recycling collections as well, also comes at a time when all five solid waste haulers are asking county commissioners to consider a rate hike.

The haulers are citing rising costs due to market factors, inflation, salary increases and fuel costs as some of the reasons why they need the rates increased.

“They’ve approached us, saying they’re losing money every time they fire up one of their trucks to go on a route,” Carden said.

There had been complaints by residents in spring and early summer about the quality of service some of the county’s solid waste haulers were providing, which prompted commissioners and other officials to intervene.

The request to raise the solid waste collection rates prompted discussions among commissioners this past Tuesday about possibly rebidding the county’s solid waste contract. The county entered into 10-year contracts with its haulers in 2017.

One concern is that this could not be the last time the haulers ask for a rate increase before the contract expires.

“Whats to say they’re not going to come back in another two years ... or every year (and ask for a rate increase),” Hendrickson said.

The obstacle that might deter commissioners from rebidding the contract at this time, however, is uncertainty over whether the current higher inflation-driven costs are temporary or will stick around for the long term.

“That’s one of the challenges that you deal with when you’re opening up a contract or putting something out for rebid right now,” Carden said. “You might negotiate something right now which would be at a high level of inflation and supply shock, labor market shortages so you may raise the bid number high, but then when things come down ... you look back and you think ‘Woah, maybe we’re overpaying.’”


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Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson issues face mask mandate for county buildings

Gwinnett County residents will once again have to wear a face mask or covering inside county buildings as COVID-19 cases spike again.

County Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson issued a local emergency order on Friday to reinstate the face mask mandate for county facilities such as libraries, parks and recreation facilities, police precincts, tag offices and the elections headquarters.

County officials explained the recent surge in new COVID-19 cases is the reason for the new mandate.

“As an employer, Gwinnett County has experienced a significant amount of employee absenteeism due to the spread of COVID-19 and its variants,” Hendrickson said. “Because we want to be proactive and keep essential services running without interruption to our residents, business owners and customers, we will follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Department of Public Health and take measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 for the safety of those who visit our facilities and work in them as well.”

This is the second time Hendrickson has issued a face mask mandate during the pandemic. She issued her first one shortly after she took office in January 2021 but rescinded it in May when case numbers began to drop.

Hendrickson’s order does not apply to court facilities, school system facilities, city government facilities and private businesses. The school system has its own face covering mandate in place, however.

County officials said people who do not have a mask of their own will be provided one.

The only exemptions to Hendrickson’s order are people who have difficulty donning or taking off a face mask without assistance as well as people who have a bona fide religious reason for not wearing a face covering.

Earlier this week, County Administrator Glenn Stephens touched on the impacts COVID has had on employees during a conversation with commissioners about trash collection services.

Stephens told commissioners that the number of county employees who are getting COVID as the Omicron variant spreads and, therefore, have to call out sick is high.

“We’re seeing a spike that we haven’t seen ... ever,” Stephens told the commissioners.

Solicitor General Brian Whiteside recently announced his office would be closed for in-person services for much of January, although defendants who wanted to enter a plea would be allowed to do so. Whiteside told the Daily Post last weekend that about 10% of his staff, including some of his prosecutors, had so far reported being sick with COVID.


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