The Rome City Commission took aim at the opioid epidemic Monday, with a resolution officially declaring overuse of the prescription painkillers a public nuisance.
"I wish we could use stronger language than 'nuisance,'" Mayor Jamie Doss said. "It's a crisis."
City Attorney Frank Beacham said the word is a legal term that positions the city to take action if the board so desires.
The resolution declares that "certain manufacturers and distributors" knowingly hid the risks and addictive nature of the medications, and now governments are bearing the financial and societal burdens.
"(T)he City of Rome shall pursue such legal action as is available ... either by itself or in concert with others, and to the full extent of the law," the resolution continues.
Commissioners went into closed session Monday to discuss pending litigation but took no vote.
Numerous state and county governments have recently filed suit against pharmaceutical companies, contending misleading marketing practices have fueled the opioid epidemic.
The city of Philadelphia became the latest on Wednesday, with a 160-page brief seeking to recover the costs of treatment and other expenses from at least 10 named regional manufacturers.
"We need them to stop claiming these drugs are necessary for long-term chronic illness," City Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante said of the pharmaceutical makers. "They clearly are not."
Rome's resolution cites President Donald Trump's Oct. 26, 2017, declaration of a public health emergency and Georgia numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
From 2014 to 2015, the state recorded a 64-percent increase in deaths from synthetic opioids — tramadol and fentanyl — and a 37 percent increase in heroin deaths.
"In 2006, opioid drug overdose deaths were 31.5 percent of all overdose deaths and, in 2015, accounted for 68.8 percent of overdose deaths in Georgia," the resolution states.
Also, 17.7 percent of the high school students in the state reported taking prescription painkillers without a doctor's prescription.
On Friday, the National Governors Association issued a bipartisan list of recommendations calling on the Trump administration and Congress to provide more money and coordination for the fight against the drugs, which are killing more than 90 Americans a day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Rome and Floyd County government and school officials were scrambling early Monday to determine how the federal shutdown would affect their operations.
Departmental conferences started in the morning — before Congress announced an agreement to fund the government through Feb. 8. The temporary fix comes with a promise to address the issue of Dreamers, young adults brought to the country illegally as children. That gives local officials just over two weeks to firm up their positions before the next voting deadline arrives.
While federal money is not a large part of Rome and Floyd County budgets overall, it is a major source for some specific programs.
Airport construction, specialized police equipment, school lunches and transit service are among the items at risk.
"We'll just have to keep an eye on things," Floyd County Finance Director Susie Gass said. "We're hopeful they'll get it all fixed. There's no talk of scaling back on anything right now."
Most of the federal grants to local schools and governments are the reimbursable type, which means the money can be drawn only after a request that includes receipts showing how it's been spent.
Rome City Schools Superintendent Lou Byars and Chris Toles, finance director for Floyd County Schools, both said their reimbursements are current. Also, local property taxes were paid in November, so there's money in the bank.
"We're flush right now," Toles said. "We're prepared for a short-term stop."
Both school systems get federal money for their lunch programs, special education, Title I to help at-risk students and Title II for professional development.
Rome also was recently granted Title IV money: about $63,000 a year for technology initiatives and $350,000 a year for ASPIRE afterschool programs at four elementary schools.
Byars said even if the reimbursements were temporarily suspended, students and faculty members wouldn't see an impact.
"We've got enough money in our account to cover the expenses until the money comes in," he said. "It would just be a matter of keeping up the books and waiting."
The situation could get dicey if a shutdown were to last longer than a month or so, though.
Rome Finance Director Sheree Shore said the transit department is probably the city's biggest recipient of federal grants, which pay for bus service operations and equipment.
"We've actually drawn most of the transit funding for this year. What would really be impacted if this thing lingered on would be 2018 money," she said.
The federal fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.
Community development projects and entitlement funds also depend on the federal budget. A lengthy delay in reimbursements could mean deferring some programmed work such as sidewalk improvements or minor home repair assistance.
"For the short term, we're OK," Shore said. "If this were July or August, it would be a different discussion. But because we have drawn so much and are pretty much caught up, it's not so bad right now."
Gass said some of the county court functions also are grant-funded, although the money flows through the state. It wasn't immediately clear how a federal shutdown would ripple through the layers of government.
Generally, the agencies that administer the grants would sent notice of the effects. None of them had as of Monday.
"We'll just see what happens when we get closer to Feb. 8," Gass said. "If it looks as if they're not going to come to some agreement, I imagine we'll hear from those agencies."
Today's artwork is by West End Elementary first-grader Matt Powers.
Groceries have been sold at the corner of Shorter Avenue and Division Street for 63 years, most of that time as Piggly Wiggly, most recently as the West Rome IGA, 610 Shorter Ave.
That ended Saturday night when the doors were closed and locked at 7 p.m.
General Manager Derrick McClinic said that employees were not made aware of the closing until minutes before the doors were shuttered. McClinic and 17 other employees were let go.
McClinic said that business had fallen off significantly in recent months. Jason Greenawalt in the City Clerk's office said ownership did not renew beer and wine package licenses at the start of the year and had not purchased their business license for 2018 yet.
Marc Shiflett, now a partner at the City Creamery on Broad Street, worked at the Piggly Wiggly for close to 20 years.
He was a former manager of the store and said he believes Sunday was the first time the store had been closed, other than for a snow event, in 63 years.
Shiflett said the original store was built in 1955 by Ed Salmon and was located up closer to the intersection of Division Street and Shorter Avenue.
The original store remained open while the current strip shopping center was being built behind it in the mid 1980s. When the current location was ready to open, the old store shut down and a seamless overnight move was made to the new store.
The grocery store at that location changed hands several times with the most recent transaction within the past two years.
The murder trial of a Cedartown man is expected to get underway today, following jury selection and several motions taking up much of Monday's proceedings.
The motions filed before Floyd County Superior Court Billy Sparks' courtroom included one from Corey Demarcus Gardhigh's defense attorney, Durante Partridge, claiming his client acted in self-defense during a Dec. 28, 2016, confrontation that led to the death of Paul Anthony Grady.
Gardhigh had worked for Grady, a painting contractor, at that time and the fight started over a dispute over a paycheck, said Assistant District Attorney Luke Martin. Police say he argued with Grady over money and then attacked him while Gardhigh's son and son's mother were in the car outside of Grady's home at 15 S. Central Ave. in Lindale.
Grady died at Floyd Medical Center the morning of Jan. 4, 2017, as a result of head injuries, according to Coroner Gene Proctor.
A reported shooting was the initial call that led police to Grady's home on the afternoon of Dec. 28, around 5:15 p.m. Though there had been no shooting, police had found the 43-year-old Grady with a head injury. Gardhigh was arrested around 11 p.m. that night as a result of a police investigation.
Gardhigh was initially charged with felony aggravated battery and misdemeanor simple battery and several counts of third-degree cruelty to children. Following Grady's death, he was then charged with felony murder, after having been in jail without bond for around a week. In March, Gardhigh was granted a $100,000 bond by Sparks.
The judge's order carried stipulations that he must wear an ankle monitor, be confined to his mother's home, not possess a firearm and not consume or possess alcohol or drugs. Additionally, he was ordered to not have any contact with Grady's immediate family or witnesses, including his son and son's mother. Martin said the trial is expected to last at least a couple of days.