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Carly Dempsey, a first-grader at Model Elementary School

Sheriff teaming up with fire department for Christmas toy program

The Floyd County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with the Rome-Floyd Fire Department for the 22nd annual Sheriff Santa Program.

“Our children deserve to have a great Christmas; and even though giving gifts isn’t what the season is about, it’s nice to be able to put a smile on their faces,” said Sheriff Tim Burkhalter.

The program gathers and distributes Christmas presents and winter accessories for Floyd County children and has over 650 kids signed up this year.

They’re looking for donations of unopened and unwrapped toys or winter accessories, such as coats, gloves, toboggans, earmuffs and socks for local children this year. They ask that donations be geared towards ages of between 10 and 16 years old.

Collection bins are located in the administration lobby at the Floyd County Jail at 2526 New Calhoun Highway and in the Rome-Floyd Fire Administrative Building at 409 E. 12th St.

The cutoff date for donations is Dec. 12. Toys will be distributed on Dec. 14.

County rolls out red carpet at courthouse to prevent falls, Lindale train watching platform almost completed

Floyd County is giving residents the red carpet treatment so to speak, to try to prevent further injuries at the bottom of the marble steps of the county’s 127-year-old Historic Courthouse.

“Those steps have been a problem with people missing the landing,” Floyd County Facilities Manager Ryan Davis said Wednesday during the Public Works Department meeting. “We tried reflective strips and adding other rugs, but still struggled with people not seeing the landing.”

After discussing the issue with an insurance claims adviser, Davis said they came up with the solution of adding the large red carpet on the landing of the building housing the tax office at 4 Government Plaza.

“It’s going to really get people’s attention,” he said. “You cannot miss it.”

The Lindale community will have its own can’t miss project with the new train-viewing station for fans of watching trains. It’s only missing landscaping and a wheelchair ramp at this point.

The viewing platform near the tracks at First Street and Maple Road has been in the works since spring and has been a cooperative effort among multiple entities — including the Floyd County Prison, which supplied inmate labor for at least 90% of the physical construction.

“I felt like this is a fantastic example of how well county departments work together,” Davis said, explaining that engineering, public works, parks and rec, and facilities staff made the project happen. “It was very impressive how it all worked.”

In addition, the owner of the Lindale Mill, Joe Silva, donated bricks for the platform that will allow train watchers a place to watch Norfolk Southern trains and be able to listen to conductors through a special scanner mounted inside the structure.

An extension of the Silver Creek Trail will run along an abandoned rail line from the Floyd County Health Department in Rome to the rail viewing site. The 2017 special purpose, local option sales tax package contains a $1.18 million earmark for the project, although it will likely be several years before work starts on the trail.

County Manager Jamie McCord said he’d like the county to consider having a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the viewing platform the morning of Dec. 7 since the Lindale Christmas Parade is already scheduled for 3 p.m. that day.

“It would give it a lot of exposure,” McCord said. “It’s a really neat project. It turned out better than I expected.”

It’s unlikely Silver Creek residents often blocked by a stopped Norfolk Southern train at Hall Road will be clamoring to do any additional train-viewing.

The county has been trying to find solutions to the situation that prevents those in seven homes from being able to exit or enter their properties on the dead-end road.

Special Projects Manager Bruce Ivey came up with a plan to build an emergency bypass on some old railroad right of way, but they’re having trouble getting access to some private property owned by one of the residents.

McCord said the family that would lose its home to the project is going to discuss the issue during the Thanksgiving holiday and let the county know of its decision.

“There’s really no easy answer for this one,” he said.

Task force hears about anti-litter/blight successes in North Carolina and Ohio

The Rome-Floyd Litter & Blight Task Force is not seeking to re-invent the wheel when it comes to combating the ugliness of trash strewn about streets or dilapidated buildings that haunt neighborhoods.

Wednesday night the group learned about programs in Cincinnati and Raleigh that have been effective and could be adapted to Rome and Floyd County.

Keep Rome-Floyd Beautiful Program Manager Emma Wells spoke of a program in Cincinnati where high school students write skits and then put them on before elementary-age students in schools across the city. The program is hitting two distinct age groups and the younger kids often look to the older students as role models.

Wells said that 40% of the events she has managed during the past year were directly tied to education.

Rome-Floyd ECO Center Director Ben Winkelman suggested that there ought to be a way to incorporate more about the anti-litter message into the curriculum the ECO Center develops for the more than 10,000 children who pass through the environmental education center each year.

“We could pick up a lot of the educational programs and plug them into what we’re already doing,” Winkelman said.

Task Force Chairman David Mathis said it will be critical to the success of the task force to get local educators to buy into any campaign the group pushes out in the future.

Floyd County Commissioner Allison Watters suggested that anti-litter messages also can be hammered home in the drivers education program offered through the county schools.

Watters was armed Wednesday night with information from an “86 It” program run in the Raleigh area. The phrase “86 It” is slang for getting rid of something.

One of the hallmarks of that program has been that the focus is not on shaming those who toss litter from cars or trucks. She said a study done by consultants for the North Carolina program indicated that people respond less to ugly images and shaming than to positive reinforcement of anti-litter messaging.

Cave Spring Mayor-elect Rob Ware said he was impressed by the television campaign on behalf of an insurance provider that had Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt picking litter out of a river. Ralph Davis said the local group might consider Nick Chubb for a similar campaign. Chubb was a star at Cedartown High and UGA before becoming a leading rusher in the National Football League for Cleveland.

Rome communications coordinator Kristi Kent said several schools have committed to participate in a poster art contest to promote the anti-litter and blight campaign. The student who submits the winning art will receive a $75 gift card, as will the student’s teacher. Entries must be submitted to the ECO Center by Dec. 6 to be included in the judging.

Maplewood Subdivision residents, city at odds over flooding solutions

Like the sudden breach of a levee overcome by rising waters, longtime Maplewood Subdivision resident Cheryl Garner deluged the Rome City Public Works Committee Wednesday with more than 10 years of frustration over fluctuating water levels at her home across from Mitchell Lake.

“I realized my property could not take 10 more years of this kind of abuse,” Garner said to the committee to explain why she decided to present her case that day.

Having been left out of two previous public works committee meetings last year and in August when her property containing a 3/4-acre private pond known as Garner Pond was discussed, Garner came prepared with a PowerPoint presentation and a water management consultant.

Also in attendance was her Hood Drive neighbor Buzz Wachsteter, who expressed his own angst over flooding of his property he attributed partly to mitigation efforts on Garner’s property.

The entire subdivision adjacent to the Coosa Valley Fairgrounds and near the Etowah River is in a 100-year flood plain.

To make matters worse, otters and beavers have taken up residence in some areas, exacerbating drainage issues.

Garner told the committee that after Wachsteter had expressed concern to the committee about flooding in August 2018, she found a city crew digging on her property. 

“The lack of communication has made a thoughtful, cooperative resolution harder to generate,” Garner said as she showed photos of how various efforts by the city have left trees around Garner Pond severely undercut by erosion while Mitchell Lake water levels have increased.

Wachsteter said he believes newer developments in the area have contributed to the erosion and runoff problems and Garner’s consultant Mark Crisp of Global Energy & Water Consulting agreed the additional homes have changed the hydrologic conditions.

Crisp told the committee there doesn’t seem to be any consistency in the way stormwater is dealt with there.

“The city unilaterally made the decision to funnel stormwater runoff through Garner Pond,” Crisp pointed out.

Wachsteter argued the city was trying to come up with a solution for the flooding of his front yard by keeping a drain installed at Garner Pond open.

Earlier this year, city engineers also presented Garner with the design for a 24-foot concrete spillway on her property as a possible solution to the water flow issues "as a goodwill gesture," City Manager Sammy Rich explained later.  

Garner rejected the spillway idea, arguing it was unattractive and would ruin the aesthetics of her property. 

Public Works officials pointed out that they tried to make it as easy as possible for Garner to keep the drain cleared herself and City Commissioners Randy Quick, Jamie Doss and Wendy Davis assured her they believed staff could come up with a solution that would please everyone.

But Garner was not convinced the city has done enough with her in mind and she vowed to continue fighting until she’s satisfied with a permanent solution.

“I need an independent analysis of the whole situation,” Garner said.