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Camdyn Ely, a sixth-grader at West End Elementary School

County Commission OKs police equipment buys including a bomb disposal truck

Floyd County commissioners signed off Tuesday on several contracts, including the purchase of five used cars for the county police at a total cost of $19,900.

Chief Mark Wallace said they’ll be buying used Dodge Chargers from the Calhoun Police Department with an average of 100,000 miles on them. The vehicles will fill a need created when the board added new positions for permanent school resource officers, which will be effective in January.

“It provides us some quick relief,” he told the board.

General funds will be tapped for the purchase. Other department equipment will be funded through state and federal grants.

A $46,000 grant through the Homeland Security explosive ordnance disposal K9 program will be used for a K9 truck, with $3,000 left over for other equipment.

Also approved was a $55,000 truck for the bomb squad commander. Wallace said it would be used daily on routine patrol, but will carry the gear needed to respond at any time to a bomb call.

There’s also $12,000 for response uniforms for members of the CBRNE unit, which is trained to handle chemical, biological, radiation, nuclear and explosive threats. Wallace gave as an example a methamphetamine lab, which typically has dangerous levels of airborne chemicals.

Commissioners also awarded a $613,140 contract to Evans Construction to cut and haul 122,000 cubic yards of dirt to the Ball Packaging expansion site just off Ga. 53 and West Hermitage Road.

The company announced plans last week to invest $217.8 million in a 250,000-square-foot addition to its existing complex and add at least 145 more full-time jobs.

“We’re relocating dirt from (Rome-Floyd County) Development Authority property to the Ball property as an incentive,” County Manager Jamie McCord said.

Work is expected to start Monday and the company wants it done in 30 days, he said.

Assistant County Manager Gary Burkhalter said the bid was awarded as an emergency procurement. Officials contacted four companies and Evans was the sole bidder, “but it’s a reasonable price,” McCord said.

Funding will come from the special purpose, local option sales tax. The 2013 and 2017 SPLOSTs both have earmarks for economic development.

In other actions, the County Commission approved a standardized rental rate for T-hangars at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport. Hangars that are 1,200 square feet or larger will rent for 25 cents a square foot and those that are smaller will cost 28 cents a square foot.

Public can comment on state plan requiring Adairsville to fix sewage plant and pay $68K fine

A public comment period runs through Nov. 13 on Adairsville’s agreement with the state on a plan to fix an aging sewage treatment plant which spewed hundreds of thousands of gallons of untreated wastewater into an area creek over a period of a year and a half.

The series of incidents caused the Adairsville North Water Pollution Control Plant on Old Dixie Highway to exceed legal limits of discharge into nearby Oothcalooga Creek in 11 of 15 months over two years.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division recently agreed to a Consent Order with the city requiring Adairsville to submit a plan within 30 days to correct the regular series of discharges of untreated wastewater from its Adairsville North plant and be required to pay a fine of more than $68,000.

The state EPD could have fined the city up to $100,000 per day for the violations but EPD Director Richard Dunn “determined it is in the public interest to resolve all allegations raised … by entering into this order without the necessity of litigation and adjudication of the issues,” the order stated.

James Cooley, director of district operations for the Georgia EPD, said the Consent Order “is an agreement between the city and the EPD to correct the issues and return the facility to compliance.”

He said he considers “all water quality issues serious.”

“However, obviously the most serious of all of the issues here are the untreated, unpermitted discharges of wastewater into waters of the state,” he said.

“The root of the problem of almost all of these issues is the city’s inflow and infiltration problems with their wastewater collection system,” Cooley said.

“These issues were self-reported from the city. They are cooperating with EPD and have been proactive in their attempt to get their inflow and infiltration issues under control,” he said

Lisa Eury, manager of the city’s water and wastewater plants, said any significant rainfall causes stormwater to enter the system through sewer line breaks or open manholes and cause the city to exceed its permitted wastewater discharge limits.

She said the city has spent about $300,000 to locate places in its 52 miles of sewer lines where stormwater inflow and infiltration is occurring.

The city has used everything from smoke tests to GPS mapping to locate line breaks and manholes — some of which the city had lost track of over the decades, Eury said.

“We’re really dedicated to resolving the problem,” Eury said.

The city also is using more than $11 million in low-interest loans from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority — a state agency created in part to help local governments build and upgrade water and wastewater treatment systems.

The funding is allowing the city to double the capacity of the wastewater plant to 2 million gallons per day by early 2021, Eury said.

The Consent Order stated the EPD and city discussed a plan for the city to fix the problems with the Adairsville North plant after the plant discharged 118,000 gallons of untreated wastewater into a tributary of Oothcalooga Creek in December 2017.

However, it discharged about 118,000 additional gallons into the creek and tributary in 11 separate incidents in the following 12 months — including three times each in February, May and December.

It also discharged 1 million gallons of partially treated wastewater on Dec. 27, 2018, the order stated.

Even after the city received a new discharge permit in February of this year, the plant continued to discharge an additional 134,000 gallons of untreated wastewater in four separate incidents in February and March, the order stated.

It also exceeded its monthly and weekly effluent and other limits in its permit in 10 separate months between February 2018 and April 2019.

The nonprofit Coosa River Basin Initiative monitors water quality issues in northwest Georgia, including the area around Adairsville.

Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman, who heads the nonprofit, said his group knew of discharge problems at the plant.

“Until this notice, we weren’t aware of the extent of the problem there,” he said.

“We have typically been trying to keep an eye on all of these wastewater treatment plants as they reopen and renew their permits. To a large extent, they don’t typically have this type of chronic issue.”

He said his group wants to make sure Adairsville’s plan “will be sufficient enough to address the problems at that facility” and the EPD follows up with operators “in a timely manner” about making deadlines the agency sets for the plants.

To comment on the Consent Order, the public can email james.cooley@dnr.ga.gov; call 770-387-4929; or address traditional mail to: Mr. James Cooley, Director of District Operations, Environmental Protection Division. 2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE, Suite 1456 East, Atlanta, GA 30334.

Rome News-Tribune associate editor Doug Walker contributed to this report.

UPDATE: Police arrest man they say robbed Shorter Ave. bank and fled - VIDEO

Rome police have arrested the man they say robbed the Synovus bank on Shorter Avenue last week.

Assistant Police Chief Debbie Burnett said Sunday that 44-year-old Michael Brennan Hyde has been charged with the crime.

Previously posted, Oct. 23:

Police are still searching for a man who robbed a Synovus bank branch on Shorter Avenue late Tuesday and have released video taken outside the bank. 

Previously reported:

A white male entered the Synovus bank on Shorter Avenue in West Rome on Tuesday just before 3 p.m., and took approximately $1,000 before fleeing, according to Rome police.

Assistant Chief Debbie Burnett said a white male wearing a blue sweatshirt, believed to be in his early 30s, robbed the bank and fled on foot in the direction of North Hughes Street.

“No one reported actually seeing a weapon,” Burnett said.

Synovus Rome President Scott Preston also confirmed there was no weapon involved in the robbery.

“Thankfully nobody was physically harmed,” Preston said. He said the suspect may have been wearing a ball cap and it appeared as if the man had brownish hair.

“But that was kind of hard to tell because of the cap,” Preston said.

Detectives and a K9 unit were dispatched to the scene immediately, but as of Tuesday evening had not found the suspect. Police are expected to release surveillance photos of the man on Wednesday morning.

Early voting continues through end of next week; weekend polling offered this Saturday and Sunday at Civic Center

Early voting for Rome City Commission and the “brunch bill” continues this week and through the end of next week, including weekend voting at the Rome Civic Center on Oct. 26 and 27.

Polls are open at the Floyd County Health Department at 16 E. 12th St. from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and the same hours at the Floyd County Administration Building at 12 E. Fourth Ave. starting Monday. Weekend voting on Jackson Hill runs 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

On Election Day, Nov. 5, polls will be open in the various precincts from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Floyd County Chief Clerk of Elections Robert Brady had initially scheduled early voting to occur only during the week, arguing the city did not specifically request weekend voting before he made the schedule official within the required 60-day window before the election.

City commissioners and local civil rights activists from such organizations as the NAACP and 100 Black Men of Rome-Northwest Georgia made a case to the Floyd County Board of Elections and Voter Registration for adding Saturday and Sunday voting during a called meeting Oct. 15. The city already had secured the Civic Center for Oct. 26-27 prior to that meeting.

There are 19,179 registered voters in Rome. As of the close of business Monday, 219 people cast ballots within the first six days of early voting for three City Commission seats each in Wards 1 and 3 and whether they want to allow local establishments to serve alcohol on Sundays beginning at 11 a.m., instead of the current 12:30 p.m.

All Rome voters are able to vote for the nonpartisan candidates in both wards.

The five candidates running in Ward 1 include incumbents Sundai Stevenson, Milton Slack and Bill Irmscher, as well as challengers Mark Cochran and Jim Bojo. The four candidates running in Ward 3 include incumbents Bill Collins and Craig McDaniel and challengers Bonny Askew and J.J. Walker Seifert.