A new server, body cameras, in-car cameras, mobile tablets and forensic equipment would land in the hands of the Floyd County Police Department if voters approve an extension of the 1-cent special purpose, local option sales tax on Nov. 7.
The public safety technology upgrades come with a price tag of $415,170 and are included for funding in the $63.8 million SPLOST package. The current SPLOST ends March 31, 2019. If voters give the go-ahead for an extension, a five-year collection period would kick off on April 1, 2019.
$141,300. Included in the project is the purchase of 65 Microsoft Rugged Surface Pro tablets for $78,000 that would be installed in patrol vehicles. However, Assistant Police Chief Mark Wallace said the type of tablet could change depending on when the purchase is made, and the department would want the most up-to-date devices — the mobile data access project is fourth on the priority list.
These tablets could be taken out of the vehicles and used to take pictures, which could be digitally linked to reports. They would also help in solving the department's issue with having a revolving door of point-and-shoot cameras, Wallace said.
The tablets would be covered with one-year extended warranties for a cost of $5,000. Vehicle mounts and Bluetooth keyboards for each of them come in at $27,625.
But, perhaps the most important piece is the $30,675 to set up hotspots, which will be placed in specific geolocations and will provide officers internet access while out in the field to write up reports, download pictures and access record keeping systems, Wallace said. The department is also working on an arrangement with Floyd County Schools to allow officers access to schools' Wi-Fi, he added.
Right now, officers have to come back to the Joint Law Enforcement Center to complete their reports, adding up fuel costs and mileage on vehicles.
Not a day goes by when officers don't have to stay overtime to finish their reports, Wallace said. Coming out of the recession, he added, there just wasn't any money to spend on technology upgrades, but kicking the can down the road can only go on for so long.
The top-priority project is a $76,215 purchase of a new server and a $10,785 buy of a DVD robot writer, which is used of duplicating videos for court and open records requests. The current server's end-of-life is on Nov. 15, 2021, and it's required for them to be replaced every five years — so does the DVD writer — to meet upgrades and maintenance. The server stores video for all 125 incar and body cameras.
Replacing 110 body cameras, including two-year maintenance agreements, would cost $64,000, and would give all officers one as well as spares. Eighteen in-car cameras would take the place of all but two cameras that lose their five-year maintenance coverage, which covers repair and replacement costs, next year.
New forensic equipment for $20,270 would add to the department's investigative capabilities. A fuming chamber — this is used for safely finding fingerprints on evidence — along with an alternate light source system and a reflected ultra-violet imaging system are the pieces of the equipment the department would gain.
Analternate light source system can help reveal evidence, from blood stains to bone and teeth fragments, that crime-scene investigators can't see. With the imaging system the department wants, investigators can look for hidden fingerprints without using powders or chemicals on evidence, and it can narrow down the area in which they have to search.
SPECIAL PURPOSE, LOCAL OPTION SALES TAX PROPOSAL
The SPLOST Citizens Advisory Committee is recommending a $63,881,680 package of projects for funding through an extension of the current 1-cent special purpose local option sales tax.
If voters approve the projects in the Nov. 7 countywide election, collections would start April 1, 2019, and run for five years, through March 31, 2024.
• Agricultural Center, $8,000,000
• Cave Spring sewer improvements, $1,281,000
• Upgrades to the 911 Center, $257,000
• Recreation, $2,026,600
• Prison security upgrades, $2,705,000
• East Central secondary access, $395,000
• Rome public works, $5,000,000
• Public safety facility and equipment $4,400,000
• Historic Courthouse renovations, $5,000,000 Roads and bridges, $4,500,000
• Texas Valley water line extension, $2,500,000
• Jail medical facility Phase II, $5,200,000
• North Broad Youth Center recreation, $600,000
• Silver Creek Trail extension to Lindale, $1,180,000
• Waterways, $3,639,500
• Land for economic development, $3,110,000
• Fifth Avenue River District streetscape, $2,000,000
• County capital equipment and vehicles, $3,400,000
• County public works facility, $2,450,000
• Airport corporate hangar, $899,210
• State Mutual Stadium improvements, $2,000,000
• Public safety technology, $415,170
• Barron Stadium improvements, $825,000
• Special operations equipment, $248,200
• Rome water system improvements, $1,750,000
• Administrative costs, $100,000
Today's artwork is by Daysia Watkins, a student at Rome Middle School.
Making a difference is the theme for Martha Berry Highway McDonald's franchisee Jim Aaron. He's going out on a limb during the month of October, putting a pink breast cancer ribbon inside one of the Golden Arches to try to make a difference on behalf of breast cancer research.
Aaron will put up an iconic pink breast cancer ribbon made out of corrugated plastic inside one of the loops on the M in the McDonald's Golden Arches and will donate a portion of the sales from several items on his menu during the month of October to breast cancer programming.
The pink ribbon will be unveiled Saturday around 1 p.m.
"Supporting great causes and supporting our community is something I'm passionate about," Aaron said. "Breast cancer awareness is such a huge effort. We all know someone who has been affected by it."
The funds will be specifically earmarked for the "Making Strides against Breast Cancer" campaign of the Atlanta chapter of the American Cancer Society. Some of those funds are expected to help women here in the Rome area with mammograms.
Aaron will donate 10 percent of proceeds from two key product lines. The company is launching a new product, buttermilk crispy chicken tenders, in October, and 10 percent of the sales from those items will be part of his contribution, along with 10 percent from the sale of the scratch-made buttermilk crispy chicken biscuits off the breakfast menu.
In addition to the large Golden Arch at the road, Aaron said, "We're also going to put it on the other smaller arches around the restaurant." Signs will also be put at order points and doors indicating that 10 percent of the specific products will be donated to breast cancer awareness.
"I want to do this across all of my restaurants next year. We're going to start with just this one restaurant," Aaron said. "If this is as successful as I believe it will be, then next year I would intend to use it on my growing organization in Georgia and Tennessee."
He currently owns McDonald's restaurants in Decatur, Vonore and Charleston in Tennessee, and, effective Oct. 1, will become the owner of McDonald's stores in LaFayette, Summerville and Chickamauga.
Aaron said other people within the McDonald's brand are starting to take notice of some of the outside-the-box ideas Aaron has promoted, and he is hopeful that this effort in particular can go across the nation.
"I would love to see that," Aaron said.
The Rome City Commission issued a proclamation on Monday naming October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Rome Police Chief Denise Downer- McKinney requested the proclamation, along with Malinda Kogerma and Erin DeMesquita of Hospitality House. The local nonprofit will mark its 40th year in 2018.
DeMesquita spoke earlier about how the need for advocacy and support for both female and male victims continues to grow. "To put it into perspective, we started out very grassroots, as a simple call center," she said of Hospitality House. "Now we're a facility with 27 beds that can host families for 90 days, or longer if there's a need."
Police in Rome and Floyd County responded to more than 5,200 domestic violence calls in 2016, she said, and there were likely many more incidents that either didn't get the designation or went unreported.
"We're serving 800 to 1,200 people a year, so there's still a gap there," DeMesquita said. "We need to reach out to these people."
Several events are planned, starting with the 10th annual Walk A Mile In Her Shoes solidarity march on Oct. 13.
Registration and kickoff activities begin at 11 a.m. in Rotary Plaza, which is on the Riverwalk behind the Forum River Center downtown. The parade down Broad Street to Heritage Park — in which men are encouraged, but not required, to wear high heels — starts at noon.
The event is free, but donations are appreciated, DeMesquita said.
There's also a candlelight vigil set for Oct. 19 at 6 p.m. in Rotary Plaza.
"That is a more somber time, for us to honor those lives that have been lost to domestic violence. And we always have a survivor speaker as well," she said.
The organization staffs a 24-hour crisis hotline at 706-235-4673.
Also on Monday, the City Commission:
• Accepted on first reading an ordinance that would create a downtown district where public consumption of alcohol is allowed, with certain restrictions.
• Approved residential zoning for the lot at 9 Ross St. that had been zoned for commercial development. Property owner Nelson Vincent said he plans to demolish the existing structure and build a house to live in.
• Approved the annexation of a house in Garden Lakes at 602 Elliott Drive. The annexation also takes in the adjacent portions of Elliott Drive right of way.
• Approved a revision of the Unified Land Development Code to allow buildings in neighborhood-office-commercial zones to be remodeled as duplexes with a specialuse permit.