Prioritizing SPLOST projects and developing a community board to address the opioid crisis are among the topics Floyd County commissioners will take up this week.
The board is scheduled to meet today and Tuesday for its annual planning session. Commissioners have a full slate of items for discussion, ranging from personnel issues to potential solar power initiatives.
"There's some opportunity there," County Manager Jamie McCord said about solar. "It will depend on the federal budget, but we've got a lot of (usable) land — at the airport, the landfill."
Floyd County commissioners are holding their retreat at the County Administration Building, 12 E. Fourth Ave. Today's session runs from 1 to 6 p.m. Tuesday's will be from 8 a.m. to noon. Both meetings are public.
Topping the agenda is a presentation of the county's financial situation. Then the board is expected to look at how they'll schedule projects in the 2017 special purpose, local option sales tax package.
Collections for that SPLOST won't start until the 2013 levy expires on March 31, 2019, but the board could issue bonds to jump-start some work. Commissioners opted to cash-flow the 2013 package, waiting until the money is in the bank to do the work.
"I think your prioritization will tell you if you need to do bonds," McCord told the commissioners at a meeting last week.
Commission Chair Rhonda Wallace said renovation of the Historic Floyd County Courthouse may not be able to wait. She asked for information on low-interest loans to be presented during the retreat.
Also, while the county joined a class-action lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, commissioners and local medical professionals talked last month about the need to take more immediate action.
The board is expected to determine who should serve on a panel tasked with developing options. Law enforcement and the courts are likely to have representation as well as physicians, counselors and others who deal with addictive behavior. "I informally polled our police at a recent event and it seems like 60 percent to 85 percent of what they do is connected to drugs," Commissioner Wright Bagby said.
The opioid panel discussion is scheduled for Tuesday's session.
Other items that day include possible uses of the former Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital property, an audit of hotel/motel tax payments, changes in some personnel policies and the contract with Safari Hospitality to manage the Forum River Center.
"It doesn't seem like it's been that long, but the Safari agreement expires (this month)," McCord noted.
Today's agenda will cover the 2017 SPLOST and a discussion of space needs.
McCord has been looking for more room for court activities — which have grown beyond the capacity of the Rome-Floyd County Courthouse — and where to put tag, title and deed operations during remodeling of the Historic Courthouse. Other offices, such as elections and voter registration, also are cramped.
Revisions of the Animal Welfare Board makeup and the contract for the Wings Over North Georgia air show are among the other items on the table today.
More than 100 players from as far away as Macon and Birmingham, Alabama, took over Thornton Recreation Center for the inaugural Rome Pickleball Classic.
The four-day event wrapped up Sunday.
"It's one of the fastest-growing sports in the country right now," said organizer JP Selle, the tennis director at Coosa Country Club.
Over the past few years, it has become a staple at both the country club and at Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation facilities.
Played with a paddle and a plastic ball, pickle-ball combines elements of tennis, ping-pong and badminton. According to Lisa English and Logan Yerbey — who trounced their finals opponents in mixed doubles — it's the sport Baby Boomers have been looking for.
What makes it such a great fit?
"It's great exercise without a high risk of injury," English said.
"The games are shorter than tennis," Yerbey explained. "And there's a much lower learning curve."
"You play indoors, so the sun's not a factor," English added. "And it's a lot of fun."
The two continued their volley of praise and recommendations, returning again and again to the opportunity for socializing. That also was the consensus of a crowd of local spectators, who play regularly at the public courts.
"It's a great group of folks," said John Dudley, who said he plays five days a week.
And newcomers are always welcome, noted Trish Sherman. "We just had a new person join who had never played before, but it doesn't take long to learn," she said.
The Thornton Recreation Center, at 102 North Floyd Park Road in Armuchee, offers demonstrations and play times from 9 to 11 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and from 9 a.m. to noon on Thursdays.
The Gilbreath Recreation Center, 110 Garden Ave. in Lindale, is the place to go on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to noon.
Dudley said there also are outdoor pickleball courts at Gilbreath and two other Parks & Rec facilities: Garden Lakes, at 2903 Garden Lakes Blvd., and Tolbert Park, at 300 Charlton St.
For more information, visit the Parks & Rec website at rfpra.com/pickleball.
Upon first observation, the casual observer may believe the retirees gathered at a table at Bojangles' on Martha Berry Boulevard dislike each other greatly. But in reality, a person would be hard pressed to find a better group of friends.
"(The group) means a whole lot to me," said David Lewis. "Friendship goes a long way. It's just like one big family."
They typically range from five to eight people. The group is almost always the same retired or semi-retired men. On occasion a female friend or someone's wife joins the table. Many of the men have been meeting there for years.
"Well, we actually started out as a different group," said Jerry Massey, noting a lot of the original people who ate together either have passed away or are no longer able to get out. "It was me and David and our other guys. We ate there for years. Then we met the rest of these guys. They sat at a different table."
"It used to be just a bunch of us Marines would come over on Monday, Wednesday and Friday," said Avery Almand. "Jerry and David were there every day. We struck up a friendship."
Eventually, everyone started sitting at the same table.
Starting around 6:30 or so most weekday mornings, members of the group gather together to talk about what they are doing, how people they know are doing, where they are going and what the solutions to the world's biggest problems are.
"We talk about everything and everybody," Massey said, laughing. "We just aggravate and pick at each other. We've solved all the problems of the world. Well, we may not solve all the problems, but we talk about them."
"We talk about the way our world used to be and the direction our world is going in now," Lewis said. "We talk about local politics, Washington, D.C., politics. The rest of the time we're laughing and picking at each other and having a good time. We get in a few little arguments but they don't amount to anything — it's all in fun."
"I do a lot of listening," Bob Jones said. "It's interesting to see what everyone has view on. I really do enjoy it. They'll argue with one another, but they don't get mat at each other. I get tickled listening to them...you'd think they're enemies, but they're good friends."
"We have more fun aggravating each other about different things instead of talking about anything intelligent," Almand said with a chuckle.
"You better not let them know something's bothering you," Massey said. "They'll get onto you about it."
More than anyone else at the table, it seems like Harold Brock often is the target of the aggravation. Sometimes one or more will pick at Brock just for fun — and to see what his reaction will be.
"They don't upset me nearly as much as they think they do," Brock said.
Brock is a transplant from The Biscuit Bucket in West Rome, which closed a few years ago. It was then that he started going to Bojangles' and when he joined the other retirees in the morning.
"I just developed a friendship with these guys," he said. "It's just part of my day. I wake up every morning at the same time and go down there and drink coffee and talk."
They are so involved in their conversations, great debates and plans that they often don't notice that other patrons are listening in, amused by their gentle ribbing of each other or shaking their heads at their debates. One would think they are with each other at all hours of the day. But this is not so.
Many have known one or the other for years. Others, perhaps not. Sometimes a few of them may end up working out at the gym at Floyd Rehab. Brock and Jones are neighbors in Garden Lakes and have known each for a long time and see each other frequently. Jones and Almand like crafting handmade pens that they give away.
Otherwise, their lives outside of their breakfast group are fairly separate.
But their friendships with each other are unshakeable.
"If one of us needs something, we don't mind calling one another," Lewis said. "I don't think we'd turn each other down. ... It's a bunch of free, hearty guys — good Christian guys."
"They mean a lot to me," Jones said. "I like them. I grew up in a town like this. My father worked in a textile mill. They remind me of the men I knew when I was a little boy. They are good friends. And they are honest."
Today's artwork is by Elizabeth Lee, a fourth-grade student at West End Elementary School.