Double takes by motorist traveling up the Martha Berry Highway in Armuchee aren't unusual as the drivers pass Sam's Burger Deli. It isn't every day you drive by a restaurant with a Gulfstream jet protruding from the front roof. Before the weekend is over there may well be double the double takes as Edwards attaches a second Gulfstream jet to the north end of the restaurant.
When Sam Edwards attached the original Gulfstream, his idea was to create a private dining room where visitors would pay a premium to eat with some of the proceeds from that area designated to benefit the Purple heart Veterans organization. Logistically that just didn't work, so when Edwards found out about the second jet, he decided to give it another try.
"We don't know what the regulations are on this. I just wanted to bring the airplane up here because it was something that was given to me as a Purple Heart project," Edwards said. "We're still trying to figure out what all the machinations will look like."
The real irony behind the aircraft is that it was previously owned by the same businessman that owned his first aircraft, William B. Johnson, a former chairman of the Berry College Board of Trustees, who died in June 2016. He owned more than 150 Waffle House restaurants and in 1983, bought the Ritz Carlton hotel brand and turned it into a major player in the upscale hotel industry.
"He had both ends of the culinary spectrum covered," Edwards said.
In fact, the two planes actually have sequential tail numbers, N7WJ and N8WJ.
"I got them 3 1/2 years apart, 50 miles apart, and I find 'em. What's the odds of that?" Edwards asked
Edwards picked up the first jet from the airport in Polk County. It was attached to the restaurant late in the summer of 2017. He found the second one at McCollum Airport near Kennesaw. He said the thrust reversers had been removed from the engines, which meant it could take off but it couldn't land anywhere, except perhaps the Bonneville Salt Flats.
It had been at the airport in Kennesaw about five years when Edwards found out about it. He said the interior cabin is virtually brand new and found out that the cabin had been given a million dollar upgrade in 2010, but never flown because Johnson's health had started to fail.
"Eventually, it is going to hurt," Superintendent Jeff Wilson said.
With the system's financial future a bit uncertain in four to five years, Floyd County Schools' board members and administration looked at their options during their Saturday morning board work session.
For the next year or two the county school system will be okay, Wilson said. However, with the closing of Plant Hammond and a drop in enrollment, the system will see a financial loss in the next four to five years that needs to be dealt with.
"That's why we are here," he said.
"We don't want to be reactive, we want to be proactive," Board Member Melinda Strickland said.
The closing of Plant Hammond will have a $3 million impact on property taxes, Chief Financial Officer Greg Studdard said. Wilson said the system needs to put a facilities plan into place and look for ways to prepare for the loss of funding.
Some of the lost funding can be attributed to low student enrollment. The fact of the matter is there has been less births in the county, Wilson said, and with businesses like Hammond closing, there are not new families moving in.
"Without jobs its hard to get people to come live (in Floyd County)," he said.
Schools are funded based on full-time equivalency, or how many students are in school at the time the count is taken. Less students equals less funding, Wilson said.
The next step is to take this information to each of the Local School Governance Teams and ask them what they would like to see done. These options could be consolidating classes, schools or raising the millage.
"We are not going to them saying 'this is what you are going to do,' we want to ask them what they can live without," Wilson said.
At the end of Fiscal Year 2019, the county school system dropped several positions in order to save money and trimmed $4.5 million from various sources from their FY 20 budget. Wilson and Studdard both emphasized during summer budget hearings that no one was fired from the cut positions, the positions were just not refilled.
Board members also looked at a running total of projects that need to be completed throughout the system and made plans to address those as well. Due to rising construction costs — which have affected both city and county school construction projects — the running cost of school projects has risen a little over $30 million.
As of right now, to finish every single project at all 18 schools would take around $82 million, Wilson said. Some of this is maintenance, but some is serious work that needs to be done. Garden Lakes Elementary has around $9 million worth of projects to be completed by itself, Wilson noted.
Architects will be going around to each of the schools to see what needs to be done first. The system will use what they find to tackle the facility projects. The county superintendent said no one is really to blame for the cost of the projects, but it is time to pay attention to these projects and get them out of the way.
The healthcare industry has long been a mainstay of Rome's economy, but some behind the scene changes have been taking place in recent years. The changes do not impact individual patient care, but do impact who signs the paycheck for a number of healthcare professionals in the community.
Kenna Stock, president of the Harbin Clinic, characterized changes involving the cardiothoracic surgery team a business decision rather than an operational decision.
"Earlier this year, Harbin Clinic on behalf of the cardiothoracic surgeons, entered into what is called a professional services agreement with Redmond," Stock said. The physicians are still partner/member physicians of the Harbin Clinic. Nothing has changed as far as they are concerned. They are not employees of the hospital (Redmond) and they continue to provide the same level of services that they provided prior to this arrangement at both Redmond as well as Floyd Medical Center."
The professional services contract means that the HCA (Redmond) physician network has taken over the management of the medical practice.
"All the former employees of that department, the office manager, the medical assistant, a nurse, even their physicians assistants became employees of the HCA physician network," Stock said. "Harbin Clinic physicians remain members of the Harbin Clinic, their employment has not changed."
"The practice has been renamed Northwest Georgia Cardiothoracic Surgery at Redmond. This arrangement creates a closer, more collaborative relationship between Redmond and this very important cardiothoracic surgery group," said Andrea Pitts, marketing and communications director at Redmond.
The unit has four physicians who are licensed to provide open heart surgical services, Dr. Dan Goldfaden, the dean of the unit, Dr. Dhru Girard, Dr. Cyrus Parsa and the newest member of the team, Dr. Zachary Solomon.
Solomon joined the team earlier this year after finishing medical school at George Washington University in Washington D.C., a fellowship at the Tufts Medical Center in Boston and his residency at the Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah.
Asked why the changes were made, Stock said since Harbin was a private company she was not at liberty to discuss specifics of the business decisions.
"Cardiothoracic surgery is a highly specialized service that few hospitals are able to offer," Pitts said. "This new agreement strongly positions our hospital for the future growth of advanced cardiovascular services in caring for the communities we serve in Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama."
Pitts explained that all current office staff members will remain with the practice. "Since the transition, we have added an additional office staff member and are actively recruiting a third advanced practice provider," said Pitts.
The building the cardiothoracic program is housed in, 504 Redmond Road, directly across from Redmond Regional Medical Center, used to be known as the Southeastern Cardiovascular Institute.
It was sold to Duke Realty by Harbin when the local physician-group divested itself of much of its real estate holdings in 2012. Duke bought the building for $12.2 million in September of 2012, then sold the building to Healthcare Trust of America, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, in May 2017 for $20 million.
Harbin also sold the Specialty Center, just to the west of the cardiovascular medical office building, to Duke in September of 2012 for $18.1 million. Duke sold it to HTA in 2017 for $27 million.
Alex Tran, an eighth-grader at St. Mary's Catholic School.