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Johnson Controls settles for $2.3M
• The company will also provide services and equipment for 2 years to Floyd County Schools

Derry Richardson

After coming out of a closed session Thursday, the Floyd County Board of Education unanimously approved a settlement with Johnson Controls Inc., which will pay the system $2.3 million and provide services and equipment for two years.

"This agreement is a major step towards closing a difficult chapter for the school district," said Superintendent John Jackson in a news release. "The school district appreciates Johnson Controls' assistance and cooperation throughout this matter."

The board also decided on having an absolute auction — which means all items will sell with no set reserve price — for the seized and forfeited items from the RICO case involving the system's former maintenance director Derry Richardson.

The case involved an alleged scheme carried out by Richardson and at least 12 others resulting in the loss of $6.3 million.

Richardson had worked for Johnson Controls before taking the position with Floyd County Schools; however, the company is not a party in the RICO lawsuit.

The state attempted to add Johnson Controls as a party to an ongoing civil RICO case against several defendants, including Richardson. Floyd County Superior Court Judge Tami Colston denied that request stating a court-imposed deadline to add parties had already passed.

A Floyd County police investigative summary for that case stated Johnson Controls received and paid for fake invoices from Steve Bevill, who has not been criminally charged.

Bevill worked as a subcontractor for Johnson Controls to do work for the Floyd County Board of Education, the police summary states. Richardson allegedly negotiated those contracts and insisted that Johnson Controls hire Bevill to perform part or all of the work on a given project.

During a court hearing, lawyers for Johnson Controls said the company has been cooperating with investigators since December 2015 and met with police and provided over 25,000 pages of documents.

Also, as part of the agreement, Johnson Controls will consult with system officials and "review the operation and maintenance of the HVAC systems at three school facilities" chosen by the system, along with making recommendations for upgrades.

Additionally, for two years from when the agreement is in place, the company will provide 16 hours of "on-site technical support per month for HVAC and security systems collectively, at no charge."

The system also will receive an annual $25,000 allowance for repair parts and an additional $25,000 to cover costs of Johnson Controls workers making the repairs. The system will get the same price for "parts and systems" that the company gets through the General Services Administration for two years.

Board Chairman Chip Hood, who joined the board in January 2015, as allegations of the decade-long thefts surfaced, said it was a great day to be a part of Floyd County Schools.

Auction

"This is personal for me," said Brian Bojo, a Coosa High graduate and the court-appointed receiver, who controls and manages the seized assets. "This is not just a job."

Bojo and Lou Dempsey, president of Dempsey Auction Co., updated the board on the final preparations for auctioning off the seized and forfeited items in the RICO case that will help the system recoup their losses.

"Our hope is we can be part of the healing process," Bojo said.

A two-story home at 241 Riverbluff Drive in Summerville that police say Richardson built with illicit funds is the big-ticket item for the auction. Other items include over 50 guns, vehicles, Bobcats, tractors and utility vehicles.

"This is the Super Bowl of auctions for us," Dempsey said, adding that over 1,000 people are expected. "I feel like everything will sell."

The list of items is still being finalized and is expected to be completed by Nov. 13. The auction will be held at the Coosa Valley Fairgrounds at 1400 Martin Luther King Blvd. on Nov. 18, starting at 11 a.m. From Nov. 15-17, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., items will available for people to look over. Guns being auctioned off will only be at the fairgrounds for inspection on Nov. 17, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Dempsey encouraged the board to go with an absolute auction — items are sold regardless of price to the highest bidder — in place of setting minimum prices for certain items, because it would bring more money in and instill excitement. Once the auction gets going, the market will drive the prices up and ensure items aren't being bought under value, he told board members.

Board member Melinda Strickland said an absolute auction shows the community the board wants as much of the taxpayers' dollars back as they can get.


EPA seeks to reverse Clean Power rule
• Southern Co. representatives say they believe rules are best set at the state level

Scott Pruitt

Last month U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking revealing plans to repeal the so-called "Clean Power Plan." The Obama administrative initiative created state-by-state targets for carbon emissions reductions, cutting national electricity sector emissions by an estimated 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

The "new" EPA under the Trump administration argues the plans overstep the agency's statutory authority. In a news release, Pruitt said evidence of that came when the Supreme Court issued a stay of the rule in February 2016.

Schuyler Baehman, a spokesman for Southern Co., parent company of Georgia Power, said Southern Co. supports alleviating unnecessary regulatory burdens on the American people.

"National energy policy should be set by Congress and the states, which have the ability to balance the responsibility to provide customers clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy," Baehman said in response to a question about how the proposed changes might impact operations at Georgia Power's Plant Hammond in Coosa and Plant Bowen in Euharlee.

"We remain engaged with our state environmental agencies, public service commission and other stakeholders to ensure that we continue acting in the best interests of customers," Baehman continued.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has expressed serious concern that a lot of scientific data regarding carbon emissions has been deleted from the EPA website. "The legal basis for the requirement that EPA regulate greenhouse gas emissions, known as the endangerment finding, is another crucial resource in understanding the debate over the rule," reads a blog on the UCS website written by Toly Rinberg and Andrew Bergman. They said the EPA's endangerment finding web page, too, was lost in the removals.

"Southern Co. will continue its leadership role in finding environmental solutions that make technological and economic sense by developing and deploying technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring energy remains reliable and affordable," Baehman said.

The Notice of Proposed Rule Making for repeal of Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Unit legislation was published in the Federal Register on Oct. 16 and is out for a 60-day comment period. Comments can be sent electronically to www.regulations.gov, referencing the docket number EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0355.


Fall colors

State agencies may merge data
• Two Rome lawmakers chair a study committee examining the benefits of creating an information-sharing network

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler

Rep. Katie Dempsey

The state of North Carolina started building an integrated data system following a shocking murder by a man who was mistakenly released from a court.

Michigan is using its centralized system to consolidate services, detect fraud and predict trends to save millions of dollars a year.

And South Carolina is widely viewed as a national model, with a data system that researchers for public and private entities tap regularly to analyze policy proposals and evaluate programs.

"There are a lot of opportunities where value can be derived ... in our case, the projects essentially pay for the operations," David Patterson, South Carolina's chief of health and demographics, told members of Georgia's Joint Study Committee on Transparency and Open Access in Government on Thursday.

Georgia's agencies maintain separate files and can't easily share information.

The committee — chaired by Rome Republicans Sen. Chuck Hufstetler and Rep. Katie Dempsey — plans to recommend a state data integration plan to the General Assembly in 2018.

"This is a very important path: Evidencebased policymaking," Patterson said.

One example of the need came from Angela Snyder, an associate project director with the Georgia Health Policy Center.

Snyder provides data support and analysis for an interagency team working on cost-effective interventions for children with behavioral problems.

The director's team is under the oversight of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities coordinating council. In addition to the DBHDD, it includes representatives from community health, education, juvenile justice, human services, public health and the governor's office.

"How do policies, programs and system-changes in any of these agencies impact outcomes for our youth? You can't get that answer without integrated data," Snyder told the committee.

Currently, she needs data-sharing agreements and memorandums of understanding with each of the agencies before she can meld information from their offices. Once a specific study is done, the data must be deleted from her hub.

If the group has a similar question the following year, the process starts again. "We're going to work on making it better for you," Hufstetler said.

The committee also heard from vendors Richard Andrews of Teradata and Eric Hunley of SAS Analytics about systems they've set up in Michigan, North Carolina and other states. The companies' software works differently, but both provided examples of how governments and private businesses have benefited from sharing data.

"I could feel the light bulbs going off up here," said Dempsey, who chairs the House human resources budget subcommittee.

Hufstetler, who serves on the Health Care Reform Task Force, homed in on how an integrated data system would benefit a revamp of state services.

He said he expects at least one more meeting of the open access committee before its final report.

RN-T.com

Read this story online for a link to the Joint Study Committee on Transparency and Open Access in Government.


TODAY'S ARTIST

Today's artwork is by Anna Garrett, a Rome eighth-grader.


Catfish will be kissed at Saturday CRBI fish fry

The catfish kissing contest — where locals raise money for the honor to lock lips with a Coosa River catfish — winds up Saturday with a big fish fry at the First United Methodist Church in downtown Rome.

The eight local celebrities are competing in the Catfish Kissin' contest include: Tom Kennedy, Dean of Berry College's Evans School of Humanities; Kristie Dixon, an operating room nurse at Floyd Medical Center; Mark McLucas, a coffee roaster at Swift and Finch; Devon Smyth, executive director of the William Davies Homeless Shelter; Mark Persails, Rome Middle School science teacher; Drew Nicholson, a nurse with Floyd County Schools; Val Featherston, Cave Spring Elementary School teacher and co-owner of Swerve Off the Path art studio; and Adam Sikes, River Dog Outpost bartender and guitar maker.

The top three fundraisers and the contestant that raises the least money for CRBI will kiss a Coosa River catfish at 2 p.m. in the fellowship hall of the First United Methodist Church.

Last year's top fundraiser, Jan Fergerson of Ford Gittings & Kane Jewelers, is not back to defend her title.

Jess Demonbreun - Chapman, executive director for CRBI said several of the contestants this year have been very successful so far. One, Sikes, will be raffling off a handmade electric guitar at the event Saturday with funds from his raffle going into his pool of funds for the right to kiss the catfish.

The contest itself raised a little over $5,000 with 13 contestants last year. Demonbreun-Chapman said when coupled with the fish fry, the whole event raised a little more than $11,000 for the organization's water watchdog efforts.

He said a goal for this year was not set hopes to better last year's total.

Catfish lunches, $10 for adults and $8 for children, will be served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are available in advance at Kroger on Turner Mc- Call Boulevard, Lavender Mountain Hardware, 4065 Martha Berry Highway, Cedar Creek RV and Outdoors, 6770 Cave Spring and CRBI, 5 Broad St. Tickets will also be available at the door.