Rome is poised to buy 4.22 acres of an abandoned Norfolk-Southern rail line, clearing the way for construction of the long-deferred Redmond Trail project to Summerville Park.
"Railbeds make perfect trails because they're flat," City Manager Sammy Rich said.
The 2013 special purpose, local option sales tax package contains $1.8 million for city trail connectivity projects.
Floyd County also has a $400,000 transportation grant for the first phase of the project, which extends the trail on the west bank of the Oosta naula River at the Avenue A pump station to a spot behind the post office on Martha Berry Boulevard.
Rich said the trail would continue across Martha Berry to the Little Dry Creek area and Tolbert Park. The city's new piece is roughly from John Davenport Drive to John Maddox Drive.
The Rome City Commission approved on Monday the payment of $305,259 for the railbed. Rich has been negotiating with Norfolk Southern for several years in hopes they would donate or discount the property, but assured the board that "this won't blow the budget."
In other actions, the board signed off on an air rights easement for Ira Levy's downtown condominium project The Lofts at Third & Broad, which is under construction.
The perpetual agreement allows Levy to add balconies extending 3 feet over the city's sidewalks on Broad Street and Third Avenue, starting 16 feet in the air.
"They've provided all the insurance coverage we've asked for," City Attorney Andy Davis said.
Commissioners also adopted a change to the alcohol control ordinance that lets business owners apply to count the sales of nonfood items toward the required 50/50 food-to-drink ratio for liquor sales.
"It would be on a case-by-case basis," Commissioner Wendy Davis explained. "The (Alcohol Control Commission) could evaluate it and hold a hearing, and if they think it's a good idea, they can send it to the City Commission for a ruling."
Steven McDowell, owner of Old Havana Cigar Bar, said he would likely have an application ready for the next ACC meeting, set for Tuesday. He wants to offer spirits such as high-end whiskey and brandy, as his bars do in Cartersville and Gadsden, Alabama.
Commissioners also hosted a full program recognizing Black History Month, with proclamations honoring local people who have contributed to Rome's African-American heritage: Robert Kelsey, C.W. Aycock, Buddy Mitchell, Sam Burrell, Sr., Delores Chatman and John Stevenson.
Proclamations and photographs from the presentations will be located in the Kelsey-Aycock- Burrell Center.
The center at 41 Washington Drive is home to the 100 Black Men of Rome-Northwest Georgia, NAACP of Rome and Floyd County, Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Northwest Georgia and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
The Floyd County Commission recognized on Tuesday several employees who went beyond their job descriptions to help others.
John Davis, a Rome Floyd Parks and Recreation crew leader, was alone in the office during the December snowstorm with another employee who had keeled over. He performed CPR until emergency responders were able to get there and the man is now recovering.
Davis received a standing ovation from the board and audience, as did the Floyd County Sheriff's officers who helped a woman giving birth in the parking lot of the Judicial Center.
Deputy Jason Pearce arrived on the scene to find the woman lying in the parking lot and the baby already on the way. He cleared the baby's airway and the boy began breathing on his own.
Capt. Dave Roberson, Lt. Jody House and Deputy Dennis Noles assisted Pearce until emergency responders arrived to take the newborn and his mother to Floyd Medical Center.
"Extraordinary actions such as these further instill the public's respect and confidence in the FCSO," Commissioner Larry Maxey said.
Pearce choked up remembering the events of that day, Oct. 20, 2017.
"I couldn't have done it alone," he said. "It just goes to show there's family in Floyd County ... We're a team."
Also on Tuesday, County Manager Jamie Mc- Cord presented the 2017 annual report.
The 54-page document gives an overview of "where we were and where we are now," he said, along with a detailed snapshot of each department and agency. It's expected to be posted on the joint website, romefloydcounty.com, by the end of the week.
"There are so many good things going on, I don't feel everybody gets to hear about them," Commission Chair Rhonda Wallace said.
Financial highlights include a $2.3 million boost to the county's fund balance and construction of 125 new homes, an increase of 38.4 percent over 2016.
"That's a good sign things are moving," Mc- Cord said.
The financial report notes that, following the 2008 recession, the Consumer Price Index grew 15 percent through 2016 but Floyd County's budget has remained within 7 percent of its 2008 budget amount.
"We're trying to still provide services but we're living within our means," McCord said.
Today's art is by Lyerly sixth-grader Libby Veatch.
About three years ago, Floyd County Animal Control officer Matt Cordle picked up a stray puppy, speckled in white and brown with one blue eye and one brown, on the side of the road. And it wasn't long before Gunner found himself a home, along with a particular skill.
At that time the house dog at the department's old facility on Mathis Road had died and officers were looking for a new companion at the office. And Gunner, a mix breed that's drawn comparisons to German shorthaired pointers and Catahoula Curs, fit right in.
"He's just a fun dog," Cordle said. "He'll play ball with you until you're arm falls off."
Early on, officers began to notice that Gunner always seemed to be looking for something, nose to the floor, scurrying around. Officer Keelan Freeman started hiding treats in the office.
"He started searching like you couldn't believe," Cordle said. "He's very smart."
So Cordle and Freeman decided to take Gunner to Floyd County Sheriff's Office deputy Jimmy Allred — the K-9 unit was behind the former animal control facility. Cordle said Allred recognized the dog's skill and started training Gunner when he had time, having him search and find tennis balls with the scents of various drugs.
"He showed us he could do it," Freeman said.
Gunner got his official start as drug-detection dog at the Floyd County Prison, after Cordle and Freeman got their pharmaceutical research licenses to legally handle the seized drugs. He'd sniff his way through each of the dorm rooms, aggressively scratching where he smelled drugs. He found marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine, Cordle said.
The number of times Gunner sniffed out drugs during these prison searches was "crazy high," he added.
"He wants to work," Cordle said, adding that anytime he sees his yellow, soft-rubber ball — his reward — he knows it's time to get down to business, which he had conducted around two to three times a week at the prison.
But with the move to the new Public Animal Welfare Services facility at 99 North Ave. and with officers increasingly busy — the number of visitors each month has nearly tripled to around 1,000 to 1,200 — Gunner has not had as many opportunities as before, as he hasn't been back to the prison in over a year.
However, he has made himself into a central figure at the facility, for workers and visitors alike.
Freeman said if there were 100 Gunners, they would all be adopted out in no time. It's a frequent occurrence when visitors come in looking for a dog, they will spot Gunner and say he's the one, he added.
But Gunner isn't going anywhere, despite his destruction of countless beds — he sleeps on a blanket in the office overnight now — and persistent demands for attention and activity, including chasing after the red dot of a laser on a temperature gauge up and down the hall.
"He demands you to play with him," said Freeman, who, on occasion, has taken Gunner home with him where he sleeps in between him and his wife.
For Cordle and Freeman, who have been with the department for 12 years and 16 years respectively, Gunner represented a shift away from the regular.
"Me and him did it to give us new life," said Cordle, who would like to Gunner get certified as an official K-9 eventually.
Recently, Cordle hid a tennis ball, with a faint smell of marijuana, in a drawer in the office break room. It had been a month since Gunner had done this task, but in around 30 seconds, he found the right drawer and punched his paws rapidly at the handle.
"It's like riding a bike," Cordle said.