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Rome taking aim at feral dog packs, 'urban camping' ordinance sent to full commission for first reading

Tranquilizer darts with tracking devices are on order following increased reports of a pack of feral dogs roaming the streets of Rome.

“Animal control was using (regular) tranquilizer darts, but the dogs would go out and hide in the woods, so that wasn’t working,” Assistant Police Chief Debbie Burnett told members of the city’s public safety committee Tuesday.

The dogs first started showing up around Saint Mary’s Catholic School in East Rome, she said, and are now ranging into the Between the Rivers Historic District. A cat was mauled Monday and the school had to again clear students off the playground when the dogs were sighted.

A pattern to the pack’s wanderings has not yet been determined.

Burnett said Floyd County 911 Director John Blaylock, who oversees animal control, is making an officer available to respond to evening calls. The agency also set out six traps Monday and caught one dog and one coyote.

Police are fielding a rising number of calls, Chief Denise Downer-McKinney said, but her officers don’t have the equipment to go after animals and have limited options for a response.

Still, members of the public safety committee said an escalation could be required if the new trackable darts don’t do the trick.

City Commissioner Craig McDaniel said the dogs must be tracked or put down, because the city shouldn’t have a situation where citizens need to shoot a dog to defend themselves.

On Tuesday, Public Animal Welfare Services Director Jeff Mitchell said they captured two dogs near St. Mary’s — including a dog that school personnel identified as having been aggressive.

Mitchell asked that people don’t leave food out for the dogs, because that makes their traps less effective.

‘Urban camping’ ordinance sent back for first reading

Also on Tuesday, the committee voted to send the “urban camping” and panhandling ordinances back to the Rome City Commission for a first reading next week. Adoption is expected at the board’s Oct. 14 meeting.

“The mayor was fairly emphatic that he wants us to move forward with this and there’s broad support (on the City Commission),” McDaniel noted.

When the proposed ordinances were unveiled in August they were widely decried as an attack on the homeless population. A task force aimed at addressing the underlying problem was formed, with advocates and the local governments committed to finding solutions.

But the issue of what to do about encampments in public parks and people sleeping and begging in front of stores remains.

“The police came to us for help and we have ignored them,” Commissioner Evie McNiece pointed out during the board’s caucus last week.

Downer-McKinney said the proposed ordinances give officers the ability to warn offenders and hold property that has been confiscated.

Currently, arrest is the only real option.

Commissioner Milton Slack, who chairs the public safety committee, said there was a “knee-jerk reaction” to the ordinances but the board has a responsibility to rise above emotion. The third member, Commissioner Randy Quick, agreed — noting that police worked with the city attorney to craft responses tailored to local needs.

Korean War era aircraft flies medical supplies from Rome to the Bahamas

Volunteers from the Museum of Flight had perfect timing for a medical mission to aid residents of the Bahamas last week.

Co-pilot Pete O’Hare said a kidney dialysis machine their 67-year-old Korean War era C-45H ferried from Fort Lauderdale to Freeport was off-loaded and in use in a Bahamian hospital within 20 minutes after their arrival last Tuesday.

The load on the flight also included medical supplies donated by Dr. Jim and Laurie Douglas, Dr. Cynthia Shumpert and her husband Dr. Paul Shumpert, Troy and Susan Fitzpatrick and the George Faile Foundation.

Rome First Baptist Church also donated $1,000 to help purchase additional medical supplies. Douglas said they were able to box up packages of routine over-the-counter medications, rubber gloves and other items that they knew from previous church-related missions projects would be needed after total devastation.

On the way to Fort Lauderdale, the Rome group made a stop in Ocala to pick up a couple of relief specialists from AERObridge.

After picking up some additional supplies in Fort Lauderdale, the aircraft went straight to the Bahamas.

“It was absolute chaos,” the plane’s pilot Joel Megginson said. “There was a triage area where there were a lot of people just standing by the fence waiting for help.”

“While on the ground in Freeport, we were parked by a jet owned by the rapper Ludacris who had flown in with supplies as well. All these different organizations were there helping. It was just amazing,” Megginson said. “All along the way there was just an outpouring of help, people asking what can I do?”

The aircraft brought back several evacuees including one family, a mother and father with two children, that have U.S. visas. He was told the family had not eaten for a couple of days.

When they got back to Fort Lauderdale, they decided to take the next day off for maintenance of the aircraft.

Christine Lewis from the Museum of Flight had driven to Fort Lauderdale with a couple of volunteers and Megginson arranged with Delta to fly a mechanic down. Banyan Aviation and Aztec Airways personnel helped out with work on the vintage aircraft.

The Rome aircraft was scheduled for a trip to take a load of body bags to Marsh Harbour on Thursday, but by that time some of the winds from Tropical Storm Humberto forced a change of plans.

“If we had stayed there and the storm came, then we would have become part of the problem,” Megginson said. So the group headed back to Georgia.

Both Megginson and O’Hare expressed appreciation for the people who made donations to the GoFundMe account to help purchase the fuel and oil for the mission and added while in Ocala, a local woman also made a large contribution to the relief effort.

“We were the darlings of the fleet,” Megginson said of the effort in their vintage military transport plane.

Fraunchez Daniel, a first-grade student at St. Mary’s Catholic School

Development working on 18 different prospects

The industrial recruitment business is usually a business that gets done behind the scenes without a lot of fanfare until it’s time for companies to make public a decision to locate a new facility or expand an existing operation. New Rome-Floyd County Development Authority President Missy Kendrick didn’t give specifics, but told her board of directors Tuesday that her office is actively working on 18 different prospects.

“That represents about 20,970 jobs with a capital investment of over $750 million. We just got in another one yesterday afternoon, so we are actively working to land some of these projects,” Kendrick said.

Floyd County Commission Chairman Scotty Hancock asked about the revelation that Bekaert is planning a workforce reduction while they are still early in a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program related to an expansion in 2015. RFCDA Chairman Jimmy Byars said that authority attorney Andy Davis does his best to keep up with the promises companies make when they seek financing packages from the authority. Bekaert pledged to retain at least 120 jobs as part of the package and it is not clear what the employment level will level out at once the line shutdowns are completed, perhaps as late as March of next year.

Assistant Floyd County Manager Gary Burkhalter also said the tax appraisers office does its best to make sure that the assessed value of plants real and personal property reflects the level of investment they have pledged to make.

The development authority board approved the expenditure of $13,000, which they hope will help land future projects when they agreed to seek Trans-Atlantic Business Investment Council certification. Project Manager Heather Seckman explained that the TBIC is based out of Germany and works to bring European, particularly German companies, to the states to facilitate their expansion in North America. TBIC helps U.S. communities deal with European businesses and present the communities to the European companies in a way they expect.

“Communities tend to present the American picture of what their community looks like when a company may not really understand what they are saying,” Kendrick said. Seckman provided an example by telling the RFCDA members that when Americans speak of juniors and seniors in high school, a lot of European companies don’t fully grasp what they means because their education system is significantly different.

Kendrick said she hopes to initiate the certification process in October and have it completed before the end of the year.

Floyd County Manager Jamie McCord said his office continues to look for real estate for future industrial prospects.

“We’re just one sale away from not having any land,” McCord said. He also pointed out that of the top 11 properties that were identified as potential industrial sites a couple of years ago, seven of them are now tied up in either state or federal conservation easements and essentially unavailable.

The authority agreed to hold a half-day planning retreat on Oct. 18. Byars said that with some of the start-up efforts for the authority now out of the way, the group can start establishing some priorities as it relates to new incentive packages for industry and the most desirable areas to look for new land to attract industry.

Sport plane races may be added to Wings Over North Georgia Air Show next year

High-speed air races could be an added attraction when Wings Over North Georgia air show returns to Rome in 2020.

The races pit pilots against each other in timed laps around a course marked by telephone-pole pylons stretching 50 feet into the sky.

A test run and evaluation for a Federal Aviation Administration observer was conducted over Labor Day weekend, according to John Cowman of JLC Air Show Management.

“It’s pretty cool beans ... We got a lot more bang than we expected,” he told the Floyd County Airport Commission Tuesday.

Cowman’s waiting for final approval before making an official announcement. Just two U.S. venues are currently certified to do public air racing events.

Reno, Nevada, just wrapped up its annual five-day STIHL National Championship Air Races on Sunday. Red Bull got into the game internationally in 2003 and has held air races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 2016 — but the company is ending the promotional event.

“We’ll be the third. Then the second,” Cowman said.

Reno’s event has six categories, from biplanes to jets. The inaugural event at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport will likely feature sport-class planes, which are high-performance kit-built aircraft.

In Reno, the Sport Gold pilots clocked speeds well over 300 mph.

“These are seasoned, veteran aerobatic performers,” Cowman said.

The Wings Over North Georgia air show is typically held in October but Cowman put it on hiatus this year to redevelop his business plan.

“We stepped back to go forward,” he said.