The Cave Spring City Council is moving forward with a sewer system fix, based on funding approved in the 2017 SPLOST package.
"We have to. We're under a consent order," City Clerk Judy Dickinson said Wednesday. There's a $1.2 million earmark to rehabilitate the failing system in the new special purpose, local option sales tax package, but collections won't start until April 1, 2019.
Council members signed off Tuesday on an application for a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant. The Georgia Department of Community Affairs is expected to announce the awards in the late summer or early fall.
Meanwhile, the council also is applying for an emergency low-interest loan of $100,000 through the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority.
"We shouldn't have a problem getting that," Dickinson said.
The board also awarded an $82,772.50 contract for video inspection of the system to low-bidder Gulf Coast Underground LLC, out of Mobile, Alabama.
Infiltration is the main problem, with heavy rain seeping in and causing overflows of untreated sewage. A series of spills in 2016 led the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to sock the city with fines totaling $32,867 — and the amount would have increased with further violations.
Under an amended consent order approved Tuesday, however, the fines are halted while the city works on its corrective action plan, and the amount owed may be used to offset the cost. In other action, the council is seeking an increase to its hotel/motel tax, to 8 percent from 5 percent.
Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, submitted House Bill 921, the enabling legislation, along with co-sponsors Reps. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, and Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville.
"It puts them on a par with Rome and other communities," Lumsden said Wednesday.
Dickinson said it won't be a large influx of money.
The city projected revenue of $6,500 this year from the four lodging venues: Tumlin House Bed and Breakfast, Hearn Inn, Creekside Motel and Beaver Run RV Park.
"We always use it for fireworks and other events to bring people into town," Dickinson said.
State law requires at least 2 percent to go to a registered Destination Marketing Organization to promote the community and encourage tourism. Council members are asking the Rome Floyd Chamber to take on the task.
The council also revived its cemetery committee and is contracting with a Floyd County Prison work crew to clean up the Cave Spring Cemetery on weekends.
A major southeastern developer, Smith Douglas Homes, will build out the vacant lots in the Magnolia Walk subdivision off Smith Road, in the shadow of Mount Alto.
Jim Van Kirk, director of marketing for Smith Douglas, said the company hopes to close on the acquisition of 37 lots during the month of March. He said Dee Yancey III of Rome is listed as the seller.
Geoff Shrewsbury, vice president of operations for the Smith Douglas Homes Atlanta office, said the company would construct a few homes at a time and let the market determine how quickly they finish out the development.
"If we feel like we can sell two or three houses a month we'll kind of go at that pace," Shrewsbury said. "If we see the market has more momentum than that we'll accelerate by a house or two a month."
"We think there is a lot of pent up demand for new construction that is (financially) within reach," Van Kirk said. He said most of the homes at Magnolia Walk would be three-bedroom, two-bath ranch style units, priced in the low-to mid- $100,000 range.
Shrewsbury said the company has had a lot of success as they move further out from the north metro Atlanta market, and has been doing a lot of work in Bartow and Paulding counties the last couple of years.
"Rome has been on the horizon for us," Shrewsbury said.
"Like a lot of projects, it sat through the downturn in the housing market," Shrewsbury said. "We just feel like Rome is a viable option for us right now."
Surveyors with Southland Engineering were on site Wednesday getting new measurements for each of the overgrown lots.
"They build a really high quality product that usually sells pretty quick, said Kevin Cooney, a vice president at Southland. "We've been doing a lot of work for them the last couple of years."
Smith Douglas also has offices in Birmingham, Nashville, Raleigh and Charlotte in addition to the Atlanta office in Woodstock.
True tales of difficult cousins, bad bubblegum experiences and bossy big sisters and brothers have all been fodder for some young storytellers at North Heights over the last few weeks.
The fine art of storytelling has been a major focus for students across the area lately, as they prepare for the 2018 Big Fibbers Storytelling Festival.
At North Heights Elementary, about 20 students — all girls — have been working hard to hone their stories with the help of local storyteller Jane Cunningham. Cunningham has visited the school six times during the ASPIRE after school program to help the group get comfortable with sharing their stories, as well as teaching them how to use body language and facial expressions to add to their tale.
"I love to hear their stories," Cunningham said. "I love letting them know they have a story to tell."
The Debby Brown Young Tales Storytelling and Writing Program — which is part of the Big Fibbers festival — gives each student that participates a red notebook so they may jot down their ideas.
Local storytellers visit area schools and bring the notebooks and ask the students to make notes about things in their lives they want to tell stories about. These things are often something they may have gotten scolded for or something unusual that has happened to them.
"It helps us to talk about things we have done," said Avielle Beedles, North Heights student. "It helps to get it out. We get to learn different stories and watch storytellers from other places, too."
They are asked to share their stories and what they learned from the experience. After practicing telling their stories to their peers and to Cunningham, they are encouraged to write their story in their notebooks. These notebooks will serve as their admission to the storytelling festival in March. Several students also will be picked to compete in the Young Tales competition.
"I like this program because the kids get very involved," explained North Heights teacher Felicia Hall, who was helping out during the storytelling workshop. "Lots of times, they don't get to tell their stories and this gives them a chance. It also gives them presentation skills."
The camaraderie amongst the girls participating in the workshop has been a wonderful thing to see. As each girl is asked to stand up and share their story or perhaps recite a story that Cunningham has taught them, the others encourage, and sometimes even plead, with her to do it.
"We want to hear your story," said Zakeria Heath, as she sat watching her friends share their tales.
Terrell Shaw, president of the Ridge & Valley Storytelling Guild, which sponsors the festival, said he thinks storytelling is a great way to teach children and to get them interested in all types of subjects.
"I started teaching in 1969," he said. "I've used some storytelling methods all along. We talk before we write. I find that kids can get involved in folktales and it makes them want to learn about history. This is a great way to get students to appreciate creative writing in elementary school."
The benefits don't stop at just writing, however, he added.
"It helps in social studies, history, even science," he said. "If you can tell a story, it makes it more real, less dry. It helps it stick in their minds."
State legislators in the 14th Congressional District elected Jerry Shearin of Dallas on Tuesday to represent Northwest Georgia on the State Transportation Board.
"It was a very close vote," Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, said about the contest between Shearin and former Whitfield County commission chair Mike Babb. "Both of them were very knowledgeable about transportation issues."
Shearin, a former chair of the Paulding County Commission, is president of Brightway Insurance.
He fills the STB seat left vacant due to the retirement of Roger Williams of Dalton.
The 14th District covers the counties of Floyd, Polk, Chattooga, Gordon, Whitfield, Walker, Catoosa, Dade, Pickens, Murray, Haralson and Paulding.
Board members are chosen by the state representatives and senators from their respective districts to serve five-year terms. They oversee general activities of the Georgia Department of Transportation.
"I appreciate your faith in me and am thrilled to represent you and our constituents," Shearin told the delegates.
Lumsden said Shearin is familiar with the pending U.S. 411 Connector project, now dubbed the Rome-Cartersville Development Corridor, and its importance to the region. The new board member also committed to keeping tabs on the two-part Ga. 140 widening project underway between Ga. 53 in Shannon and U.S. 41 in Adairsville.
"I'm confident he will keep our needs in the forefront," Lumsden said.
Also on Wednesday, legislative caucuses reelected board veterans Jamie Boswell of Athens, representing District 10, and Emily Dunn of Blue Ridge for District 9.
Today's artwork is by Alto Park third-grade student Marleigh Roman.