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Airport welcomes new chief
• The new Richard B. Russell Regional Airport manager starts work with a two-month surplus.

John Carroll

John Carroll took the reins at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport this week and found out the airport is showing a $33,729 profit two months into 2019. Carroll also spent some time learning the airport grounds a little better while escorting inspectors from the Georgia Department of Transportation aviation wing for their annual review of the airport Tuesday.

Floyd County Assistant Manager Gary Burkhalter, who has been overseeing operations at the airport for the last nine months, explained that through the month of February, fuel sales are up $25,000 as compared to the first two months of last year. Overall, revenues are up 20 percent while expenditures are down 12 percent, leading to the positive financial report during the Airport Commission meeting.

"We're starting off the year very well," Burkhalter said.

Burkhalter said local leaders who went to Washington D.C. earlier this month met with Federal Aviation Administration officials to see if grant money could be generated to get all of the funding necessary for the 1,200-foot addition to the main runway at Admiral John H. Towers Field. Floyd County Manager Jamie McCord said he was particularly hopeful for additional federal money because U.S. Department of Transportation officials were not aware that Floyd County was coming to the table with more than $5 million in local funding for the project.

"Hopefully that will carry some weight," McCord said. "We're going to get the project done, one way or another."

McCord did say if new federal money comes to the airport for the runway extension, it many mean the project will have to be rebid with the myriad of federal strings that come attached to the money.

Consultant Mike Van Wie told airport commissioners that work on a new overlay on the secondary runway should start around April 1 and be completed in less than a month.

Alfred "Spanky" Carnes, a veteran local pilot, told commissioners they might want to think about adding some new hangars at the airport. He said general aviation interest was growing again and the airport in Calhoun was in the process of adding 18 new hangars.

Burkhalter said the county was in the process of adding four new hangars. A large multi-use building, which could serve as a corporate jet type of hangar, is included in the 2019 SPLOST package.

Carnes also suggested it may be time for resurfacing of some of the taxiways between rows of existing hangars.

John Cowman, who runs the Wings Over North Georgia air show, reported federal authorities had nixed the idea of air races at this year's Labor Day weekend show. Cowman is in the process of trying to revive those plans, pointing out that the course for the duel air match-races does not direct aircraft toward the crowd. Otherwise, the 2019 show was looking to be in good shape with a full lineup to be announced later.

Pepperell Middle may have no urinals
• The exclusion could save the system around half a million dollars.

Jeff Wilson, Floyd County Schools

Plans to demolish Pepperell Middle School and build a new school where the old one stood are falling into place with Floyd County Schools finding new ways to cut back construction costs for the new facility.

David Van Hook, director of facilities at Floyd County Schools, said not including urinals in any of the school's bathrooms could save the system up to half a million dollars in construction costs.

"Believe it or not, urinals are more expensive than toilets, and they break more," Van Hook told the board of education Monday night. "We will save money in operating expenses but also by being able to use the different fixture calculations we will be able to cut an entire restroom out of the school."

He said Superintendent Jeff Wilson had him call schools around the state of Georgia and received good feedback.

"Basically the boys restrooms and girls restrooms will be identical," he said.

"From a cleaning standpoint, boys can't hit the target no matter what it is," Wilson added.

Another way the system is looking to save on construction costs is to use drywall for interior walls instead of staking concrete blocks on top of each other Van Hook said. FCS is looking at impact security Sheetrock.

"The really good thing about this is it lets our construction company build wall sections in a warehouse somewhere and ship them to us and stand them up and glue them together and be done with the walls," he said.

This would not only save on cost but will cut down on the schedule of the school. It could potentially make a difference of a couple of months as well as trim wall costs back approximately 30 percent, he said.

Demolition of Pepperell Middle is scheduled for the beginning of June and crews will work to prepare the construction site for when the board's request to begin building is approved later this year.

'Bugz, A Musical Play for Young Voices'

"Bugz, A Musical Play for Young Voices," featured talent from East Central Elementary School who played different insects and arachnids in two performances at Second Avenue Baptist Church.

Harper testifies that he shot man in self-defense; his brother says otherwise
• Jury deliberations will continue in the murder trial this morning.

Grady Harper Jr.

The second day of testimony continued in the trial of 29-year-old Grady Harper Jr. who is facing murder, aggravated assault and other felony charges for the June 16, 2018, shooting death of 36-year-old John Alton Allen Jr. outside of his Wright Street home.

The incident started the night before, when Harper's brother, Jamal Harper, and Allen got into a confrontation near the Hop-N-Shop on Calhoun Avenue.

Wendy Williams — a friend of Allen's — testified on Tuesday that Jamal Harper contacted her on Facebook after the argument, telling her to tell Allen he wanted to fight — to get "his one." The next day both Jamal Harper and Grady Harper walked to Wright Street — where Allen lived.

Grady Harper testified Wednesday that he'd brought his gun but kept it hidden. Despite being a convicted felon, he said he carried it regularly and didn't know about the conflict between his brother and Allen until they ran into him in North Rome that day.

"That's just a coincidence?" Assistant District Attorney Luke Martin asked. "He said he was going to get 'his one' in the morning. He brought his brother and a gun. That's just a coincidence?"

"Yes sir," Grady Harper said.

A silver SUV pulled up beside them and the two men began arguing. They agreed to go down the street to fight. When they all got to the spot, Allen and Jamal Harper argued but didn't fight, Grady Harper testified.

"They were just dancing and cussing," he said. After a while they walked off but didn't get far before Allen struck Jamal Harper and knocked him into a ditch. At that point Grady Harper said he opened fire, shooting Allen four times. Bullets struck Allen in the chest, stomach, arm and hand.

Early Wednesday, Jamal Harper took the stand and testified his brother didn't have to kill Allen. Later, Grady Harper said he felt he had to shoot Allen, that his and his brother's lives were in danger.

"That's when he looked at you and said 'I'm sorry,'" Martin said to Grady Harper. "He said you didn't have to shoot."

"I can't feel what he feels. I can only feel what I feel," Harper said. "I was scared he was going to murder me and my brother. There wouldn't be nobody to tell the story."

Martin asked him why he fled to Savannah where he was captured several days later. People were out to get him, he said, because of the shooting.

"I wasn't ready to lose my life," Harper said.

The jury heard closing arguments Wednesday afternoon and will continue deliberation at 9:30 a.m.

What should stay and what should go
• The Floyd County school board weighs who should pay to rent facilities and who should be excluded.

Melinda Strickland

April Childers

Jeff Wilson, Floyd County Schools

Floyd County Schools Board of Education tabled a school facilities policy Monday night to discuss if language should be changed to clarify how the policy will affect feeder programs and if religious groups should be excluded from renting school facilities.

"This isn't something that has to be done today but we certainly want to do it before next (school year)," Superintendent Jeff Wilson said during Monday night's caucus.

The board wrestled with which organization should be required to pay a fee and which shouldn't.

Board member Melinda Strickland pointed out travel sports teams would have to pay fees to rent school facilities even though members of the team may be a Floyd County School student.

The policy currently allows teams affiliated with the Rome-Floyd Parks & Recreation department to use county school facilities for free, but does not cover travel teams or YMCA teams. The policy protects Parent Teacher Organizations, school clubs, booster clubs or any other schoolrelated activities, which was a concern brought up by FCS Board Chair Tony Daniel.

"We can clear that language up," Deputy Superintendent April Childers said.

The board also discussed adding language to the policy which would prohibit any religious group from renting the school facilities.

According to Daniel, attorney King Askew is looking at if doing so would even be legal.

"We can't do anything to violate anybody's rights," he said Wednesday.

Daniel added he isn't antireligious, but what needs to be understood is that if the board allows one religious group to use a school facility then they would also have to allow any other religious group to rent it as well.

"It's best to exclude all religious groups," he said. "But the language needs to be extremely clear and legal. We can't be over selective, it is taxpayer property."

During Monday night's caucus Strickland called the suggestion discrimination, and member Chip Hood questioned what the position would be on non-religious groups. Askew added people will have different ideas or opinions on what religion is.

"I say leave it alone because you're gonna open up a can of worms," Strickland said.

The policy was introduced by Wilson at last month's board meeting. He cautioned the board that if they voted to open up the use of facilities to anyone and everyone, that meant it may attract groups the board or school system did not agree with.

"Just know if another group we don't politically or philosophically agree with wanted to rent the facility, we could not deny anybody specifically to rent," Wilson said at February's meeting.

When an outside organization rents out a county school facility, they will not only be responsible for paying the fees associated with the lease, but will also have to pay a Floyd County School employee to be present.

The non-school organizations will have to make a request to use the facilities at least 30 days before their event.

School-sponsored activities will always be given first priority, with second priority given to booster clubs, parent teacher organizations or any extension of the school as determined by the board of education. Non-school groups will not be allowed to schedule events that conflict with school activities. Only Floyd County residents can sponsor events held on FCS property.

Applicants who advertise their event must put a disclosure in their published or printed materials which states the event they are conducting is not endorsed by the school system or by the board of education.


Today's artwork is by Adonias Puac, a pre-K student at Alto Park Elementary School.