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GDOT looking at bridge options
• The state has no funding or timetable for the Turner McCall Bridge over the Etowah River project.

Plans for the widening of the Turner McCall Boulevard bridge over the Etowah River and a Norfolk Southern rail spur are on the drawing board, but the state has no idea at this point when funding might be available.

Georgia Department of Transportation District Six Pre-construction engineer David Acree told Rome Floyd Chamber of Commerce Transportation committee members Wednesday the state is considering four, six and eight-lane alternatives.

Acree said for the most part, the project is on hold because of funding, but the state does have a consultant on board reviewing traffic and financial data to determine the best alternative to be ready when money becomes available. Cost estimates for the three alternatives range from $13.2 million for an improved four-lane bridge to $16.7 million for a six-lane bridge and $21.6 million for an eight-lane bridge.

"This is all conceptual," Acree stressed to the Chamber panel.

"How much would it cost if y'all started next week?" asked businessman Tom Bennett.

"That's what's being worked out right now," Acree responded.

Acree said consultants are projecting the bridge to accommodate 48,800 vehicles per day by 2040. Businessman Nathan Roberts said that kind of volume doesn't begin to approach what would warrant an eight-lane bridge.

"Turner McCall will never be more than six lanes so I don't know why you'd need an eight-lane bridge," Bennett said.

Funding aside, Acree said big challenges for the project remain right-of-way acquisition and impact on businesses leading up to either side of the bridge and the lack of a really good detour alternative.

Acree also updated the committee on several other major transportation projects including the Rome to Cartersville Economic Development Corridor. He said a final route was chosen last year, right-of-way purchasing is scheduled to begin late in 2020 and construction funding is tentatively slated for late 2022.

A new federal Interchange Justification Report for the link to I-75 at Old Grassdale Road is to be submitted to federal highway officials in May.

The next section of the Rome Bypass, from Ga. 101 around to U.S. 411 East is scheduled for construction funding in 2022 while the southern section from U.S. 27 near Georgia Highlands College around to Ga. 101 is currently slated for funding in 2024.

GDOT also announced the award of a $2,469,991 contract to resurface just over 10 miles of Ga. 100 in Floyd and Polk counties. E.R. Snell Inc. was the low bidder for work from just north of U.S. 278 near Cedartown to U.S. 411 in Cave Spring. The project is scheduled to be done by the end of January 2019.

Rome assistant superintendent to resign
• Rome City Schools' Brittney Wilson plans to resign June 30, a little over a year after she started the job.

Brittney Wilson

Lou Byars

Rome City Schools Assistant Superintendent Brittney Wilson plans to resign June 30, just over a year after she became the first to fill the post since the 2010-2011 school year, according to Superintendent Lou Byars.

Byars said Wilson informed him of her plans Monday, when contracts for next year were sent out. Intent letters were sent out in January. The last day of her contract is June 30.

In a news release from the system Tuesday night, reasons for Wilson's departure were to "explore new educational and other professional opportunities." Byars would not comment if Wilson was relocating for another job.

Wilson did not return a request for comment Wednesday night.

The system has already set out to look for internal candidates to replace Wilson, Byars said. Wilson "will be given other duties" — work connected to plans for a college and career academy at Rome High and grants for it — if a replacement is found before her resignation date, he continued.

The Rome Board of Education approved the hiring of Wilson during a meeting May 9, 2017, and she started the job in early June.

To add Wilson, the system cut two central office positions — chief of tech nology and chief of federal programs and human resources — Byars said at that time.

Prior to coming to Rome, Wilson served as the chief academic officer for Calhoun City Schools and chief executive officer for the Calhoun CCA. Her experience with CCAs was seen as an asset as Rome City Schools pushed forward in selling its ELOST — education local option sales tax — package to voters in the run-up to last November's election to extend the 1-cent sales tax.

Additionally, in her new position she was to play an integral role in establishing Rome's CCA and making it an effective tool in preparing students for life after high school.

Work is currently underway to con struct a new practice football field at the high school, an initial step to building the multipurpose facility which will house the CCA, which will be built on the site of the current field.


Today's artwork is by East Central third-grade student Charlee Butler.

Georgia Walk to School Day

Edcamp embraces exchange of ideas
• The fourth annual Edcamp Rome is Saturday at Pepperell High School, starting at 8 a.m. and running to 2 p.m.

Almost 200 educators are set to take part in the fourth annual Edcamp Rome, a laid back professional learning "un-conference" designed for the open exchange of ideas and knowledge.

The free event includes breakfast and lunch for attendees and will take place at Pepperell High School Saturday, starting at 8 a.m. and running until 2 p.m.

Matt Stover, the director of technology and network services for Rome City Schools, said 191 educators had registered as of 3 p.m. Wednesday to "get free learning from their counterparts." There were nine remaining slots at that time. Those wishing to attend can register on by searching "Edcamp Rome."

The event follows the model of the national Edcamp Foundation and was started through collaboration between the Rome and Floyd County school systems to establish a no-cost professional learning opportunity for local educators. It does not just draw teachers, but principals, parapros, board members and media specialists as well, from across the region.

"It's so unique because you go into it with nothing on the agenda," said Craig Ellison, the executive director of technology for Floyd County Schools.

To start the day, attendees come in and write down on a sticky note a topic they want to present on for 35 to 45 minutes.

These sticky notes fill out the session board, creating a schedule for reference.

The topics can be education-related but are in no way limited to that at all. Last year Ellison gave a presentation on the hiking trails of Northwest Georgia to about 30 people.

"It's all teacher driven and all teacher led," Ellison said.

The Edcamp model counters the idea of big professional learning conferences attended by vendors doling out sales pitches for their products, Stover said. The "vendor-free environment" provides real testimonies, "not paid for by a certain company," on educational software or equipment from those who have seen the impact it can have in a classroom, he continued.

Both Ellison and Stover said educators in their system have taken what they've learned at Edcamp and put it into practice, from fully utilizing the Google apps of G Suite to using You-Tube Live to share lesson plans with homebound students to implementing innovative classroom management techniques.

Coosa Middle School teacher Melissa Martin was one example Ellison gave. Two years ago she sat in on a presentation about gamified learning — turning traditional lessons into game format — from an out-of-district educator. She got absorbed in the idea and has completely gamified her classroom to increase student engagement. She then became a presenter at Edcamp to share her experiment with others.

Animal welfare alliance forming
• County commissioners plan to participate in the partnership that's holding its first membership meeting next week.

Allison Watters

Scotty Hancock

The Floyd County Commission plans to dissolve its 20-year-old animal welfare board and work instead with a newly formed regional alliance.

Commissioner Allison Watters is on the steering committee for the North Georgia Animal Partnership, which is holding an inaugural membership meeting next week.

Invitations have gone out to more than a dozen animal rescue and welfare groups in Floyd and surrounding counties. Plans are for the partnership to act as a central hub, providing resources and support for its members.

"We think we can help garner grant money for these organizations," Watters said. "It's a more collective and collaborative focus."

PAWS Director Jason Broome is also on the steering committee and Rome City Commissioner Evie McNiece was involved in the start-up.

Watters said local animal advocates have been the driving force behind the creation of the alliance, but she'll be asking them to reserve seats on the board of directors for a city and county government representative.

"As a public-private partnership, it broadens the scope of animal welfare management," she said.

Floyd County's animal welfare board was created by a 1994 ordinance and is unique among neighboring communities. But the Commission's recent decision to offer low-cost sterilization and other services in the PAWS medical suite led several members connected with local veterinary clinics to resign.

"There are three vacancies now, so it's the best time to revise it if you want to," Assistant County Manager Gary Burkhalter told the board.

Commissioner Scotty Hancock, a former animal control director for the county, said the partnership would provide opportunities for an active community buy-in that the animal welfare board lacks.

"They're people with good intentions, but there's not a lot of participation," he said. "They mainly just listen to reports."

The discussion came during the commissioners' annual planning session this week. They agreed to abolish the welfare board after checking with Rome officials to ensure it doesn't affect the two governments' shared services agreement.

County Attorney Wade Hoyt said an ordinance amendment could be presented as early as the Commission's Tuesday meeting.

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