Seven law enforcement officers in Rome and Floyd County were honored Tuesday during the annual Respect for Law luncheon at Coosa Country Club.
The event started out under the banner of the Rome Noon Optimist Club but has been co-sponsored with the Seven Hills Rotary and Rome Kiwanis clubs since 2013. The Rome Rotary Club joined the celebration this year for the first time.
The special honorees this year included Lt. Steven Cable from the Floyd County Prison, officer David Maguire with the Rome Police, Deputy Adam Cook with the Floyd County Sheriff's Office, Tfc. Jeremy Battle of the Georgia State Patrol, Community Service officer Chad Scoggins with the Georgia Department of Community Supervision along with Sgt. Rusty Williams and Pfc. Josh Ward with the Floyd County Police.
Floyd County police Public Information Officer Jerome Poole said the Respect for Law program was born out of discord and unrest across the nation in the mid-1960s and has been celebrated in Rome for more than 40 years.
Cable received recognition for his work at the prison, which includes supervision of all outside work detail opportunities, a program which involves close to 250 inmates on any given day. Deputy Warden Frank Cro nan also explained that Cable was instrumental in some flood rescues in the Cave Spring area this past winter.
Maguire was recognized by Sgt. Steven Smith for his work in keeping Operation Safe Seat alive.
The program has helped install child safety seats in countless numbers of vehicles in Rome and Floyd County. Smith said Maguire had taken a personal interest in the program and even taught classes in how the child seats should be installed.
Battle was called, "our top DUI guy," by Assistant Post Commander Eric Tallent. Battle was honored primarily for his life-saving efforts to treat a person who had been shot in the thigh during an incident in Floyd County. Tallent said that had Battle not been on the scene quickly and able to apply a tourniquet to the wound, that surgeons later said the victim probably would not have survived.
Williams and Ward were recognized by the Floyd County police for their efforts to use automated external defibrillators to save a heart attack victim out in the Beech Creek community in January of this year. Sgt. Chris Fincher siad, "The teamwork that was there really saved this person's life."
Scoggins was honored for his efforts to supervise Floyd County Drug Court offenders, a caseload which tops 130 offenders.
Rome DCS Administrator Brandon Henderson said Scoggins has been nominated for State Parole Officer of the Year six different times and had been nominated for DCS Officer of the Year twice since 2015.
Cook was chosen from the Sheriff's Office after being selected Field Services Division Officer of the Year by his fellow deputies.
"We pray for you guys every day," said Rome Mayor Bill Collins. "We know that you guys have our back at all times."
Rome City Schools' board of education met Tuesday night to conduct its first public hearing of the 2020 fiscal year budget as well as approve a Georgia Power energy savings proposal.
A proposal to retrofit all of the schools in the system with energy efficient lighting was presented to the board by Tim Williams, chief operations officer for RCS. Williams said the project will require no upfront capital since the energy savings will offset most of the cost of the project. Georgia Power will subcontract out the installation of the lights, which the system will pay for through monthly payments. Williams estimated the school system will have to pay an estimated $2,231 a month for 10 years, which will make up for what the savings do not cover each month. Superintendent Lou Byars said that once the system has paid for the cost of installing the lights — which comes out to around $1.7 million — the school system will be able to keep the 50-80% savings it will be getting from its electricity bill compared to the old lighting costs.
This project includes replacing lights in all of Rome City Schools with LED lights including parking lots and gymnasiums. This update will improve safety and security, Byars said, since lights in some parking lots are currently prone to flicker on and off at night.
The board approved a first reading of the 2019-2020 school year calendar. The calendar was updated to include three flexible learning days on Sept. 3, Oct. 7 and Nov. 1. This program was piloted earlier this year during a called snow day and the system set up a schedule of school assignment for students to complete at home.
The board also held their first public hearing for the 2020 fiscal year budget. Attendees to the meeting had the opportunity to sign up to give an opinion on the budget, however no one signed up to speak for Tuesday night's meeting. The budget will be presented to the City Finance Committee Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in the Same King Room inside City Hall. Rome City Schools will also post their budget online for public viewing before their second public hearing June 11. A sign up sheet will be available to anyone who wishes to speak about the budget.
The Phoenix Performance Learning Center and the Rome Transitional Academy were in the academic spotlight at this month's meeting presented by Principal Jennifer Perkins. Perkins thanked the board for supporting her students in their nontraditional pathways. She went over the different ways the PPLC and RTA provide services to students and attributed student success to a positive atmosphere, reliable staff and partnerships with community organizations.
At every May board meeting the school system recognizes RCS personnel that retired during the school year or at the end of it. Board Chairperson Faith Collins and Byars called each retiree up one-by-one and presented them with a certificate as well as an RCS pin for their service. Others recognized at the meeting included students who achieved various honors in academics, athletics and arts.
Ledbetter Properties expects to close July 1 on its purchase of the old Kmart tract on Hicks Drive. Demolition is slated for Aug. 1.
"We're going to raze everything," Wright Ledbetter told the Rome City Commission just before their final vote to create a tax allocation district on the 19.74-acre site.
Ledbetter said plans include tearing up the pavement and ripping out all the water lines and utilities. The idea, he said, is to "rebalance the site" with new utilities, paving, landscaping and buildings.
"There's a high cost to this, which is why we're asking for TAD financing," he said. "It will be about $650,000 an acre to redevelop."
With TAD financing, tax increases due to improvements on the property will be funneled back into the project to help offset costs. It's a mechanism approved by local voters more than a decade ago to encourage re-use of vacant and blighted areas.
The 25 or so stores and restaurants at the new East Bend center will compliment the company's Riverbend center on the opposite side of Turner McCall Boulevard.
Bob Ledbetter confirmed that the anchor stores and restaurants — which are still being kept under wraps – would all be new to Rome. A recent retail trade gap analysis indicated many people go outside the county to shop. He said the mix of businesses they're planning is aimed at recapturing those lost sales.
"This is like landing an industrial project," Commissioner Craig McDaniel said. "It's going to bring in a lot of retail dollars from outside the county"
McDaniel said he's heard concerns that the development would hurt Broad Street businesses, but the offerings at the two areas will be different. And East Bend is expected to need about 400 workers when it's built out.
"It's retail, but those are 400 jobs to replace the ones we've lost," he said. "It's also going to boost our quality of life. The hospital is trying to recruit people, so that's important. This is going to be a huge plus for Rome."
In answer to a question from Commissioner Wendy Davis about the expected increase to traffic, Wright Ledbetter said they have a partial solution.
Some of the development money will go to reworking the stacking lanes on Hicks Drive, to add capacity, he said. They're also adding another right-in-right-out access point to the site.
There's 190,000 square feet of (now vacant) retail space on the site, he noted, and they're going to cut that down to 100,000 square feet. But there will be more businesses.
"We hope the traffic infrastructure will be sufficient, but it probably will ... 'enhance the congestion,'" he said with a smile. "When you're bringing new businesses to an area, that's going to be a reality."
Mayor Bill Collins praised the Ledbetters' previous projects in the city — most recently, RiverWalk center on Riverside Parkway — and other commissioners added their confidence in the company's work.
"That fact that we've got hometown developers taking on this project is very important and a bonus," Commissioner Jamie Doss said. "The ripple effect will benefit us all."
The Ledbetters still need to get TAD approval from the Floyd County Commission, but board members have separately indicated they would support an intergovernmental agreement with the city.
While the city plans to begin a slow roll of its new parking enforcement plan downtown next week, there will be no changes to downtown parking rules for graduation ceremonies at the Forum River Center on May 25.
Parking will be free in both the Fourth Avenue and Sixth Avenue parking decks. There will be a $5 fee at the Third Avenue deck which will be staffed with people collecting the fee so guests won't have to deal with kiosks.
"We haven't changed anything as opposed to what we've done in the past," Assistant City Manager Patrick Eidson told members of the city Community Development Services committee.
There will be one change — but only as it applies to graduation attendees who choose to park on Broad Street. Beginning next week, the hours of enforcement of the two-hour daily limit on Broad Street parking will be extended from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Floyd County Schools have inquired with Parking Services Manager Becky Smyth about leasing the deck for all of the county school graduation exercises, one on Friday night and the other three on Saturday.
The fee for leasing the deck is $300 per day, so if the school system decides to offer free parking for all four ceremonies it would cost $600.
Smyth said the schools have always been offered the opportunity to lease the deck in the past but have never taken advantage of the offer.
City officials are excited about the use of License Plate Reader technology for enforcement purposes downtown, Eidson said. It will provide hard data about everything from employees who continue to occupy prime spaces to the number of out-of-town visitors who shop and dine downtown while they are in Rome.
The committee also discussed the presale of one of the four new homes being built on Pollock Street.
"We have tremendous interest in the other three," Community Development Director Bekki Fox added. She said the city plans to start construction on three more single-family homes on Peachtree Street later this year.
Fox said the draft budget for 2019 Community Development Block Grant funds includes $186,400 for sidewalk improvements, primarily along the Maple Avenue corridor and $155,000 for housing rehabilitation.
Emma Wells, the Keep Rome Floyd Beautiful coordinator, said a big cleanup program is scheduled for Saturday along the Etowah River behind Home Depot, as well as the area on the back side of the shopping center at the base of the Norfolk Southern railroad track from the river to Turner McCall Boulevard.
Also on May 24, Wells will partner with the Keep Bartow Beautiful office and Georgia Power volunteers for a cleanup of the Etowah River by canoe and kayak in the area of Neel's Landing off U.S. 411 at Macedonia Road.
Today's artwork is by Khloe Cox, a third-grader at Pepperell Elementary School.