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Last look at SPLOST package
• Here are details about projects included in the special purpose, local option sales tax proposal

Mike Mathews

Voters will decide Tuesday if a proposed $63,881,680 package of projects is worth extending the 1-cent special purpose, local option sales tax another five years.

If approved, collections would start when the 2013 SPLOST expires March 31, 2019.

The Rome, Cave Spring and Floyd County governments accepted the project list recommended by the SPLOST Citizens Advisory Committee after nearly four months of reviewing applications.

The package contains several citizensubmitted projects in addition to city and county proposals. About 41 percent of the funding is earmarked for transportation and a wide variety of public works projects, 26 percent for public safety, 22 percent for economic development, and 11 percent for recreation.

Here's a look at what's being proposed, in descending order of cost:

Agricultural center, $8,000,000

The main building would be an arena for shows and programs, surrounded by offices, cafes and a Georgia Grown store. Space for a permanent farmers market and food trucks would be included in the complex. Rental fees would offset at least some of the annual operating costs. A location has not yet been chosen but officials have looked at several sites.

Jail medical facility Phase II, $5,200,000

An unused pod in the jail on Ga. 53 would be remodeled as a mini-hospital, with a pharmacy and separate areas for sick, infectious and mentally disturbed inmates. The jail currently has four hospital bed cells and is adding up to 12 through the 2013 SPLOST. A formula used by the Georgia Sheriff's Association shows a need for 60.

Rome public works, $5,000,000

Just under half the allocation would go to installing sidewalks along roads between residential and shopping areas where pedestrians have already worn paths. Redmond Circle, Lavender Drive and Reservoir Street are among the proposed areas. The balance would go to repave deteriorated roads that were put on hold during the recession.

Historic Courthouse renovations, $5,000,000

The bulk of the money would be used to repair and restore the leaking and moldy historic courthouse on North Fifth Avenue. Some funds also would be earmarked for interior remodeling that could provide space for some offices currently housed in the overcrowded Judicial Center next door.

Roads and bridges, $4,500,000

A top priority would be resurfacing roads in the unincorporated part of the county that were neglected during the recession. Several bridges that have weight restrictions barring school buses and fire trucks would be upgraded and roads in the old mill villages also could see some improvements.

Public safety facility and equipment $4,400,000

The Rome Police Department would get enough money to complete its take-home car program, which officials say is key to attracting recruits. Most of the funding would go toward a burn building and modern training equipment for the Rome-Floyd County Fire Department.

Waterways, $3,639,500

The basement of the ECO River Education Center in Ridge Ferry Park would be remodeled to house more exhibits and storage space. A community boathouse would be the centerpiece of a second education area off Pollock Street in South Rome, and at least one river trail campsite would be built for ecotourists using the Northwest Georgia river system.

County capital equipment and vehicles, $3,400,000

The funding would speed up replacement of old county police vehicles and public works heavy machinery. Special Projects Manager Bruce Ivey has drawn up a priority list for fleet purchases that were deferred for several years.

Land for economic development, $3,110,000

Rome and Floyd County economic development officials want to buy parcels of at least 100 acres and ready them with the infrastructure needed to help lure large industries. Currently, there's only one site that large under government control, at Ga. 53 and 140. The earmark would be added to the $6 million still unspent from the 2013 SPLOST.

Prison security upgrades, $2,705,000

SPLOST Citizen Advisory Committee members who visited the Floyd County Prison on Blacks Bluff Road quickly agreed to the full amount of funding sought by Warden Mike Long. Funding would go to remodeling an old building to meet new safety codes, a digital camera system, replacement door locks, controls and lights and a full-body imagining scanner.

Texas Valley water line extension, $2,500,000

An 8-mile water line extension would serve another 70 or so households in the northern section of the county, but Public Utilities Manager Steve Hulsey said the biggest benefit would come from linking two dead ends of the system so water could be routed where it is most needed.

County public works facility, $2,450,000

The county public works facility on Black's Bluff Road — a 50-year old building and a double-wide trailer — would be replaced and a 5,000-square-foot warehouse added.

Recreation, $2,026,600

Big projects include a major upgrade to the Brushy Branch fishing lake, the skate park in Etowah Park and Parks Hoke Park in South Rome. Smaller improvements, including rubberized playground surfaces, are slated for parks around the county.

Fifth Avenue River District streetscape, $2,000,000

The city of Rome would speed up its streetscape efforts on Fifth Avenue and West Third Street. Officials want to encourage the development of a secondary commercial district, bolstered by the new Courtyard by Marriott hotel under construction on the river.

State Mutual Stadium improvements, $2,000,000

County officials want to modernize the stadium in an effort to keep the Rome Braves based there. New locker rooms, a larger store and a banquet pavilion are among the upgrades planned. Former Rome Braves Manager Mike Dunn has said the franchise would partner on the work but has not provided specifics.

Rome water system improvements, $1,750,000

The money would be used to replace the 2-inch water pipes in the Rosemont Park area with larger pipes and to extend the 20-inch main farther down Maple Road to increase pressure and fire protection.

Cave Spring sewer improvements, $1,281,000

The city needs the funding to repair its leaking sewer system, under order of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. Without the SPLOST, rates will rise exponentially for Cave Spring's customers and the EPD could take over the system to make the repairs itself, according to Mayor Dennis Shoaf.

Silver Creek Trail extension to Lindale, $1,180,000

The Kingfisher Trail would be extended from the Floyd County Health Department, along an abandoned railroad bed to Lindale. The path would link residential areas with destinations including Georgia Northwestern Technical College and Southeastern Mills.

Airport corporate hangar, $899,210

A corporate hangar would be built to house larger aircraft that will be able to land at the countyowned facility when the runway extension is completed. General Manager Mike Mathews said the overnight rental fees and additional gas sales would help pay for the facility, which would also be available for sale.

Barron Stadium improvements, $825,000

The earmark would pay to replace the artificial turf at Barron Stadium, which is slated to hit the end of its lifespan around 2020. A new scoreboard and improvements to the press box are included in the budget.

Special operations equipment, $248,200

The Rome-Floyd County Bomb Squad would get a new robot and X-ray equipment. Funding is included for protective vests and matching weapons for the SWAT team as well.

North Broad Youth Center recreation, $600,000

The money would pay for a covered multi-purpose sports pavilion and playground on land that would be donated next to the after-school facility at 1141 N. Broad St.

Public safety technology, $415,170

The Floyd County Police Department would get a major technological upgrade with forensic equipment, body cameras, in-car cameras, mobile tablets and a new server.

East Central secondary access, $395,000

A new entrance to the school, off East 14th Street and Bobo Drive, would relieve congestion on Dean Avenue in the mornings and afternoons.

Upgrades to the 911 Center, $257,000

The main center, in the Joint Law Enforcement Building on North Fifth Avenue, would get state-of-the-art consoles, a remodel for comfort and safety and security upgrades. The back-up center on East 12th Street would get a new phone recorder system.

RN-T.com

Read this story online to see previous reports about the SPLOST proposal.

Also at RN-T.com, see Q&As with Rome City Commission and BOE candidates.


COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Winning kisser has a new story
Catfish contest raises more than $3,000 for CRBI

Jesse Demonbreun- Chapman, CRBI executive director

A surge of last-minute donations pushed River Dog Outpost bartender Adam Sikes into the dubious first-place position for the annual Coosa River Basin Initiative Catfish Kissin' contest Saturday. A lack of ballots, in the form of dollars, meant that Mark McLucas and Mark Persails tied as bottom feeders in the eightperson contest, and they also "got" to pucker up with the Coosa River catfish at First United Methodist Church.

Sikes, who raised $642, made no catfish bones about it; he really wanted the opportunity to sidle up to the fish at the CRBI Fish Fry.

"I work on the river and we use it weekly, if not three or four times a week, so it's really important that our water is clean," Sikes said. "The health of our rivers is paramount."

Sikes used a raffle for one of his homemade gas can guitars to surge past Berry College Dean Tom Kennedy. Sikes has been making homemade electric guitars from unusual items for the past five years after seeing a video on YouTube.

Kennedy, who came in second in the event, finished with $608.

A last-minute surge of support for Davies Homeless Shelter Executive Director Devon Smyth also propelled her onto the stage for a smooch with the fish. Smyth raised $574. She leaned in, then grimaced and turned away. After regaining her composure, Smyth closed her eyes and was able to make quick contact with the fish which was being held, somewhat steadily, by CRBI board member Blair Carter.

The eight contestants raised a little more than $3,000, which was just enough to get CRBI Executive Director Jesse Demonbreun- Chapman to participate in the puckering Saturday afternoon.


ELOST to be decided Tuesday
• The proposal would extend the 1-cent education local option sales tax to fund projects for the Rome and Floyd County school systems

John Jackson, Floyd County Schools superintendent

Lou Byars, Rome City Schools superintendent

The fate of a proposed extension of the 1-cent education local option sales tax to fund capital projects for both the Rome and Floyd County school systems will be decided Tuesday as voters head to the polls for Election Day.

All 25 precincts will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday and voters will have to go to their assigned locations. To verify your precinct and registration status, check the Georgia My Voter website or call the county elections office at 706-291-5167.

The $80 million ELOST package contains projects for both school systems. The current education local option sales tax ends March 31, 2019, and, if passed by voters, the tax collections would start April 1, 2019 and run for five years, or until the revenue projection has been hit.

"I would like for the community to remember an investment in their children and their youth always pays great dividends," said John

Jackson, the superintendent for Floyd County Schools. "These projects are an investment in our future."

Jackson said there is no way to quantify the impact new facilities have on student achievement, but he believes there is a correlation. It has an intangible effect on making students feel that they are cared for and valued, he added.

"We believe that the continuation of the (ELOST) is very important for the future of our system when it comes to capital projects," said Lou Byars, the superintendent for Rome City Schools.

Byars said it's very difficult to meet the space demands and needs of building without this tax. He pointed to the 40 percent of funding generated through the tax coming from those outside of Floyd County as a benefit.

The two major projects for Floyd County Schools that would receive ELOST funding are the modernization of Armuchee High and the construction of a new Pepperell Middle. For Rome City Schools ELOST funding would be put to use in constructing a new Main Elementary, restructuring North Heights Elementary into a sixth-grade academy, and building a new multipurpose facility at Rome High that would include athletic facilities and a college and career academy.

To supplement ELOST funds, the systems would take advantage of state capital outlay funding.

Major Floyd County Schools projects

Modernizing Armuchee High would lead to replacing all of the replaceable systems in the school, including bathrooms, the roof, HVAC equipment and wireless internet infrastructure, according to David Van Hook, the director of facilities for Floyd County Schools. The project's cost would run the system about $25 million.

A major component of the modernization would be turning the courtyard at the front of the school into the new front office. The indent where the courtyard is would be filled in with an extension of the building. In addition to the roof being redone it would be raised and clerestory windows would be installed and would run from the front of the school to the back, providing natural lighting.

The current front office would be remodeled into a 21st-century media center. As part of a number of improvements to athletic facilities, a new 1,200-seat gym would be built where the tennis courts are, with the front entrance facing the main parking lot.

At a price of $20 million the Lindale community would get a new Pepperell Middle, which system officials have said is much needed. The current school has a litany of problems, including an inability of its electrical capacity to support a 21st-century school and the need for a new roof. Also, doors, windows and portions of the HVAC system need replacing, along with the walls needing to be re-waterproofed.

This would be the eighth new school the system has built using ELOST funds.

Major Rome City Schools projects

Building a new Main Elementary would cost Rome City Schools approximately $10 million to $11 million. The current Main Elementary is vacant as students are attending North Heights until construction is complete. Once a new Main is built, all of the students at North Heights would attend the new school. The system plans to go ahead with building the school even if the ELOST doesn't pass this year.

System officials have cited safety and inconvenience as the two concerns with the current Main that would be corrected with a new school. There are five independent buildings and students had to move between at least four of them on any given day. The cafeteria, which had a new kitchen installed and was renovated under the current ELOST, and gym would be tied into the new school.

A new Main would also have a built-in space for the system's servers, and putting an early learning center for 3-year-olds inside is also something the system is looking at doing.

For approximately $8 million to $9 million North Heights would become a STEAM — science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics — academy for all of the system's sixth-graders. This move has been touted as having an impact on all of the other elementary schools, as three to five classrooms at each of them would be freed up with the sixth-graders gone, alleviating some space constraints the system is currently attempting to respond to.

Work on North Heights wouldn't begin until a new Main is finished. In addition to being STEAM focused, the academy would be integrated with orientation into career pathways, along with developing an environment for hands-on activities.

The multipurpose facility at Rome High would cost about $14 million to $16 million. The building would allow for the system to expand on the 15 career pathways it currently offers. Pathways expansions could delve into medical-related fields, such as physical therapy, as well as culinary arts, automotive repair, construction, government services and multimedia.

A practice pad for the JROTC program and an indoor practice facility, which would be used by several sports teams, and locker rooms for the football team would be included in the building. A school-based health clinic and a student store are also planned for the building.

Other projects

Other items both systems would use ELOST funds for include technology improvements and bus replacements. Rome City Schools would also look to further add space at elementary schools and put air conditioners in elementary gyms. A new roof at Model Elementary, a data center for central servers and an additional access road to its CCA are other projects for Floyd County Schools.


TODAY'S YOUNG ARTIST

Today's artwork is by Ana Lopez, a fourth-grader at Unity Christian School.