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Raises planned for corrections officers
• The Floyd County Commission is slated to adopt its 2018 budget in mid-December.

Floyd County police officers and sheriff's deputies will see the final bump from their phased-in pay adjustments in their first December paycheck. Parity for certified corrections officers is next on the county commission's agenda.

"We asked these people to be patient," Commission Chair Rhonda Wallace said. "They were patient. They stayed with us, they're good employees and they're underpaid."

Funding is included in the board's 2018 budget, which is slated for adoption Dec. 12.

The draft presented Tuesday called for the three-year phased increase to start at the end of 2018. Commissioners, however, asked for a revision to implement the raises July 1 instead.

County Manager Jamie McCord said the plan would affect 112 positions — mostly in the work release center and departments such as public works and animal control, where officers oversee inmate work crews. The cost to the county is expected to be $236,000 over three years.

The amount of each raise is based on the employee's education, total years of service and years of service in a specific position. It's aimed at making pay rates for their positions comparable to what those employees can earn elsewhere. The adjustments are separate from the merit raises that will be available to all employees.

"We're doing this to bring our wages up so they're competitive in the marketplace," Commissioner Scotty Hancock said. "Not all of them are out of whack."

The phased-in adjustments for the police and sheriff's officers were calculated to add $612,353 to the county payroll.

McCord said when the corrections officer adjustments are fully implemented, the total for both initiatives would be nearly $1 million a year.

All five commissioners agreed on the funding during a budget review at their Monday caucus.

"We're committing to the three-year plan," Commissioner Wright Bagby Jr. said. No millage rate increase is proposed for next year. Finance Director Susie Gass said the 2018 budget is projecting a 2.5-percent increase in the tax digest — the value of taxable property within the county. Commissioners also went over the big-ticket items scheduled for purchase in the capital fund next year. Gass said departments and agencies submitted requests totaling $7.5 million. Money from the general fund will be used for about $1.9 million and another $2.3 million will come from grants, SPLOST revenue and other allowable sources such as the jail surcharge fund. The other requests are not funded.

The police department will get four replacement vehicles and the sheriff's office is slated for three. Among the other budgeted expenses are upgrades to the Thornton Recreation Center — "to make it more attractive for rentals," McCord said — video interpreting equipment for Superior Court, a remodel of the library conference room and handicap-accessibility improvements to the judicial center.


TODAY'S YOUNG ARTIST

Today's artwork is by East Central third-grader Trinity Brunni.


'A Fairy Tale Christmas Carol'
• Rome High drama students will open their production of "A Fairy Tale Christmas Carol" today for middle school students, but the public can come see them Saturday and Sunday at the school's auditorium.

Rome High drama students are putting a twist on Charles Dickens' Christmas classic by injecting a fairy-tale touch into each role, especially with the Big Bad Wolf playing as the formidable Ebenezer Scrooge.

"A Fairy Tale Christmas Carol" will open for the public Saturday at 7 p.m. A second performance will be Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Each performance will take place at the school's auditorium at 1000 Veterans Memorial Highway.

Tickets can be purchased at the door, and will run adults $7 each and students $5 each. Wednesday was the final dress rehearsal for students, as they will perform for middle school students today.

Teacher Kelly Hill is directing the production, which follows the same storyline as "A Christmas Carol" but with fairy tale characters taking on the roles. It's a tad bit more fun and lighthearted than the original, she added.

Drama students are taking on the acting roles, while members of the school's a capella group will play the Christmas carolers and sing all the classic tunes of the holiday.

Hill found the script online and thought it was really cute, she said, and decided to bring it to life. It really got the students laughing as they read over the script for the first time, she continued.

It's been interesting having Christmas music filling the air since October, when rehearsals started, Hill said, but the festive mood is picking up.

Adding a holiday show following the one-act play earlier this year is aimed at providing students with another opportunity to perform before the spring musical, Hill said.

Drama teacher Angelica Delzer handed the reins over to Hill for this production after recently having a child, but she has helped in the process of bringing along a young cast of over 40 freshman. It's been a really good opportunity for the younger kids, Hill said, as they dig into the fine details of what it takes to act.

There is some adult humor in the show, Delzer said, but nothing to compromise the family-oriented nature of the show.

Students Ella Brumbelow and Christian Simon, who play Cinderella and Prince Charming respectively in the roles of Bob Cratchit and Mrs. Cratchit, said the show differs greatly from some of their recent performances.

"Afflicted: Daughters of Salem" was one of Brumbelow's last shows she acted in, and her current role is more easy-going than her last, she said. Simon said there is just a lot of energy and enjoyment in this play and is happy for a reprieve from the serious.


Team reviewing Rome Police Department's accreditation seeking public comment

A team of assessors from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc. will be in Rome on Dec. 11 reviewing the Rome Police Department's policy and procedures, management, operations and support services.

As a part that assessment, members of the community are invited to offer comments at a public information session on Dec. 12, at 6 p.m. The session will be conducted in the city commission chambers at City Hall, 601 Broad St.

If you'd like to make a comment but cannot speak at the public information session you can call 706-238-5107 on Dec. 12 between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Telephone comments, as well as appearances at the public information session, are limited to 10 minutes and must address the agency's ability to comply with CALEA's standards.

A copy of those standards is available for review at the Rome Police Department, 5 Government Plaza, Suite 300. The process is a voluntary one entered by the Rome Police Department to verify that the agency continues to meet the commissions state-of-the-art standards — a highly prized recognition of law enforcement professional excellence.

For additional information, please contact the Rome Police Department Accreditation Manager, Stephanie Hill-Hudson at 706-238-5156.

Anyone wishing to submit written comments about the Rome Police Department's ability to comply with the standards for accreditation may send them to: Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc., 13575 Heathcote Blvd., Suite 320, Gainesville, Virginia 20155 or by email at www.calea.org.


Student tech projects in the spotlight
• HackBerry Lab hosts a Prototyping Open House to highlight the work of students in the creative technologies program.

Berry College students took to HackBerry Lab Wednesday for a Prototyping Open House, showcasing the technology and projects they've fabricated as part of the creative technologies program.

Zane Cochran, a creative technologies instructor, said around 120 students presented over 150 projects for the culminating event of four classes: introduction to prototyping, a vehicles course, rapid prototyping and intermediate design studio.

Tables inside the lab were filled with student creations, like a chibi kart with Nerf guns on the sides, a globe with tiny fiber optic lights recreating a satellite image of the Earth at night, or a homemade break-in alarm.

Senior Benji Britt had two items on display.

He used pallet wood to make a frame for a topographic map of greater Rome. After drilling tiny holes in the wood, he put LED lights in them to create a scattered lighting effect surrounding the map.

Also, in expanding upon his woodworking background, he made a lightup resin table, which has programmable neo-pixel LED lights so he can control the variations of color beneath the resin surface. The creative technologies program gave him a good excuse to experiment with what he has fallen in love with doing, he said.

Britt said most people don't have the basic skills for coding, welding or woodworking.

However, by taking a creative technologies course, it acts as a motivating force to not only learn the fundamentals of these trades but develop something of their own from it.

In a room over from Britt was sophomore Andrew Myers, sharing details about two pieces of technology to help deaf and blind people.

His special-hearing glasses will emit a pulse on its ends to help a deaf person better find the direction from which someone is speaking to them.

Microphones on the glasses were programmed to pick up an average-voice range, Myers said.

And whichever microphone — left or right — is picking up a voice, the corresponding motor will buzz, denoting the direction from which a voice originated. The motor will continue to buzz until the wearer is facing someone, he added.

Myers said he wanted to challenge himself and get into a more technology-oriented project, instead of submitting to what he already knows how to do well, like carpentry.

His second project involved a program, which is ready for Android devices, that is aimed at providing blind people with audio of the words on worksheets or reading materials. A teacher can use his program, which involves turning the alphabet into a color-coded font, to convert a document into audio.

A four-person group — Joshua Cutter, Mason Brown, Ryan Sepe and Emily Smith — in the intermediate design studio course partnered with Cevian Design Lab to find a solution to drainage issues on flatroofed buildings. Their flood gate prototype helps to alert maintenance staff that there is a significant amount of standing water on a roof and that something should done to correct a drainage issue. Their device fits into a drainage pipe, and if standing water reaches a certain level, an alert message is sent to a user, like a maintenance worker, regarding the pending problem.

Brown said the group had to overcome some coding barriers that come with sending messages between a small computer and a cellphone tower.

Another group in this course worked with the college's admissions office to find a way to give prospective students a better feel and knowledge of Berry's massive campus — because they just can't see it all in one visit. An interactive topographic map, in the shape of a pinball machine, was what students came up with.

A projector screens a map down onto the foam core and plaster surface. Users can then search through a touch screen, select a specific building or place on campus, and a revolving green circle will spin around the given location. Video footage from that location is then projected onto the surface of the map, giving viewers a greater sense of what each place is beyond the paragraphs of details appearing on the touch screen.

Student Hunter Tracy said he handled the programming of the projector and touch screen, while his fellow students — Sidney McAdams, Rory Fleming and Adey Duncan — handled drawing out the projected map, laser cutting the foam core and covering it in plaster before sanding it down. The group started from nothing, he added.

It's likely this map will meet its intended purpose by finding a permanent location in the admissions center, Tracy said.