Two Grand Marshals will shepherd the Rome Christmas parade up Broad Street next Tuesday night. Frank Barron and Dr. Paul Ferguson were honored at the annual breakfast to announce the marshals Tuesday at Coosa Country Club.
The Christmas Parade, which Janet Byington said will feature more than 100 floats, will march up Broad Street from First Street to City Hall at 6:30 p.m. In the event of rain, which is not currently in the forecast, the parade would be held Nov. 30.
"When you go around to ask people about these two gentlemen, you get a lot of different replies," said Byington, longtime co-chair of the parade committee. "I got responses, 'Well, they're the grandfathers of Rome,' and then other people said, 'No, they're really the godfathers of Rome and Floyd County.' The one comment I heard that I think is the truest of all is they're the go-to guys."
Byington said Barron and Ferguson were the go-to guys when you wanted to get something done in Rome, or something done in Atlanta for Rome.
Ferguson is a native of Waycross, a retired neurosurgeon, and was president of Harbin Clinic for 12 years. Barron, a native of Rome, operated the Rome Coca-Cola Bottling Co.
Barron is a veteran of the U.S. Navy from World War II, while Ferguson served with the U.S. Army Special Forces in Vietnam.
"They have worked tirelessly for this community," Byington said.
Their professional and personal resumes are beyond extensive, but most recently, the two co-chaired the Rome Floyd Chamber Future Industries Initiative, which was instrumental in bringing the Medical College of Georgia third and fourth year program to the downtown Rome campus of Georgia Highlands College. The initiative has also put the spotlight on attracting high technology, innovative new companies to Rome and Floyd County.
Both have been honored with the Heart of the Community Board of Governors Award. Barron received the honor in 2014 and Ferguson in 2015.
"Their tireless efforts on behalf of this community will leave an impact for generations to come," Byington said. "They continue to leave a legacy and example for outstanding community service."
Participants can go online to www.romechristmasparade.com to find their position in the lineup. Co-chair Jerry Rucker said it was important for groups that plan to be in the parade to follow all directions in their parade packets with respect to line-up.
The demolition of Main Elementary to make way for the building of a new school could start as early as Monday, according to Rome City Schools Superintendent Lou Byars.
Building a new Main Elementary, estimated to cost about $10 million to $11 million, will be funded for the most part through an extension of the 1-cent education local option sales tax voters approved Nov. 7. The extension means collections of the tax will continue for another five-year period following the end of the current ELOST on March 31, 2019.
On Tuesday, wires hung from the hallway ceilings, insulation was piled up in the media center and ceiling tiles were stacked up. The final preparations were being made for Yes Grading Inc., out of Dawsonville, to demolish the school, excluding the gym and cafeteria, which are separated from the two central buildings.
The school system is waiting to get a demolition permit approved by the city, said Byars, but when they get it, hopefully by next week, demolition can begin. As part of getting the permit, all the utilities to the school had to be shut off.
The system is shooting to have the new school built and ready to open its door by the start of the 2019-2020 school year. Demolition work is expected to take around two months, pending weather and holiday delays, Byars said, and site grading and preparing the land for construction will follow.
J & R Construction & Development is the contractor at-risk for the project, so they carry all liability for it and are tasked with oversight. Subcontractor bids have already been put out and are due back Dec. 14, Byars said.
When last school year ended, the building was stripped for materials, such as hardware, that the system has to buy on a routine basis. The materials removed can be repurposed in other schools and will help lower maintenance costs, said Byars.
Teachers and staff at the school had packaged up all of their things and taken them to North Heights Elementary at the end of last school year. Main Elementary students are attending North Heights until the new school is built, at which time students and staff at the consolidated North Heights will move over to Main.
Byars expressed excitement for getting the ball rolling on the project and shared his thanks to voters for approving the ELOST extension.
Rome Tea Party members left their Tuesday meeting committed to support the "Article V movement."
It's a catch-all phrase referencing a provision that allows amendments to the U.S. Constitution through the actions of states instead of Congress.
"Congress is dysfunctional, folks," Rome attorney David Guldenschuh said. "Until the states step up, there's nothing I see that's going to stop it except a world war or we go off the financial cliff."
Guldenschuh, the speaker of the day, works with two of the Article V groups. One is seeking a balanced budget amendment, and the other wants to institute term limits. He also publishes a national newsletter tracking how close each of the nine groups are to success.
Once 34 states pass resolutions demanding it, Congress must call a constitutional convention. If representatives of 26 of the 50 states agree on an amendment, it gets sent around for ratification, which takes 38 states.
Mike Morton, a cofounder of the RTP, expressed surprise that the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force appears to be farthest along, with resolutions passed in 28 states including Georgia.
"I would say term limits — if you ask the people, that's what they want," he said.
Only Florida has passed a resolution calling for a convention on term limits, although legislation is pending in Illinois, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.
Senate Bill 2, authored by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, passed that chamber 31 to 19 this year and will be considered by the House in 2018. Opponents were mainly Democrats, but three Republicans voted "no" as well.
Guldenschuh didn't comment on the Georgia Senate vote, but he told the group that the Article V Movement is fighting on two fronts.
Liberals don't want a return to constitutional principles, he said, and two ultra-conservative groups — the John Birch Society and Eagle Forum — are afraid any convention would open the door for an attack on the Bill of Rights.
"The idea of a runaway convention is so prevalent," Guldenschuh said. "We have to get one done to prove we can stick to a single subject. Then, I think, the dam breaks."
The BBA Task Force has the best path to a convention, he said, and there will be a concerted push to bring aboard five or six more states next year.
Guldenschuh predicted the John Birch conservatives in Idaho and Montana will be the hardest to convince, and said fundraising would be key. He drew applause and promises when he urged the group to get involved.
While the Constitution's 27 amendments all came about through congressional action, a number of attendees said they're no longer counting on the federal legislative body as an agent of change.
"There is not enough courage there," Randy Smith said about the U.S. House and Senate. "They have everything they need, and they won't do anything."
One of the tools in the local industrial recruitment toolbox is the ability to offer a company a break on property taxes through a Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT fee program. Instead of tax money going to either the city or county, PILOT fees are paid to the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority for a specified number of years.
"For companies with very substantial capital investments, it's very important to them, and because everyone else does it, we would quickly be out of the running for a prospect if we didn't have that incentive," said Rome Floyd Chamber Economic Development Director Heather Seckman.
This year nine industries are making PILOT fee payments that will generate $364,993 for the authority, which in turn uses the money to further recruitment efforts. Lowe's currently makes the
"They're just as important as taxes," said Melinda Lemmon, director of the Cartersville-Bartow County Office of Economic Development about the PILOT fees program.
Eventually companies do come off of the PILOT programs and start paying property taxes.
Suzuki Manufacturing of America had an extended abatement on real property taxes when it opened over a decade ago, and was not paying property taxes until 2014 when they started with a real property — land and building — bill of $118,716.
Profile Extrusion, 100 Anderson Road, for example, came off a five-year plan this year for a major investment in new machinery.
The company paid $3,750 in PILOT fees annually, but this year paid the full freight in property taxes, amounting to $65,606.45 according to Floyd County Chief Appraiser Danny Womack.
Bekaert, F&P Georgia, International Paper, Kellogg, Neaton Rome and Syntec Industries are all currently on the PILOT program.
Seckman said the most recent use of funds from the PILOT fee program was for the production of drone footage of the 100-acre, recently graded industrial site at the northwest corner of the intersection of Ga. 140 and Ga. 53 in Shannon.
In order to qualify for a PILOT inducement, Seckman said a company must meet a series of five criteria, which includes a significant capital investment: creation of jobs — typically a minimum of ten new jobs for a new industry, a minimum pay plan of $10.50 an hour, they must offer employees a health care package and must also offer a retirement package. If a company meets those criteria, they would qualify for the PILOT plan, which provides they pay an amount equal to one-eighth of one percent of their capital investment.
Today's art is by Rome Middle School eighth-grader Donovan Moore.