Rome police will start enforcing an 11 p.m. curfew for unsupervised teens, but Chief Denise Downer-McKinney said they'll get a briefing on how to apply the new ordinance at a training session next week.
"It is not the intent to stop students going to and from the movies or on errands for their parents," Downer-McKinney said. "For those that are having behavioral issues, it will allow us to do something and hold their parents responsible."
City Commissioners enacted the ordinance Mon day night. It calls for anyone age 16 and younger to be out of public places and off the streets between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless they're with a custodial adult.
The list of banned spots includes parks, parking lots, malls, entertainment venues, school grounds and restaurants.
Police would first issue warning citations — to both the teens and their parent or guardian.
A second violation sends the child to Juvenile Court and the parent to answer a Municipal Court judge.
There are specific exemptions written into the ordinance: An emergency errand, a job, a school-sponsored activity or an activity involving "the exercise of First Amendment rights of free speech, freedom of assembly or free exercise of religion."
The ordinance passed with a vote of 6 to 2. Commissioner Evie McNiece was not present but Mayor Jamie Doss, who votes only in case of a tie, asked to be recorded in favor.
Commissioners Bill Collins, Milton Slack, Randy Quick, Craig McDaniel and Sundai Stevenson also supported the curfew. Commissioners Bill Irmscher and Wendy Davis were opposed.
Irmscher said "a lot of nice kids" are out late for legitimate reasons. He and Davis both said unruly teens should be reined in by the laws they're breaking instead.
"How about a mischief ordinance with this as the penalty," Davis argued during the caucus discussion. "But just existing at 16 outside your parents' field of vision ... We don't need to tell kids in this town that just because you went to a movie with your big brother or girlfriend you're a criminal."
Stevenson indicated opposition during a caucus discussion, when the curfew was proposed to start at 10 p.m. She gave examples such as a teen sent to buy diapers by a mother with three other young children at home, or a group of friends stopping at a fast-food place after the Coosa Valley Fair.
However, a change to 11 p.m. and assurances that the ordinance would be applied with restraint made her a supporter in the end.
"But we need to be mindful ... if they're just walking and being peaceful, I hope we would let them go," she said before casting her vote.
Commissioner Craig McDaniel, who chairs the public safety committee, said the ordinance had been thoroughly vetted by a number of interested parties before being presented. He cited increasing problems with vandalism, drugs and drinking in the parking decks, rowdy crowds and fights on the streets and other sources of complaints.
"This is not a kneejerk reaction," McDaniel said. "It gives our law enforcement officers another tool to enforce safety for our citizens."
The ordinance also calls for Downer-McKinney to submit a quarterly report "for up to one year" so the Commission can monitor curfew's effectiveness and determine if it's worth continuing.
A report for Rome shows 40 percent of residents live in a home with one or more of four issues which are considered to be impediments to fair housing.
The analysis of impediments to housing choice looks at four housing needs: cost burden, overcrowding, dwellings lacking complete kitchen facilities and dwellings lacking complete plumbing facilities.
"It did open our eyes to a few things," Rome Community Development Grants Program Manager Courtnay Williams Griffin told Rome's Community Development committee Tuesday.
According to the report, prepared by Mosaic Community Planning, African American, Latino and other non-Latino households are impacted by severe housing needs at disproportionately high rates in comparison to white households in the city.
It indicates 58 percent of white households in Rome own their homes, compared to 43 percent of Latino households and just 33 percent of African American households.
The report suggests that additional homeowner counseling and down payment assistance would expand housing opportunities for these households.
Committee Chairwoman Wendy Davis said that the rental market for the lower income properties appears to be pretty tight in Rome.
Griffin agreed and said she has seen the same problem with Section Eight housing, low income people who want to live in a single family home as opposed to apartments or public housing.
"Affordable housing is still one of our goals," Griffin said. "We would like to drive more home ownership."
The committee approved a new leasepurchase addendum to a pair of Department of Community Affairs housing grant programs.
Both programs have provided grant money to the city to build affordable housing for low-to moderate-income residents to purchase. The new lease-purchase arrangement will allow a potential buyer who might have an issue qualifying some time to get their finances in order to actually acquire the home within a 12 month period of time.
The agreement would allow the city to take a portion of the lease money and return it to the developer while another portion would be held by the city and used to reduce the principal on the purchase price at the time of closing.
Community Development Director Bekki Fox said the city has sold four of its HOME-Build properties on Wilson Avenue and has a strong lead on a prospect for the fifth home.
Three of the sales have closed, putting more than $294,000 into city coffers to reinvest in the construction of additional, new affordable housing. The closing of the fourth house will add another $90,000 to that fund.
Fox said the city expects to start construction of four more homes on Pollock Street in South Rome sometime in October or November.
Members of four local civic groups honored the first responders of Rome and Floyd County on Tuesday, during the third annual Frontline Awards Banquet at Coosa Country Club.
The Rome Noon Optimist Club, Seven Hills Rotary Club, Lions Club of Rome and Rome Kiwanis Club once again put the banquet together to honor firefighters, EMTs and 911 personnel.
The four people honored were: Rome-Floyd County Fire Department Capt. Benjie Smith, Floyd Medical Center EMT Andrew Garrison, Redmond Regional Medical Center EMT Jessica Nesbit and Floyd County 911 Center operator Becky Dean.
Fire Chief Troy Brock said Smith worked up the ranks after joining the department as a firefighter, now serving as a captain, and racking up a slew of certificates, "too many to mention." He has played a large role in the research for new gear the department provides its firefighters, as well.
Also, a cancer survivor himself, Smith started the firefighter relay team three years ago which raised $29,000 in T-shirt sales for Relay for Life.
Floyd EMS Capt. Andy Fairel said if anyone ever finds themselves in a situation of needing emergency medical help, they had better hope it is Garrison who is the one there for them. He described Garrison as an "unofficial leader," one who leads regardless of rank or position.
"He's the one you would want to clone," Fairel said. "He does an excellent job providing care."
In addition to his work on the ambulance, Garrison also serves as a bicycle medic for running events and serves on department committees.
Scotty Hancock, the director of outreach and EMS relations for Redmond, presented the award to Nesbit, who was described as "one of Redmond Regional Medical Center's most compassionate employees."
Nesbit, who is currently working on her bachelor's degree in nursing, is a hard worker who is always the one ready to step in to cover a shift or help in any way she can. She also volunteers on the Region 1 EMS Honor Guard.
When Dean was told she would be the recipient of a Frontline Award by Lt. Brandy Starcher, she replied, "Why me?" And that says it all in why she was an award recipient, Starcher said.
"She is one of the most cheerful people you will ever have the pleasure to meet," Starcher said. "She keeps up bebopping to some old school (music)."
Since 2004, Dean has been committed to her fellow operators at the 911 center and "she has gone through it all and come out with a smile," Starcher said.
Dean also has become the measuring stick for testing rookie operators, who have to learn to try and answer calls faster than she does.
To conclude the banquet, Bruce Peace, of the Rome Noon Optimist Club, told members of the public safety community in attendance, "We have a better community because of you."
Rome Board of Education members approved a new memorandum of understanding with its two partners in the South Rome Early Learning Center on Tuesday, after months of negotiations.
The approval by the board follows a move at last month's meeting to give their nod of approval to the eighth version of the MOU with Berry College and South Rome Redevelopment Corp. for the center at Anna K. Davie Elementary.
One of the two changes to the MOU from last meeting were any of the three partners can opt out of it at the end of a fiscal year, Superintendent Lou Byars told board members during caucus. Also, the SRRC is the only partner responsible for making any decision regarding dropping the number of classrooms or closing the center if there is a lack of funding — they are tasked with fundraising to cover operating costs.
In the MOU, Rome City Schools will provide around $15,000 to the center to pay for supplies and professional learning. This funding will come from a $1.26 million literacy grant the system received.
The school system is not responsible for any financial contribution outside of this, Byars said, other than providing the facility.
With the SRRC being the decision maker on what will happen to the center if funding dries up, Byars said it ensures the school system will not be turned to for providing funding, as had occurred earlier this year.
At the July board meeting, Byars said the school system's perspective on the MOU was for it not to have to bear a financial burden to keep the center in operation if fundraising did not cover the cost of running the center in the future. When talks for a new MOU began in March, the system had been asked to provide over $100,000 to pay the salaries of the two lead teachers and two assistant teachers at the center, due to several major grants ending and a fundraising deficit.
The center has two full classrooms right now, with 18 students each. The first time classes have been full during the first week of school since the center started four years ago. It has received a grant to pay for a year of tuition for 10 students, and is now a participating school in the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program, which allows individuals and corporations to donate to the center, providing scholarships, and receive tax credits.
Also on Tuesday, the board was supposed to consider approving a one-year $57,600 contract with V3 Publications. However, as Board Chairwoman Faith Collins said during caucus, "We do not have a contract," but a set of bullet points formed as a proposal.
Board members directed Byars to formalize what V3 will be providing into a contract form, and then bring it to them at next month's meeting for their approval. The proposed contract was removed as an agenda item.
Board members asked for the contract to specifically include a date each year when the contract could be terminated; who in the school system will be tasked with dictating responsibilities; how their performance will be measured; and ensure the information reaches a range of outlets.
This is the second time board members have pushed back deciding on the contract with the local company, which has been taking photos and writing news releases for the school system since January. The system has paid V3 on an assignment basis, Byars said, costing an estimated $3,000 to $4,000 a month.
Last month, board members had asked Byars to provide answers to what V3 provides that the school system does not already do.
On Tuesday during caucus, Byars said it provides an image for the school system, which it has lacked outside of having a championship football team, and can cover more than in-house staff.
"I'm not even sure we had an image," he said.
Byars added that V3 helps brand the school and make an impression on the community through coverage of school activities as well as recognizing students and teachers. Also, it can extend information to parents, community members and news organizations, he continued.
Board member Elaina Beeman asked why the school system needs so much marketing. Byars explained that before V3 the coverage of the school system seen by the public was mostly negative. Using them now helps to share a positive connection with the community, he said.
Today's artwork is by Noah Travis, a student at Model Elementary.