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Reactions vary to parking study
• DDA Chairman Bob Blumberg says nothing has been set in stone in regards to paid parking on Broad Street.

Downtown merchants and property owners were split in their reaction to a consultant's report which recommends paid parking on Broad Street.

"The beauty of Rome is that you've got some off-street parking. We'd love to have people park one time and walk around downtown," said Mike Martindill, with Tim Haahs and Associates, the firm that drew up the report.

The report was presented to property and business owners Tuesday night, and at the end of the meeting Downtown Development Authority Chairman Bob Blumberg asked for a consensus on the concept of paid parking.

Slightly more than half of the approximately 50 people at the meeting expressed a willingness to at least consider the idea.

"Nothing here is locked in stone," Blumberg said.

The report reads, "In order to encourage long-term patrons to utilize the off-street parking facilities, the rates charged off-street should be lower than those charged on-street. Since the onstreet is currently free, patrons are incentivized to drive around, even if it takes several loops through downtown, until a vacant on-street parking space is located."

The Haahs and Associates report said the current system actually increases traffic congestion and carbon emissions.

It also creates additional opportunities for pedestrian/vehicular conflict.

"We need to look at this as an opportunity as opposed to a problem," Blumberg said.

With free parking on Broad Street, the Haahs study concludes that that visitors get the perception that Rome does not have enough parking.

"The customer also becomes frustrated as they are not able to quickly find a place to park and may have to walk several blocks to get to their destination," the report concludes.

The consultants recommend $1.25 an hour for on street parking with a three-hour maximum. Haahs and Associates suggests $1 per hour parking at the Fifth Avenue deck and the annex lot off First Street. They are recommending $2 flat daily parking fee in the Third Avenue and Sixth Avenue decks, for up to eight hours.

Martindill suggested the city look at using smartphone apps to help make paying for Broad Street parking easy. Libby Thomas, of Blonde on Broad hair salon, said she gets a lot of older women in for their hair appointments on Friday and was concerned about their reaction to using a smartphone to pay for parking. "It would blow their mind," Thomas said.

Mark Cochran, principal at Cevian Design, a Broad Street architecture firm said, "It used to be that Broad Street drove parking, and now we're at the tipping point where parking is driving Broad Street. If we don't do something about it very soon I believe we're going to hurt Broad Street."

He said he was willing to support paid parking on Broad Street because he believes that it would ultimately lead to construction of a new parking deck on First Street at the Midtown Transit lot, which he feels is critical for the future of downtown.

Harry Brock, who owns a business and property on Broad Street, said he doesn't necessarily agree with paid parking at this time.

"I just don't think it fixes the problem," Brock said. He said an employee database that would detect when an employee of a business gets multiple tickets would be helpful.

"They know who these people are, they know who's abusing the system," Brock said. "This is only if you're trying to minimize cars on Broad Street. If this is a money generator then do what you've got to do."

Ira Levy asked if any provisions would be made for someone who just wanted to drop into a bank or store for 10-15 minutes. Martindill reiterated that nothing had been locked in yet, and said it may turn out that a plan would allow the first 15 minutes free.

Down town Parking Manager Becky Smyth said a follow-up survey to the Tuesday night meeting would be sent out to the property and business owners, and there would be an opportunity for public input as well.

"People can send questions or comments to the Downtown Parking email."

Taking a look at the citation schedule, the Haahs report suggests doubling the fines for third and fourth unpaid parking violations from $20 to $40 for the third offense and $40 to $80 on the fourth offense.

The full report is available on the Downtown Development Authority website under the Parking tab.

Read this story online for a link to the parking study.

Fire guts home on Old Ga. 140
Bartow County Fire Marshal's office: Arson suspected

Fire caused extensive damage to a vacant home on Old Ga. 140 just across the Bartow County line early Wednesday morning.

Sgt. Jessica Green with the Bartow County Fire Marshal's office said there was no question in her mind the fire was intentionally set.

"There were multiple points of origin," Green said. She would not speculate on the type of fuel that was used to ignite the fire.

Flames were reported by neighbors around 7:40 a.m. on Wednesday. Neighbors said the house at 132 Old Ga. 140 had just been sold, however Green said from what she understood the sale had not been completed yet. Green said that was an issue that needed to needed to cleared up as soon as possible.

No one was in the home at the time the flames were spotted Wednesday morning, and no one was injured.

Brent Higgins, a neighbor, said the new owners pulled up into his driveway Sunday just to let him know they had bought the house and that there would be some people in and out doing work on the residence.

"I don't even remember the fellow's name, but there was somebody down here yesterday (Tuesday) working on it," Higgins said.

Another neighbor said that whoever was working in the home may have lit a fire in the fireplace. Capt. Jeremy Jones with the Bartow Fire Department said there was no way to tell since the fireplace was in the living room and that was part of the section of the residence that was most seriously damaged.

The blaze completely destroyed the right side of the home and collapsed a section of the roof before firefighters could bring the blaze under control.

Green said the investigation is ongoing and anyone with information should contact the Bartow County Fire Department at 770-387-5151.

Rome High Wolves heading to state capitol
• The football team's recognition in the Georgia General Assembly today can be viewed live online.

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler

The Rome High Wolves are heading to Atlanta this morning for recognition by the Georgia General Assembly.

Superintendent Lou Byars said the football team would go down as a group on buses and he plans to meet them there at around 10:30 a.m.

The Wolves, under coach John Reid, won the 2017 Georgia High School Association 5A State Football Championship and ended the season as the highest-scoring team in the history of the state in all classifications.

"We've had a lot of recognition this year for the team and they've earned it," Byars said. "I'm very proud of them."

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler said the presentations are scheduled for about 11 a.m. and Romans can watch the proceedings online at the website. There will be separate presentations in the House and Senate chambers.

Hufstetler sponsored Senate Resolution 641 congratulating the Wolves on a lengthy list of accomplishments and authorizing the presentation of the resolution on the floor. Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome; Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee; and Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, passed a similar resolution in the House.

In addition to the championship, it notes that MaxPreps — a nationally recognized high school sports coverage source — ranked the Rome Wolves as the No. 1 team in Georgia in all classes and No. 21 nationwide.

Reid was named Coach of the Year for the Georgia 5A division, defensive lineman Adam Anderson was Player of the Year for all classifications, and seven Rome players were named to the Georgia 5A all-state team.

"The Rome High School Wolves football program and its players, coaches, managers, support staff, band, cheerleaders and booster club represent the entire Rome community with pride and dignity while achieving excellence both on and off the field," the resolution states.

This is the second consecutive state championship for the Wolves.

Read this story online for a link to watch the presentations on the floor of the House and Senate

Ga. Power customers to pay less, receive refunds for Vogtle
• An Additional $188 million in bill credits and a $43.6 million refund are also scheduled for this year.

ATLANTA— Georgia Power filed an update for the Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery tariff with the Georgia Public Service Commission indicating customers will pay $139 million less for the Plant Vogtle expansion in 2018.

Beginning in April, the typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month will pay $2.70 less than expected per month in financing costs for the Vogtle project. The savings are due to recent changes in federal tax law, as well as the positive impact of the receipt of the full amount of parent guarantee payments from Toshiba.

The company continues to evaluate broader impacts of the changes in federal tax law, which will result in additional customer savings and plans to file a report with the Georgia PSC by Feb. 20.

In addition to the reduction in the NCCR tariff, the Georgia PSC recently approved $188 million, a total of $75 each for individual customers, in bill credits as a direct result of the Toshiba parent guarantee payments. The credits will be distributed across three separate Georgia Power bills in 2018. The company is also working with the Georgia PSC to determine timing and details for a 2018 refund of $43.6 million the company earned above its allowed earnings range in 2016.

Parent guarantees backed by Toshiba as the parent company of Westinghouse, the original contractor for the Vogtle project, were put in place to protect Georgia electric customers at the beginning of construction. Toshiba fulfilled all remaining payments, for a total of $3.68 billion for all of the Vogtle co-owners in December 2017, eliminating a major risk for continuing construction of the nation's only new nuclear units. Georgia Power received unanimous approval to continue construction of the Vogtle 3 and 4 project from the Georgia PSC in December 2017. The decision followed months of review and evaluation of a unified recommendation conducted by the Vogtle co-owners prompted by the bankruptcy of former primary Vogtle contractor Westinghouse. As a result, the amount paid by customers will be reduced by more than $1.7 billion during the construction period.


Today's artwork is by Alto Park fifth-grader Yitsela Vazquez-Hernandez.