The battery was put in the day before and Thursday it was officially put on the William S. Davies Homeless Shelters Inc. insurance, but by the time it was set up in the Cage Center parking lot at Berry College Thursday the Farm Bus was ready to go.
The bus is the newest tool that the organization will be using to help the guests staying at the men's and women's shelters. Devon Smyth, executive director of the William S. Davies Homeless Shelters Inc., said the income from the bus will go to the shelter's farm, which will eventually be a job source for the guests at both shelters.
Thursday's selection contained carrots, kale, lettuce, turnips and three kinds of strawberry jam. On hand to assist shoppers with their choices was Farm Manager Emmie Cornell, who has been the main worker behind the shelter's garden. Cornell also had a cookbook for sale with 65 recipes using produce she grew in the garden. The meals are mostly vegetarian she said, and they are all meals she has prepared for guests at the shelter.
The bus will return to Berry in two weeks, Cornell said, after that the shelter will post a schedule on Facebook but probably will not return to Berry. Smyth said the bus will visit food deserts, parts of Rome that are not near grocery stores, and have a food justice model. The bus will also allow shoppers to use SNAP benefits so they can purchase healthy and affordable food.
The bus will set up on Tuesday and Thursday at rotating locations. Smyth said the Farm Bus will be parked near Rome transit stops so bus riders getting off at their stop can buy food on the way home.
The Farm Bus itself was sold to the Davies Homeless Shelters by St. Mary's Catholic School, who gave the organization a discount Smyth said. The bus was retrofitted by HackBerry labs on Berry College who did the work for free with the shelter providing the parts.
Alongside the Farm Bus Thursday was a representation of three Berry College student enterprises. Berry Farms Jersey Milk, Season's Harvest and Blue Hen Eggs sold ferns, cheese and free range eggs to benefit the student enterprises.
The city of Rome is moving to establish a leak protection program — a kind of insurance for water customers who may not know they have a line problem until they get an astronomical bill.
Water and Sewer Director Mike Hackett said Thursday the agency deals with several hundred cases a year, with adjustments averaging $250 to $500.
"Anything past the meter is the property owner's responsibility," he noted.
Cave Spring has a leak protection program that, for the cost of $2 a month, covers customers' water bills of up to $500 over a period of two months that are due to breaks in their line.
Cedartown's program is $3 a month and provides coverage of up to $750 a year.
Hackett's proposal would add $1.65 a month to customers' bills to cover two claims a year of up to $1,000 each.
He said it's aimed at the common issue of a customer with a high bill who fixes a leak but sees on the next bill that there was more than one trouble-spot.
"It's usually a case where they should have replaced the whole service line ... but, there you go. Covered," he told members of the city's Water and Sewer Committee.
The plan is to put the leak protection charge on every customer's bill but allow people to opt out if they choose. Hackett said studies show there's about a 96% participation rate across the country in areas that offer the program.
Commissioner Evie McNiece chairs the committee, which includes Commissioners Milton Slack and Bill Irmscher along with senior staffers. They're reviewing the proposed ordinance with an eye to making a recommendation to the full City Commission in June.
Also on Thursday, Hackett briefed the committee on flooding and erosion issues that are affecting the city's sewer system.
Heavy rains in the past year heightened a cycle of rising and falling river levels that create fissures in the river banks and lead to landslides. Hackett said several sewer lines and lift stations are at risk.
"Over time, rivers move ... especially when we're dealing with this level of flooding," he said.
A scheduled redesign of the Etowah lift station will include rerouting some of the sewer line along the river, and will likely add $1 million to the estimated $5 million project. The project is in the engineering phase.
"It used to be a stable riverbank. Now it's not ... but it's a 50-year-old underground (lift) station so it needs to be replaced anyway," Hackett said.
Erosion of the banks of the Coosa River also is creating problems, concentrated for now on a section of sewer on Horseleg Creek Road right off Shorter Avenue.
Assistant Director John Boyd said the sewer line needs to be shifted and he's already gotten easements from the five property owners that will be affected.
"They all understood the situation and were willing to do what was needed to get it done," Boyd told the committee.
The engineering plans are undergoing a final review before a call for bids is issued. Boyd said construction is expected to start this summer. Some landscaping will have to be replaced, he noted, and there's a section of rock to dig through that will add to the price.
The plans cost $91,900 and the department — which is funded by customers, not taxpayers — has budgeted $600,000 for the work this year. Boyd said there would be at least one more phase to the project.
Officials contacted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about stabilizing the riverbank, but Boyd said it's not feasible. There is no funding available to combat what the Corps views as natural changes, he said, and anything the city did on its own would become its responsibility to maintain.
Golden trowels replaced the traditional gold-plated shovels for ceremonies to dedicate the new Blooms on Broad project Thursday. The first 12 planters to initiate the program have been placed at each corner of the Second Avenue and Broad Street intersection.
Eventually, the Community Foundation for Greater Rome hopes to encourage donors to help finance plans to place planters at six intersections up Broad Street to help beautify the downtown business corridor.
Seven of the initial 12 planters at each of the intersections of Second Avenue and Broad Street have already been sponsored by local families or businesses.
CFFGR Executive Director Joel Snider gave out trowels to partners in the project, including Andrea Jones from Berry College who was instrumental in advising the foundation on types of flowers and the way they should be displayed; Jeanne Krueger from the Rome Floyd Chamber, which provided financial support; Rome City Commissioner Sundai Stevenson, since the city has agreed to take on watering responsibilities; Amanda Carter, director of the Downtown Development Authority which came up with the Blooms on Broad name; along with Nancy Knight, who represented the foundation.
The Blooms on Broad program was conceived after a group from the foundation made a visit to Columbus, Indiana, to get ideas for how the foundation might be able to help further enhance the ambiance of Rome.
"The right people came together at the right time," said Snider. "We hope this serves as an example of how these organizations can collaborate together."
Community Foundation for Greater Rome Chairman Ed Watters said the beautification effort in the small Indiana town, roughly the same size as Rome, helped decrease litter, decreased crime and helped increase the quality of life in the community.
Veteran Rome banker Rhonda Wallace will formally join the team at Greater Community Bank as vice president of the company on Monday. Wallace tendered her resignation at Synovus Bank in Rome this past Monday morning.
"It was just the right time," she said. "I love being able to give back to the community and I'll be able to be even more involved working in a great local bank."
In addition to her banking responsibilities, Wallace has been active in many roles across the community. She has served on the Floyd County Commission for the past eight years and was chair of the commission in 2017 and 2018.
When she formally joins the Greater Community team she will be responsible for the continued growth of the bank's professional and commercial banking efforts.
"There is always going to be a place for a good local bank and I want to be a part of Greater Community becoming an even greater community bank," Wallace said. "We want to be even more connected to the community."
Wallace is a graduate of Leadership Rome, she currently serves as treasurer of the Children's Open Door Home, member and past president of Rome Exchange Club, member of Coosa Valley Fair board, member of Floyd Healthcare Resource and Management boards and past chair of Adult and Student Leadership Rome programs.
"Rhonda is a strong leader with extensive knowledge of not only our vibrant Floyd County market but the evolving needs of today's professional leaders," Greater Community Bank's President and CEO David J. Lance said in a press release. "With her high level of energy and motivation, as well as depth of experience, we could not be more proud to welcome her to the Greater Community team."
Associate Editor Doug Walker contributed to this report.
Today's artwork is by Kaden Edge, a third-grader at Pepperell Elementary School.