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County School board recognizes students
• First meeting of the year recognizes students and decides new chair

The Floyd County Schools' board room was full Monday night with students who were recognized for their achievement during the meeting, along with their parents and coaches.

Coosa High School's state champion girls varsity volleyball team, Armuchee High School's varsity competition cheerleading team, representatives from the College and Career Academy, and the Floyd County eSports team were all recognized at the meeting.

The state champions were recognized by name and board members handed them certificates. The College and Career Academy was in the academic spotlight Monday as some of its students came up and shared their experiences with the board.

Students spoke about their success with applying to colleges, gaining experience through internships and finding out what they want to do with their life.

The Floyd County eSports team was the last group recognized Pepperell High School student Jakob Liggons called the sport a rising star in the entertainment industry. He showed a video of team members to the board explaining the importance of the sport and what it is bringing to Floyd County Schools.

Another person recognized, but not in attendance, was Abigail Shetter who died on New Year's Day. Superintendent Jeff Wilson asked for those in attendance to pray for her family as they go through this difficult time.

"Really proud of who she was and her life and we will celebrate that life," Wilson said.

Shetter was a dual enrollment senior from Pepperell High School and was recognized at December's board meeting for completing all graduation requirements through the Floyd Transitional Academy. She was set to walk at graduation with her fellow Pepperell High students in May.

A new chair and vice chair for the

2019 calendar year were decided at the beginning of the meeting. Last year's chair, Chip Hood, nominated 2018's vice chair Tony Daniel to replace him. Jay Shell was nominated and voted in as vice-chair. There was a brief pause as the board members shuffled into new positions which they will stay in for the rest of the year.

"This is called the musical chair section," Wilson said jokingly.

Wilson was wearing his Clemson sweater vest and promised board members and those attending the meetings they would get out in time to watch the National Championship game.


Lawmakers reviving central database plans
• Rome legislators say merging information across state agencies can make social services more efficient and effective.

New ways of sharing data across state agencies are expected to emerge during the upcoming session of the Georgia General Assembly.

"It's the key to how we can address very specific needs, but we have to break down the silos," said Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome.

Dempsey and Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, co-chaired a joint committee on data-sharing last year but political skirmishes in the run-up to the elections stalled legislation in both chambers.

The push for a centralized database to make it easier and more cost-efficient to deliver healthcare and other social services, however, remains alive.

"I have several allies working with me on data analytics," Hufstetler said. "We're still working on where it would be housed, but I expect to introduce that this session."

Georgia spends billions of dollars a year on health and social programs but there's no way to determine if residents are getting overlapping services or falling through cracks. That's because each agency keeps separate case records; each agency is a separate silo.

Dempsey — who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee on human resources — said she saw several examples last week of how merged data could help when she met with Division of Family and Children Services officials.

Calls reporting abuse and neglect are on the rise, she said, and DFCS needs a way to prioritize them without breaking client confidentiality.

"If we had de-identified specific data ... the person making the call would be doing their duty to report a potentially bad situation, but the screener could quickly access the data to see if there's been issues at that place before," Dempsey explained.

Sharing data also could help target people at risk for addiction and get them intervention services before it's too late, she noted.

In a presentation to the joint committee, Cynthia Guy of the nonprofit Annie E. Casey Foundation said a small number of people use a disproportionate amount of state resources. Guy told of a successful initiative in Oregon that integrates birth records and parental data to zero in on families that could benefit from early preventative services.

Hufstetler worked closely with the Casey Foundation in 2018 and even had a grant lined up to send state technicians for training through the University of Pennsylvania's Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy center.

He's still focused on creating a new entity to oversee a centralized system, similar to what an increasing number of states are doing. Dempsey indicated that might remain a hot-button issue, but said she believes there will be movement on data-sharing this year.

" We can find ways through existing structures, such as using the budget to help those agencies that are ready and willing to do it," she said. "I think we're on the cusp of being able to figure out how to be more lifesaving and fiscally responsible for our state."


Ledbetter seeks TAD aid to redevelop old Kmart site
• Developer hoping to bring in 20-28 businesses new to the area

Rome's Redevelopment Committee has agreed to move forward with an effort to create a Redevelopment District in the area of the old Kmart on Hicks Drive.

Representatives of the Ledbetter Properties told the committee Monday they could not move forward with the acquisition and redevelopment of the nearly 20 acre site without Tax Allocation District financial assistance.

Wright Led better explained the former Kmart site, abandoned since the summer of 2016, would qualify as a TAD district under at least two criteria.

The area would include another area previously designated for commercial development but is currently less desirable than redevelopment for new commercial use and the fact that the buildings by reason of obsolescence is conducive to high unemployment.

Ledbetter said there are just no users for the existing 180,000 square foot building and in order to acquire and demolish the existing buildings on the parcels, then take on new construction developers have a significant feasibility gap which only TAD financial assistance could close.

When a TAD is created local government sets a baseline for property taxes generated within the district. As improvements are made and taxes go up, a portion of the increased taxes are returned to the developer over a specific period of time to offset the cost of the development.

At this point, Ledbetter Properties is seeking between $1.8 million and $2 million over a 15 year period of time and proposing reconstruction of approximately 108,000 square feet of new space.

"We are fairly far along in discussions with these potential tenants," Wright Ledbetter said. "I'm very optimistic if not a little excited about some interest we have in this property."

Joe Holmes said he believed 90 percent of the new tenants would be new to the Rome market. Bob Ledbetter Jr. said the preliminary plans call for between 20 and 28 tenants and that his company would also make improvements to Hicks Drive as part of the project.

The business plan for the project, which is also still tentative at this time, estimates that development could create upwards of 400 new jobs and generate as additional $2 million in annual sales taxes.

"Rome's demographics belie its potential as a growing retail regional hub for our area," Wright Ledbetter said. "A lot of the national retailers don't give us enough credit for drawing from a six-county footprint."

Rome Commissioner Craig McDaniel said the development could go a long way toward reversing the trend of local residents leaving the community to shop. Some of the retailers the developers are talking with currently have stores in the North Metro or Chattanooga area, Wright Ledbetter said, but are far enough away that putting a store in Rome should not hurt those locations.

"For Rome, the benefits and upside of this would clearly outweigh what's sitting on the ground over there right now," Wright said.

"People have discretionary money and they're going to spend it somewhere and we'd rather them spend it here," McDaniel said.

The committee agreed to have a consultant do a formal study to create the redevelopment district. Ledbetter Properties agreed to fund half the cost of that study, which City Manager Sammy Rich estimated could cost between $10,000 and $15,000.

The proposed timeline for the project calls for the closing of the property sale by May of this year, with site work getting underway by August and the first outparcels delivered as pad ready to potential tenants by next May and completion of primary construction by August of 2020.


Rome City Schools BOE meets tonight
• Meeting will decide new chair and vice-chair

Faith Collins

Louis Byars

Rome City Schools will be holding their first board meeting of the calendar year tonight where they will be choosing a chair and vice chair for the 2019 year as well as attend to usual board items.

Faith Collins the current chair, and has served in the role since 2016. Jill Fisher served as vice-chair for 2018.

Superintendent Louis Byars said the board will take nominations from its members during the regular board meeting. After nominations the board members will vote on the nominees to decide the chair and vice chair for the year.

The board will approve minutes, financial reports and West Central Elementary School will be in the academic spotlight.

There will also be an attendance report, an ELOST report and any personnel changes.

The system currently has 10 jobs posted on Teach-Georgia.org, including the principal position at Anna K. Davie, director of safety for the school system and school system psychologist.

The school system will be making amendments in the Strategic Waiver School System contract. According to Byars, the state has changed requirements in the SWSS contract, the system agreed to meet certain levels of performance when it signed the contract and since the state changed the baseline for those performances Rome City Schools must change their contract with them.


TODAY'S YOUNG ARTIST

Today's artwork is by Will Carroll, a third-grader at Darlington.