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No increase in taxes expected
• The City Finance Committee reviews the school budget for 2020 fiscal year.

Lou Byars

After an hour presentation by the Rome City Schools superintendent the City Finance Committee accepted the 2020 fiscal year budget from the school system and is not expecting an increase in the millage rate based on the budget presented.

Superintendent Lou Byars explained the increased revenues and expenses the system will be seeing in the upcoming fiscal year. It includes raises for teachers which were a part of the state budget signed by Gov. Brian Kemp last week.

Revenues for RCS will be increasing by $4.5 million according to Byars, with $3.2 million coming from the state's quality basic education formula. The system will also be receiving over half a million dollars in funding due to student growth. Byars mentioned most elementary schools in the system are at, or close to, full capacity with Rome Middle just over.

Because of the increase of students, the system is filling 16 instructional positions, six clerical positions, a special education coordinator and an additional psychologist. These new positions are incorporated into the $4.5 million expenditure increase the board is facing next year. This number includes raises, adding new personnel, keeping programs going and miscellaneous costs like legal and recruiting.

Byars opened the floor to the committee for questions and City Commissioner Wendy Davis asked if the current budget included future transportation costs.

"Once the air clears and we know what we are doing we can come back and do a budget amendment and show that," Byars said.

The system is moving towards having a full fleet of new buses and bus drivers by Aug. 1, however if the state and federal agencies allow them to use the Rome Transit Department buses for another year then the current transportation budget will remain the same until the system is ready to fully rely on their own services.

Byars was also asked about the new Rome College and Career Academy timeline by Davis, and he said the goal is to be in that building by August of 2020. The CCA project is paid for by bonds issued by the Rome Building Authority and paid back using funds from the fifth education local option sales tax package.

The Rome City School budget will now make its way to the Rome City Commission meeting on Monday, where it will be presented to all nine commissioners. The budget will receive its second hearing at the June 11 board meeting.


Pepperell evacuation drill is a success
Just a drill

A driver struck a gas line outside of Pepperell High School Wednesday morning, prompting an evacuation of the school by bus to First Baptist Church of Lindale where students were accounted for by school officials and emergency personnel secured the scene.

Not to worry, there was no real emergency. It was a planned drill put together by Floyd County Schools who worked with local law enforcement and emergency services to give administrators practice in handling an emergency.

The drill involved law enforcement from several agencies, Maj. Carl Lively of the Floyd County police said, and included members of the Rome police, Floyd County Sheriff's Office, Floyd County Emergency Management Agency as well as members of the Rome Floyd County Fire Department and Floyd Medical Center.

"It was a success," Principal Jamey Alcorn said. The entire high school evacuated around 850 students in 30 minutes he added.

Assistant Superintendent John Parker said if the gas leak had been real the system would have also evacuated Pepperell Primary School due to its proximity to the high school.

Wednesday morning was focused more on the administrative side of the drill, said Rick Flanigen, chief safety and security officer for the system. Flanigen said the drill was a learning experience for the system and gave him a better understanding on how law enforcement handle these types of emergencies.

Flanigen led a debriefing in the Pepperell High School media center at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Alcorn said the safety and security officer was going to go over what the system did well and what needs improvement.

"The 'went well' list is going to be a lot longer than the 'needs improvement,'" Alcorn said.


Cave Spring unveils Mike Ragland chamber
• The City Council dedicates its meeting room to the late local historian.

The Cave Spring City Council held a ceremony dedicating their chamber to Mike Ragland, a former council member, author and local historian who died suddenly in March.

Mayor Pro Tem Tom Lindsey said Ragland's wife Martha Ragland and their daughter Bekki Fox were among the relatives, friends and supporters who crowded into the chamber Tuesday, then reconvened for a reception in the adjoining room.

"There wasn't a dry eye in the house," Lindsey said. "We all loved Mike so much and he did so much for Cave Spring ... he was one of a kind."

Ragland also was a retired Rome police major and a Rome News-Tribune columnist. He died March 16 after spending the day signing and selling his books at Welshfest in Cedartown.

Lindsey has temporarily taken on the mayoral duties while Mayor Dennis Shoaf is battling Guillain-Barre Syndrome. It's a rare neurological disorder in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks part of its nervous system.

"Fortunately, most people eventually recover from even the most severe cases of GSB," the National Institutes of Health fact sheet states.

The city's charter allows elected officials to miss only four meetings before their position is called into question.

However, the council on Tuesday approved an indefinite leave of absence for Shoaf, whose term ends Dec. 31.

Also on Tuesday, council members received a draft of the alcohol control ordinance they've been working on since voters approved liquor sales in the city earlier this year.

Plans are to include provisions for a full range of venues — including craft distilleries, farm wineries and tasting rooms — while maintaining the unique character of the historic small town. Lindsey said the changes are nearly complete. A work session is scheduled for 4 p.m. June 4.

"I don't foresee anything else coming up. We'll probably just have one more meeting where we hit the highlights of everything we're doing," he said.

Council members also tapped a new website provider, Romega Digital in Rome. Lindsey said their old contract was up and they opted to go with a local company.

He said the city's website, CityOfCaveSpring.com, could be down "for a day or two" this week while the information is being transferred to the new service, although it's also possible visitors will see no change.

"In the next few weeks, when we get some breathing room, we're going to look at a redesign," he said.


Renovation of Hillyer House near completion
• New roofing for a home on East Second Street also is approved.

Plans for a new deck on the back side of the historic Hillyer House, 2 Coral Ave., were approved by the Rome Historic Preservation Commission Wednesday. Colyn White, a redeveloper from Cartersville, is nearing the completion of a long and expensive overhaul of the home that was gutted in a fatal fire in November 2005.

"I have a door to nowhere," White told the HPC. Board member Beth Dunay explained that at some point there was a porch in the area where White wants to put the deck.

The HPC was required to authorize the project because the new deck will be visible from the public right-of-way.

The project was approved with a slight change to the type of wooden posts that surround the deck. HPC Chairman Audrey Kendrick suggested they use scaled-down versions of the posts that are being used on the front porch of the home.

The home has been bought and sold several times since the fire that killed Jill Rene Andrews. GMAC foreclosed on the property in September of 2009 and sold it for $3,500 two months later. Those owners held it until August of 2014 when it was sold again for $20,000. That buyer held the home and worked on it off and on for almost four years before selling it to White in April of 2018 for $60,000.

The home is has five bedrooms, four full-baths and two-half baths. It has approximately 6,200 square feet of livable space. White's father, Shawn White, said it has close to 2 miles of electrical lines in it along with a half mile of plumbing lines.

"That house had been architecturally stripped on the inside and we're constantly looking for pieces, like the original fireplaces," Colyn said. Anyone with knowledge of where some of the items from the home may be located are encouraged to comment on their Facebook page The Hillyer House at 2 Coral Avenue. Shawn White said he was confident that many of the items which had been taken are probably still in the Rome area.

White and his son have close to $170,000 in the house at this point, with plenty of work to be completed and a lot of bills yet to be paid. It is already on the market for $950,000.

"It still has a special-use permit for a bed and breakfast," Colyn said.

The HPC also approved new roofing for property at 412 E. Second St. across from the city's iconic Clocktower. The new architectural shingles will replace a hodgepodge of roofing material, mostly metal, that is now on top of the building. Real estate agent Jimmy Kelley said the shingles would be very similar to those of several surrounding buildings.

Assistant City Manager Patrick Eidson told the panel that Brandie Townsend has been nominated to fill the position that is being vacated by Harry Wise after the June meeting. Townsend is expected to receive final approval from the city commission next week.


TODAY'S YOUNG ARTIST

Today's artwork is by Sam Peterson, a third-grader at Alto Park Elementary School.