Rome City Commissioners are slated to hear tonight the results of a months-long analysis of the housing opportunities available to residents, along with recommendations on how to address the shortfalls going forward.
A consultant with Mosaic Community Planning is scheduled to make a detailed presentation at the board's 4 p.m. caucus and offer an overview at the start of the 6 p.m. regular meeting. Both sessions in City Hall, 601 Broad St., are open to the public.
Also on the agenda is the award of a contract to upgrade security cameras at the RomeFloyd County Fire Department headquarters on East 12th Street.
Commissioners also are expected to approve a payment of just over $17,000 to offset Georgia Power's cost of moving four power poles for the Dean Avenue sidewalk project, estimated at $18,768. Under the utility's franchise agreement, the city is responsible for 90.97 percent of relocation expenses.
Mosaic Community Planning was hired jointly by Rome and the Northwest Georgia Housing Authority last fall. The city and the authority split the $24,945 cost of the housing assessment, which is required under the Fair Housing Act from of entities that use federal funds.
The 122-page report pulls together demographic information based on locations and interviews to pinpoint concerns regarding affordable and accessible housing. Among the findings noted in the executive summary:
• Rome has about 36,000 residents, according to the latest American Community Survey. Some 56 percent are white, 24 percent black and 16 percent Latino. The remaining 4 percent belong to other racial or ethnic groups.
• The study found housing segregation levels between white, black and Asian residents declined between 1990 and 2010. In contrast, divisions increased between white and Latino residents.
• East Rome — just south of downtown and north of 12th Street — registered as the most diverse area in the city, with one-third of its residents white; one third black; and one quarter Latino. Other diverse areas include Technology Parkway around Mathis Drive and tracts between Burnett Ferry and Wilkerson roads.
• In analyzing neighborhoods, Mosaic found there's little disparity by race or ethnicity in terms of transportation costs and access to good schools. However, black and Latino residents are more likely than other groups to live in neighborhoods with low levels of employment and high levels of poverty.
• Two-fifths of the city's households have one or more of the four main housing problems analyzed: Cost burden, overcrowding, lack of full kitchens, lack of complete plumbing. Nearly a quarter face severe housing needs.
• An estimated 5,784 city residents aged 5 and older have a disability, with the highest rate — 10 percent — occurring in the 18-to-64 age group. About 18 percent of the total population in Rome has a disability, which is the same rate as people living in the unincorporated area of Floyd County.
Rome City Schools was recently selected to participate in the Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen, or REACH, Georgia program beginning in the 2019-2020 school year.
Assistant Superintendent Dawn Williams said the program is a needs-based scholarship opportunity for students that rewards them for self-accountability, promotes parent involvement and provides motivation and support, which are all factors that are critical in student educational achievement.
"Rome City Schools initially got involved with REACH when the coordinators from the program contacted us last spring," Williams said. "Our superintendent, Mr. Louis Byars, and myself met with them, and they presented the idea in front of the school board at the last called meeting."
REACH Georgia works by first identifying in-need students during their seventh-grade year. These students must qualify for the free or reduced lunch program, have good school
attendance and demonstrate academic promise.
The program especially looks for students who are future first-generation college students, as well as students who would be able to reach this potential through extra guidance and mentorship.
"Once these students are selected, the scholars are given a mentor and academic coach to encourage and guide them from their seventh-grade year all the way until they graduate high school," Williams said. "Students will then receive $2,500 dollars per year, for up to four years, at a college within the University System of Georgia, the Technical College System of Georgia or eligible private institutions."
The REACH Program is funded by private donors, both through the local community and the REACH Program as a whole.
"The program funds our first five scholars during the first year," she said. "After that, starting in year two, we reach out to private citizens and local businesses to help support our scholars as well."
Money isn't the only way to support the program.
"You can actually select and support a student that you can be directly involved in this program through a mentorship," she said.
They're already looking for potential donors and mentors.
"Keep your eyes and ears open for when we start communicating that we are gearing up to start the program," Williams said. "Right now, we plan to start identifying scholars for our first year this next spring. We definitely want the community to already be helping us select those students."
Of the Floyd County College and Career Academy students in the certified nursing assistant program, more than 96 percent will go on to pass the state examination to become certified for work, according to a news release from the school system.
Also, with more students applying to nursing school than the number of applicants accepted, students must set themselves apart from other candidates. This level of competition is coupled with demanding entry requirements.
Through the CNA program at the CCA, high schoolers jump into their field with hands-on learning opportunities, preparing them for prospective colleges and universities, showing their commitment to the profession, proving that they know the demands of the job and demonstrate that they can handle them.
With most colleges and universities requiring CNA certification as part of their nursing program admission requirements, students can be set on track for furthering their education and possibility of finding work.
Participation in the CNA program also allows students to work closely with healthcare professionals, identify mentors, gain practical hands-on experience while interacting with patients in the clinical setting, gain employment, and determine if nursing is a right fit before investing precious time and money into a college program.
Their valuable work experience and content knowledge gained through coursework propels them towards becoming successful nursing students in postsecondary programs. In addition to becoming solid candidates for nursing school, our CNA students are well-prepared to make a difference in the lives of people and feel personal and professional pride.
Residents in Rome, Floyd County and Cave Spring have through the end of the month to weigh in on how their areas should be developed over the next 20 years.
Planning Director Artagus Newell said the final draft of the 2040 Comprehensive Plan is posted online at RomeFloydPlan.com. Viewers can type comments directly on the document as they read through the different sections.
"It's important because government decisions stem from the comp plan," Newell said.
For example, the Cave Spring section calls for encouraging more annexation of residential areas along Ga. 53, Mills Road and Spout Springs Road to attract younger families and improve the tax base for the elementary school. Steps to achieve that goal include adopting the Rome-Floyd County Unified Land Development Code and establishing an annexation policy.
Long-term visions for the city of Rome and the unincorporated area occupy separate sections in the comp plan, and they include colorcoded maps showing the recommended land use of each parcel. Newell said the maps are used as guides in determining actions such as rezonings, development variances and, in some cases, tax incentives.
The proposed plan was updated following a round of public comments this summer.
Input is now being accepted through Oct. 1 to give consultants time for a last tweak before it goes to the Rome, Floyd County and Cave Spring elected boards. It's due to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs by Oct. 31.
"With the online tool, comments go directly to the consultants who drew up the plan. They can see if folks like something or if there's something they want changed," Newell said.
The plan looks at major elements such as housing, economic development and transportation for the different areas, along with plans for conservation and recreation areas.
Today's artwork is by Taylen Tant, a fourth-grader at East Central Elementary School.