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The 51st annual Great Locomotive Chase Festival drew throngs to the streets of Adairsville Oct. 4-6. Vendors lined the town’s public square, a…

Litter and blight task force aims at 'a change in culture' for long-term success

Jamie McCord

A student poster art contest is expected to kick off the Litter and Blight Task Force’s outreach phase, but members learned in their first two meetings it’s going to take much more than that.

“We’ve got a monumental task ahead of us, trying to make a difference and change attitudes,” said David Mathis, who co-chairs the public/private coalition with Ralph Davis.

Mathis briefed the Floyd County Commission Tuesday on what they’ve discussed so far. Most eye-opening, he said, was to hear that county public works crews pick up about 10,000 pounds of litter each month. Most frustrating was to learn that there’s always more trash when crews go back on the next circuit.

“You’ve got to get it right away,” said County Commissioner Allison Watters, a member of the task force. “When people see litter in an area, they’re going to throw theirs.”

But, much like the blighted properties the group is tasked with battling as well, adding more crews is not the answer, Mathis said. Code enforcement officers explaining how they address overgrown yards and unsafe structures also expressed frustration.

“They said they can get it cleaned up, go through the legal process, and go back two or three months later to see it’s just like it was ... It’s not working. We have to look at new ways,” Mathis said.

A change in behavior — “a change in culture,” he said — is needed to have a long-term, sustainable effect.

The task force plans to talk with school system officials about a curriculum like the fire-safety courses in elementary grades and boost the new Rome-Floyd Recycling Center as a field trip destination.

The environmentally-themed poster art contest, expected to be finalized at the group’s next meeting, is a first step. The winning art will be printed up as posters for a community-wide awareness campaign.

Mathis said they’re working on some recommended ordinance tweaks, but that will come later. Another early step will be to ensure the abandoned or condemned properties that come into city and county hands are well-maintained before they turn the focus on others.

“It’s expensive,” County Manager Jamie McCord said. “Every time (Tax Commissioner) Kevin Payne has a tax sale we gain more properties. It takes money.”

But Commissioner Wright Bagby noted that, left unchecked, blighted properties can bring down a whole neighborhood.

“We need to suck it up and do it now or you’ll be doing more 15 years from now. It’s like a cancer,” said Bagby, who also serves on the task force.

Mathis said that among the ideas emerging from brainstorming sessions is to post signs on properties that are in the process of being cleaned up. They’ll give hope to neighbors, he said, and help educate people on what’s unacceptable.

“We’ve got to be innovative. We’ve got to be non-traditional ... This blight and litter affects us all,” Mathis said.

Task force volunteers represent a range of public and private sectors. Watters and Bagby are serving ex officio — as nonvoting members — along with Rome City Commissioner Randy Quick and Rob Ware, who is unopposed to become Cave Spring’s mayor in January.

Jennifer Coles of F&P Georgia represents the economic development sector. For healthcare, it’s Ben Simmons of Harbin Clinic and Mai Lee Payne, owner of Advance for Kids. Lucy Burnes of Johnson Elementary and Stephanie Dean of Main Elementary are educators. Brooke Brinson of Hardy Realty and Harry Brock of Brock Appraisal represent real estate.

Sheriff Tim Burkhalter and Chief Magistrate Gene Richardson add the law-enforcement and judicial perspectives.

Rounding out the team are marketing expert Kristi Kent with Georgia’s Rome Office of Tourism, Emma Wells, director of Keep Rome-Floyd Beautiful, and Assistant County Clerk Amy Dawkins as secretary for the task force.

Task Force raid nets meth, heroin, marijuana and one arrest

Rome-Floyd Metro Task Force officers seized a large quantity of drugs from a hotel room off Martha Berry Boulevard during an investigation Monday night.

According to Floyd County Jail reports:

Dante Rishad Edmondson, 28, of 4 Pebble Bend Court, faces multiple felony charges following his arrest Monday night.

Metro Task Force officers seized more than 28 grams of suspected methamphetamine along with undisclosed amounts of heroin, marijuana and ecstasy pills. The officers also seized digital scales.

Edmondson also fought officers attempting to serve a series of probation warrants, causing bruises and lacerations to a pair of officers.

He is charged with felony trafficking methamphetamine, possession of meth with the intent to distribute, possession of meth, two counts of possession of a Schedule I controlled substance, obstruction of officers, four probation violations along with misdemeanors for possession of marijuana and possession of drug-related objects.

Calhoun man accused of intent to distribute marijuana

Floyd County police officers arrested a Gordon County man who had individually wrapped bags of marijuana in his vehicle, reports stated.

According to Floyd County Jail reports:

Michael Cruz Kelley, 30, of 102 Kensington Drive, was operating a 2014 Jeep in which police found three bags of suspected marijuana. Kelley is charged with felony possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute and a misdemeanor for possession of marijuana.

Rome woman charged with crimes in Alabama

A Rome woman has been charged with felony fugitive from justice after she was discovered to have outstanding warrants in Cherokee County, Alabama.

According to Floyd County Jail reports:

Diane Raditz McIlvaine, 56, of 111 Lyons Drive, was originally arrested locally on Oct. 3 on possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distributed and related drug charges.

The outstanding warrants in Alabama also relate to trafficking in meth and possession or use of drug-related objects.

Doug Walker, associate editor

Georgia: 'Where people and the environment thrive'

As Georgia’s population continues to grow, state leaders in environmental stewardship and economic development need to collaborate with one another to ensure that the natural resources of Georgia are utilized wisely for the betterment of future generations. That was the message of Bart Gobeil, the new president of the Georgia Conservancy.

Gobeil told Rome Seven Hills Rotary Club members that Georgia’s population is expected to grow by as much as 4 million over the next two decades and the environmental group will work hard to live up to its slogan, “A Georgia where people and the environment thrive.”

Gobeil, whose professional background includes stints as the chief operating officer of the State of Georgia from 2011 to 2015 where he had oversight over more than 60 different agencies and authorities, and senior executive director of economic development for the Georgia Ports Authority from 2015 to 2019, said the Georgia Conservancy understands that Georgia needs to attract new jobs, and since that is going to happen, it must work together with developers to minimize the impact of that growth on the environment.

“People need jobs and people need the environment,” Gobeil said.

One of the efforts led by the Georgia Conservancy involved passage of the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act. The law takes a portion of an existing sales tax on outdoor-related purchases and set it aside for the acquisition of land of regional impact to help preserve those areas for future generations. Gobeil said it will ultimately protect both water and land masses and provide additional venues for outdoor recreation.

The Georgia Conservancy is also known across the state for the organization of field trips into natural areas across the state. One of those trips was a canoe trip on the Etowah River earlier this year. Gobeil said the trips are a way to get Georgians engaged with the environment. “Get people to see why the environment is important in their community, their way of life and why it’s important,” Gobeil said. “It’s a low-cost entry point for people who typically won’t come into nature.”

Gobeil asked the community leaders to imagine what the addition of another four million people in Georgia would look like.

“They are attracted to Georgia for its recreation, for its jobs ... and we want to preserve that for future generations of Georgians.”