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Noah Lopez, a kindergartner at Unity Christian School

Diane Wagner  

Three-year-old Riyan Patel giggles as his mother, Dharti Patel, gives his seat a spin Sunday at a playground in Ridge Ferry Park.

Diane Wagner  

Earnestine Davis settles her dinosaur-masked granddaughter Mia Davis, 4, into a spinning chair Sunday at Ridge Ferry Park.

Planning Commission to discuss change to hotel zoning regulations

A proposal to require all new hotels in Rome to first get a special-use permit will go before the Rome-Floyd Planning Commission for discussion Thursday.

Hotels are currently allowed by right in most commercial zoning districts, Planning Director Artagus Newell said during a presentation seeking input from the City Commission last month. That means they can be built without notice to nearby property owners, and without vetting by elected officials.

“If we shift it over to a special-use permit, it would go from just a development review to a zoning review,” Newell explained.

City Commissioner Wendy Davis said the move could be construed as saying the city doesn’t want more hotels. But Lisa Smith of the tourism office said it’s unlikely to deter investors and a good way to protect existing operators.

Commissioner Craig McDaniel, a commercial real estate agent, said there are many different types of hotels and motels.

“That is a totally different kind of business than anything else we do,” he said. “It truly is a special use and I think we need to put another set of eyeballs on it.”

Commissioners have asked Newell to have the appointed citizen board consider the pros and cons of the issue. The planning commission meets at 2:30 p.m. in Rome City Hall, 601 Broad St.

A public hearing also is scheduled for the sole rezoning request this month.

Owners of the Circle K in Lindale, at 3129 Maple Road, are seeking community commercial zoning for the property. It’s currently zoned for residential use but has been occupied by the convenience store for at least 30 years.

Simple speech leads to donation of 10,000 more meals for United Way's Floyd Fights Hunger effort slated for Oct. 26

What do you get when you mix instant communication with instant action on instant meals? Instant results.

Johnson Elementary fourth-grader Audrey Mitchell never imagined a speech she gave when running to be student council representative at her school would lead to the donation of 10,000 more meals to feed the hungry in Rome and Floyd County.

But that’s exactly what happened when her mother, United Way’s Community Events Committee Chair Kelsey Mitchell, posted a video on her own Facebook page August 21, announcing her daughter had won her election and included the contents of that speech.

“Another idea I have is I would like to have the school to participate in the Floyd Fights Hunger,” Audrey said in her speech. “Floyd Fights Hunger is where you pack meals and raise money for the people who don’t have any food.”

The video was seen by Steve Popper, the owner of Meals of Hope, who already had supplied 50,000 just-add-water meals through his nonprofit for this year’s Floyd Fights Hunger event put on by United Way of Rome/Floyd County Oct. 26 at Rome High School.

Within 24 hours of Popper seeing Mitchell’s post, he had committed to supplying an additional 10,000 instant meals that will be packed up by more than 150 volunteers between 10 a.m. and noon the day of the event.

The meals will be distributed to folks in need through Journey Food Pantry, Salvation Army Rome and Action Ministries Rome.

“Our mission is to alleviate hunger, but a key point of what we do is give people the opportunity to learn about volunteerism and give back,” Popper said in a United Way press release. “The fact that Audrey has learned to serve others at such a young age is a real tribute to her and her parents. We want to give her the opportunity to bring this to her fellow students so they learn that giving back can be fun and can also impact their community.”

Audrey, 9, said Friday she screamed when she heard Popper had donated so many more meals to the effort because of her speech.

“I was really excited,” she said.

Mitchell explained that her daughter had participated in similar efforts for the hungry when they lived in Maples, Florida, and her Rotary club packed one million meals on Christmas Eve over the course of a weekend.

“We had thousands and thousands of people helping,” Mitchell said. “Audrey and I did that for about six years. She’s always liked it.”

After meeting her husband through Rotary relief efforts for Hurricane Irma victims less than two years ago that also involved Keller Williams Realty volunteers, it only made sense to bring the same program to Floyd County. Both Mitchell and her husband work for Keller Williams locally and the company is one of six sponsors for this Second Annual Floyd Fights Hunger event.

Rome Rotary, Hardy Realty, MSP Attorneys, Profile Custom Extrusion and Floyd Medical Center are the other sponsors. Sponsor levels run from $1,000 to $6,000, Mitchell said.

She said they so far have 100 volunteers to help pack the 60,000 meals, but are hoping for at least 200 for the two-hour effort.

“The more people we have, the less time it will take us,” Mitchell said of the meals designed for the American palate that include added vitamins, minerals and proteins to supplement an unbalanced diet. “We packed 52,740 meals last year — nearly 3,000 more than our set goal, and we had a great time. We are so excited to bring this event back to unite our neighbors and friends to make a difference in Rome and Floyd County.”

Those wishing to become involved can find information on the United Way of Rome & Floyd County’s Facebook page or by calling Kelsey Mitchell at 239-776-1699.

Diane Wagner  

Steve Guy (from right) holds his granddaughter Argyle Lim, 4 months, Sunday during a family ramble through Ridge Ferry Park with Kristen Lim, Cyndi Guy and Welson Lim.

County surveys look at need for mental health, addiction services ahead of state budgeting

Preliminary results of a statewide survey on mental health and substance abuse needs indicate Floyd County residents have two big concerns: police training and homelessness.

“Those two were surprising to us. We didn’t think they would be up there,” said Karen Cook, the county’s representative to the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Region 1 advisory council.

Cook told County Commissioners that the councils contacted as many people as they could to take the Delphi Survey, aimed at gathering community input on the top 10 services that could help local residents. The Region 1 council is slated to get the vetted results at its next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 8 in Blue Ridge.

“This will drive the funding throughout the state,” Cook said.

Survey responders linked homelessness with mental illness and addictions, she said. That raises the question of what the DBHDD can do to alleviate some of the burden borne by cities and counties.

There’s also the conviction that more police officers need specialized training to deal with calls involving mental health issues. Cook called it “impact training.” County Police Chief Mark Wallace called it CIT, crisis intervention team, training.

The curriculum includes education on adapting de-escalation techniques.

“Police officers should recognize someone with autism when they’re combative,” Cook said.

She said DBHDD understands that many police departments are understaffed and it’s hard to send officers away for the 40-hour course. They’re hoping to be able to help fund impact training before recruits become certified officers.

Wallace said the Floyd County Police Department had “upwards of 90%” of its officers CIT-trained about a decade ago. Then the recession hit, the county started cutting personnel and older officers began taking retirement.

“We’re bringing it back up, but only about 30% are trained now because of replacements,” Wallace told the board last week. “Two weeks ago we sent two officers to Dalton for training and we’re looking for a way to bring the training course here.”

The Adairsville Police Department announced last week that 100% of its staff in sworn positions have received CIT training. It’s part of a pledge made by Chief Mike Jones when he joined the One Mind Campaign established by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

“We have already seen benefits from the training,” Jones said in a release. “In July of 2019, two of our officers executed their learnings in preventing a man from jumping off the (Ga.) 140 bridge onto I-75.”

The pledge included several other components to improve interactions between police and people with mental illnesses. All officers and civilian staff have had some type of mental health training and an official departmental policy is in place.

Jones said they’ve also established a working relationship with Highland Rivers Health and NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The fair is almost here

It’s almost fair time.

The 71st Coosa Valley Fair begins this week and will feature rides, games, exhibits, shows and, of course, food — like roasted ears of corn.

Fair setup is underway and the grand opening is set for Tuesday at 5 p.m. with two promotions being offered for the fair’s first night. Car loads — excluding trucks and vans — will be admitted for $10 each from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and armbands for unlimited rides will also be offered for $22 each.

Tuesday night there will be a little something for everyone. Fair visitors can see the Los Moralitos circus at 5:30 p.m. and again at 7 p.m., chainsaw carvings at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., as well as a magic show also at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Also on Tuesday’s agenda, the Coosa Valley Fair Cheerleading Exhibition and Spirit Competition will be held at 7 p.m.

This year, the fair will only be in town through Saturday. Every weekday evening — except for Thursday — the CVF will be open from 5 to 10 p.m. with a general admission price of $5 for everyone ages 6 and up.

Thursday is for students as well as older adults (55 and up) who will both get free admission from 1 to 5 p.m. The fair’s hours will be from 1 to 10 p.m. Thursday with an armband price of $25 each.

Saturday will be the last day for this year’s fair, which will be open from 10 a.m. until midnight. The Miss Teen and Miss Coosa Valley Fair Pageant will be at 7 p.m. while the WEdunit Band takes the stage right next door at the livestock pavilion.

According to the National Weather Service, the forecast for the upcoming week is expected to be clear with the highs for the weekdays to be in the upper 90’s and the low temperatures to be in the 60’s. Saturday, the high is expected to be 86 degrees with a low around 60.

To view the full schedule of this weeks events, visit the Coosa Valley Fair website at coosavalleyfair.com and click on the schedule of events tab at the top of the page.