After years of planning and backburner fundraising, the new Rome-Floyd Firefighters Memorial Plaza is on the cusp of becoming reality. The three-day boot drive that firefighters conducted a week ago brought the campaign to with-in a couple of thousand dollars of the $125,000 goal.
"I want to thank everybody who made a contribution during the boot drive," said Fire Chief Troy Brock. "We had set a goal of $15,000, and the folks actually contributed $18,241, so that was fantastic. It was definitely more than we expected. We can't thank everybody enough."
Firefighters spent three days in front of Kroger and both the East and West Rome Walmarts with boots in hand.
The idea of a firefighters memorial was developed during Bobbie McKenzie's tenure as chief more than a decade ago. Over the years funds that had been collected from fire inspection fees were partially earmarked for the project.
The city donated property diagonally behind City Hall at the intersection of West Sixth Avenue and West First Street.
The campaign has now raised approximately $123,000, prompting Brock to say with some degree of confidence that ground will be broken for the memorial sometime during the first quarter of 2018.
The memorial plaza will feature a brick paver plaza with a bronze statue of a firefighter. However, the final design for the statue still has not been chosen. Brock said his staff has narrowed it down to a couple of options.
Site work will include grading and the installation of water lines for the landscaping and electrical service for specialized lighting, which Brock said would give the sculptor plenty of time to actually finish the statue which would be the last item to be installed.
Today's artwork is by Pepperell fifth-grader Daniel Valentin-Chavez.
Small-cell technology and AT&T's AirGig initiative could make it easier to expand high-speed internet service to rural areas, if the Georgia General Assembly tailors state law to allow it.
"Prior technologies didn't do well because of the trees and other obstructions. This appears to work," Rep. Eddie Lumsden told Rome and Floyd commissioners last week.
The Armuchee Republican sits on the House Rural Development Council, tasked with finding ways to level the economic playing field for Georgia residents outside metropolitan areas.
AT&T has started field-testing its Project AirGig, which uses small antennas mounted on power poles to deliver multigigabit signals. Lumsden said BPL, broadband-over-power line, technology reaches a 2-to 3-mile circumference.
While the company is mostly targeting urban areas now, "I really think that's the direction we're going in," he said.
Other small-cell technology uses short, six-foot towers placed in the public right-of-way to extend service into less-populated areas where there aren't enough customers to justify the expense of fiber optics.
Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, said it's imperative to get highspeed service — a 5G network — throughout the state.
"The jobs are going to go where the infrastructure is," he said. "We want them to come to Rome."
Telemedicine, driverless cars and young students of today and the future all rely on fast connections, he noted. But current laws are creating roadblocks for telecommunications companies.
Hufstetler said that North Carolina started seeing a lot of small cells when it established statewide regulations. In Georgia, where cities control their rights of way, new restrictions in Atlanta slowed the expansion program.
"AT&T didn't put any in there this year," he noted.
Two bills aimed at establishing uniform right-of-way regulations, Senate Bill 232 and House Bill 533, remain alive from the 2017 session. However, local officials are concerned they give telecommunications companies too much power.
Rome City Commissioner Evie McNiece said Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, held up the legislation until the 2018 session to give local governments some input on the language.
She spoke for her fellow boardmembers in urging lawmakers to include some protections for small communities.
"We don't want to see these small cells all over the place without any thought of planning," McNiece said. "We want the technology, but we also want it to look like our city."
County commissioners were on the same page when they met separately with the legislative delegation, saying provisions such as incentives to co-locate utilities in rights of way are a priority.
"We're 100 percent behind rural broadband, but we're concerned about unfettered access to our right-of-way," County Manager Jamie McCord said.
Hufstetler said the legislation will have to be strong enough to prevent metropolitan areas such as Atlanta — which are attractive to the telecoms — from enacting restrictions that keep the companies out of the state market as a whole.
"When I was in law school I never thought about my portrait being there, and I can guarantee none of the professors ever thought of it," was the reaction of retired Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman S. Fletcher after his official portrait was unveiled by his two daughters at Coosa Country Club in Rome.
The portrait, done by fellow University of Georgia Law School graduate Celeste McCullough, Class of '82, will be presented to leadership of the University of Georgia Law School at a later date.
Fletcher said he suspects this is the first time an official portrait of a UGA law school graduate was done by a fellow UGA law school graduate.
McCullough said the work on Fletcher's portrait was several years in the making. After a case that Fletcher consulted with her on several years ago, McCullough asked if she would be given the honor of doing his official portrait.
"It had everything to do with what I think of him as a person, as a judge, as a justice and as a friend," McCullough said. "Whatever else you may say about the portrait I will say it was painted with love and admiration."
McCullough said she spent a couple of years reviewing pictures of Judge Fletcher before deciding on the pose that she would paint, a straight on look with a library of law books in the background.
The painting was unveiled by Fletcher's daughters, Mary Fletcher Kiker and Elizabeth Fletcher Coan, in front of a roomful of attorney's including U.S. District Court Judge Harold L. Murphy.
Fletcher started his practice of the law in Rome in 1958, spending five years with John Maddox, Stokes Walton and Oscar Smith.
"Without the help and lessons I learned from them I would never had any opportunity to serve on the Georgia Supreme Court," Fletcher said.
He moved to LaFayette and practiced for 27 years before he was appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court by Governor Joe Frank Harris in 1989. He served through June of 2005, spending the last four years as Chief Justice.
King Askew, a partner at Brinson, Askew and Berry, where Fletcher is now of counsel, told the crowd Fletcher led the campaign to create a statewide Public Defender system in Georgia. He also got it funded by the legislature, "which in itself was a tremendous achievement," Askew said.
Fletcher made note of the presence of U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy.
"I learned so much from Harold," Fletcher recalled.
Fletcher currently does a lot of appellate work and consulting from offices at Brinson, Askew and Berry.
'Whatever else you may say about the portrait I will say it was painted with love and admiration.'
painter and attorney