Rome City Commissioners are slated to get a briefing tonight on state plans to make local communities more attractive to high-speed internet providers.
Representatives from the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission are expected to present information at the board's caucus about how to apply for designation as a Broadband Ready Community. Requirements include amending the comprehensive plan to include promotion of broadband and adopting an ordinance establishing a permitting process.
Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law last month a series of bills aimed at opening up the market. Telephone cooperatives and electric membership corporations – including North Georgia EMC – are now allowed to sell internet services.
Also, telecomm companies are able to count on a standardized state-regulated process for permits to install small-cell 5G wireless transmitters. The legislation contains protections for historic districts and residential areas and requires local aesthetic standards to be met.
The City Commission caucuses at 5 p.m. in the Sam King Room of City Hall, 601 Broad St., followed by its 6:30 p.m. regular meeting on the second floor. Both sessions are public.
First on the agenda for the regular meeting is a proclamation naming this Law Enforcement Memorial Week in recognition of peace officers who died in the line of duty.
A public memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at the Joint Law Enforcement Building on West Fifth Avenue to honor the 20 local officers on the list.
Commissioners also are expected to finalize the creation of a tax allocation district on the old Kmart site on Hicks Drive. The move clears the way for Ledbetter Properties to redevelop the land as East Bend retail center.
Plans call for demolishing the Kmart facility, which has been vacant for nearly three
years, and bringing in a mix of retail and restaurants to occupy four new buildings on the site.
"(T)he build out of this relatively small part of Rome's important Highway 27 Commercial Corridor could help stabilize one of the region's largest retail districts ... An estimated $27 million in net new retail sales will occur at the new center annually, generating an increase of $812,500 in annual sales tax collections," the redevelopment plan states.
An April 22 public hearing netted no opposition. Developer Wright Ledbetter said there would be 20 to 28 businesses, most of them new to Rome, and work is scheduled to get underway this summer.
The Cave Spring City Council is expected to get an updated version Tuesday of the changes they plan to make to the city's alcohol control ordinance.
Board members have been working on a comprehensive revision since voters approved in March the sale of liquor – by the drink, by the package and on Sundays – within the city limits. They're using the city of Rome's ordinance as a template but tailoring it for their historic small town.
City Attorney Frank Beacham said at the close of a work session last week that he would have a draft of the changes he's been directed to incorporate so far.
"It is your intention to allow liquor by the drink at restaurants, distillery tasting rooms, farm wineries, malt beverage tap rooms, hotels, private clubs and retail establishments approved by the City Council – but
not at bars or sham establishments," Beacham said in summary, to nods from the board members.
Service in hotels and motels would be limited to operations with 50 or more rooms.
"We don't have one, and we don't expect one, but put it in there," said Sandra Lindsey, director of the Downtown Development Authority.
Council members have firmed up details for some of the planned restrictions. For example, package liquor stores will have to be located at least a half-mile from the city center, the southwest corner of Cave Spring Road and Alabama Street. Tentative limits will be at least 500 yards from another package store and 150 yards from a residence.
"We don't want to have a liquor store next to somebody's house," Council member Joyce Mink said.
Sales by the drink are slated to be treated differently. The March vote was prompted by a proposal from two investors who want to open a craft distillery in a rehabilitated historic building downtown – using water from the city's famed spring.
The Cave Spring Distilling Co. will be marketed as a tourist destination, with tours, a tasting room and onsite sales. It could open as early as this fall.
Council members are scheduled to start their regular meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 10 Georgia Ave.
In addition to hearing the monthly departmental reports, a dedication ceremony is scheduled to officially name the council chamber in honor of Mike Ragland. The iconic author, local historian and former city council member died suddenly on March 16 as he was leaving a book-signing event at Welshfest in Rockmart.
The council also is expected to approve a leave of absence for Mayor Dennis Shoaf, who has been battling an illness following an earlier heart attack.
Council member Tom Lindsey has been serving as mayor pro tem. He said the city's charter allows members to miss only four meetings without action being taken. The leave will give Shoaf additional time to recover.
A request for a beer and wine package sales permit for Mike Mawjiessa at the Town Square Coastal convenience store also is expected to be approved.
Donald White's memory whirs away inside his head like the fine-toothed gears of an antique Rolex. He's precise, and he's consistent.
He can rattle off the original land lot numbers for a good many of the privately-held parcels that line the valley where he spent his boyhood fishing and swimming in John's Creek in the northern reaches of Floyd County. He remembers the names of the principals of the old Everett Springs Schools, along with the order in which they appeared. He remembers first and last names of all his grade school teachers and which instructor he had for which grade.
He recalls the days when anything east of the Oostanaula was "a foreign land" on account of the fact that to negotiate the area's many waterways, travelers had to go all the way to Bells Ferry to find a crossing.
"It was the horse and buggy days, so going to Rome, it took you a day to go down there," he says. "My daddy, it took him all day to get a load of lumber on a wagon to Rome. He spent the night and came back the next day."
White, now 92, spent nearly 30 years away from his native Everett Springs working for
the Georgia Department of Transportation's Office of Materials and Research. He returned to his childhood home in 1991 to take over the family farm, bringing it back from overgrowth, and this is where he's been since.
Growing up and working
White, who recently celebrated a birthday, was born in 1927 to Dennis and Clara White in a four-room wooden house that still stands very near Everett Springs Road.
The family, which included his sisters, Eleanor and Avis, and his brother, Evyn, farmed for a living.
"The money crop was cotton, and we had a small sawmill that we used to cut saw logs in the wintertime to make a living with," Donald says.
Meanwhile, World War II began, and in 1945, the Navy drafted Donald. An injured knee kept him from completing basic training, and he returned home after the Navy placed him on medical holdover. By the time his knee healed, the war was over.
The family began a dairy farm in 1958, and Donald ended up in his state job in 1962. He left Everett Springs at that time and settled in Rockdale County. He saw most of the state as he collected information for the construction of bridges and roadways.
"We left on Monday morning, and we stayed out all week," he says. "I've been to every county in the state except for one or two down near the Florida swamps."
The traveling went on for seven years, and then Donald moved to overseeing a department building and a vehicle fleet. He supervised mechanics and maintenance personnel in their efforts to keep the facility and 200-vehicle fleet running smoothly.
With his characteristic clarity, he recalls the exact date when he made the decision to take over the family farm in Everett Springs and make it habitable for cattle. It was New Year's Day 1980. His father had become unable to take care of the place, so Donald set about getting the pastures back in working order on weekends when he drove up from Atlanta.
"We cleared it up and put fences around it," he recalls.
He also began enjoying John's Creek again, just like when he was a boy.
"We did a lot of fishing, and I had beagles," he says. "We loved to hunt rabbits and run those beagles."
A gradual shift
When he thinks back to his early years, Donald recalls details about the community that few others were alive to see. He tells a story about drinking an RC Cola that a salesman gave him. He and a friend each got one from a company rep hoping to begin delivering to the small general store in Everett Springs, and they drank the seemingly bottomless bottles on the store steps.
He recalls the blacksmith shop that still stands across from the community spring. The building had a gristmill attached at the back, and there was a one-room doctor's office just down the road. He can describe the hotel that stood where Everett Springs Baptist Church is now — there were eight rooms with a hallway and a separate kitchen and dining area. He remembers when the old Moore Seminary housed the community courthouse and when a minister visited Mount Tabor Methodist Church on a rotating basis.
"We'd only have pastoral services once a month," he says. "Mount Tabor was the fourth Sunday."
Part of growing up in Everett Springs meant watching activities like shopping and education gradually shift toward Rome. Like many other small, rural communities, this one experienced a midcentury consolidation that took its students out of the old brick school building and into the Armuchee system. Donald remembers the community's mixed feelings about the latter development.
"All of us had a little bit of dissension about it, but it's just part of the way the system changes," he says.
He still attends Mount Tabor, regularly — he's been a member there since 1939. At the church's most recent Halloween celebration, he was the oldest attendee, and he had the trunk popped on his Mercury town car as he handed out candy.
His ability to roll with the changes time brings is perhaps one of his greatest strengths, and he's vocal about the necessity for adjustment. He has taken over the majority of the household cooking in order to care for his wife, Peggy, and he hasn't shied from innovations like the Instant Pot, which he cooks with quite frequently.
He's seen a good many neighbors pass away over the years. He's attended their funerals at Mount Tabor United Methodist Church, and he has kept a record of these events. He remembers his father teaching him from a young age to face life's changes head-on, and those changes included the inevitable passing of loved ones. Dennis would hold his young son up so he could see a deceased person in a coffin during a wake.
"Time goes on. That's the way it is," Donald remembers learning from his father. "I understood the thing about dying. We're not here permanently. We're only promised to be here for a short while, and we're going on."
While looking forward, he maintains strong ties to the past. Visitors might get a chance to page through his "birthday book," a volume of photos a niece made for him, which chronicle his life from age three to his 80th birthday. His love for his community and careful mental documentation of his experiences there are well-known treasures among his neighbors. Although his work led him away from Everett Springs for nearly three decades, he says he knew he'd return permanently.
"When I started working on this farm, it was the long range plan," he says. "This was home to me."
Another round of pretrial hearings are scheduled in Judge Billy Sparks' courtroom Monday concerning Floyd County's lone death penalty case.
Timothy Tyrone Foster, who is now 51, was sentenced to death in 1987 for the murder of retired school teacher Queen Madge White during a burglary at her home at Highland Circle — he was 18 at the time of the incident.
The 79-year-old woman had been attacked and molested before being strangled to death.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction two years ago, on the grounds of black jurors being excluded from his original trial.
Once his conviction was overturned, Foster was moved back to the Floyd County Jail from Georgia's death row in Jackson. In 2018 the state expressed its intent to seek the death penalty and the lengthy process began again.
Another round of hearings took place in October 2018 which is part of a process called the Unified Appeal, essentially a checklist designed to protect a defendant's rights.
The bevy of motions discussed in Floyd County Superior Court in October covered a wide range of topics including attempting to suppress Foster's comments after his arrest to general challenges to the constitutionality of the death penalty and lethal injections.
While other men currently in prison had been sentenced to death, their capital sentences have been reduced to life without parole for various reasons. James Randall Rogers, now 57, is the only man currently sentenced to death from Floyd County. Rogers raped and murdered his 75-year-old neighbor in 1980. The Georgia Department of Corrections does not list any date for Rogers' scheduled execution.
Today's artwork is by Katie Hernandez, a second-grader at Alto Park Elementary School.