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Students pay homage to black stars
• The show, put on by Rome City Schools students, honors the contributions of black writers, actors, athletes and singers to American culture.

There were Samuel L. Jackson fight sequences, rousing covers of "Proud Mary" and "I Believe I Can Fly," and an appearance from the former first family among the acts of the Rome City Schools Black History Month performance Wednesday.

The main showing of the performance — titled "Moguls, Movies and Music" — was Wednesday night at the City Auditorium.

However, students at the middle and high schools were able to catch the acts earlier in the day at the Rome High auditorium.

The two shows were rewards for students through the PBIS — Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports — method.

During the afternoon showing, high school students sang along, yelled and cheered from their seats and even used their cellphones in the darkened auditorium to sway along to the music.

The performance theme was "Black Excellence," celebrating the contributions of black writers, producers, actors, athletes and entertainers to American culture.

Students across the system, from elementary to high school, participated in the show, which transitioned to each act through student narration, calling out the names of Langston Hughes, Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Jackie Robinson, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and Oprah Winfrey.

For the act honoring Oprah, a mock set was put together for an interview with Maya Angelou.

Students sang, danced, stepped and played the parts of notable black Americans.

West Central Elementary teacher Stephanie Dean coordinated the program with the help of Black History Month Committee co-chairs Tashia Twyman and Kristin Hall.


TODAY'S YOUNG ARTIST

Today's artwork is by Rome Middle School student Henoch Sebuh.


Locals calling for vote on extra fees and fines
• A tire-roll at the State Capitol next week is aimed at pushing lawmakers to use funds for their designated purposes.

Rome City Commissioners are pressing state lawmakers to let the voters decide — and Rome based Coosa River Basin Initiative is adding an extra push.

House Resolution 158 would set up a statewide referendum on protecting designated funds. They're accounts such as the Solid Waste Trust Fund built up with the $1 replacement tire fee or the add-on traffic fine under Joshua's Law that's meant to pay for teen drivers education.

"These are for designated programs, but the General Assembly can put the money into their general fund," Commissioner Evie McNiece said. "It kind of goes hand-in-hand with ethics, if you ask me."

The bipartisan measure, sponsored by Republican Rep. Jay Powell of Camilla, calls for a constitutional amendment allowing lawmakers to permanently earmark the revenue from a targeted fee or fine.

"I think that's a very important bill," Mayor Jamie Doss said before the board unanimously backed a resolution urging passage of HR 158.

It cleared the House late last week with support from all three of Floyd County's delegates and is awaiting a hearing in the Senate. But it's been a battle to get it that far, so CRBI and the Georgia Water Coalition are sponsoring a marathon scrap tire roll around the State Capitol to highlight the issue.

"The Bible tells us Joshua and the Israelites circled Jericho enough times to bring down the city's walls," said Jesse DemonbreunChapman, CRBI executive director and Riverkeeper. "We don't expect to bring down the walls of the Capitol, but we do hope that by pushing a tire for 24 hours we can help push this legislation across the finish line."

Rep. John Meadows, RCalhoun, is a co-sponsor of the resolution and a long-time advocate for locking down the fees. He's authored bills to abolish fees that aren't used for their intended purpose, but they've always died for lack of support.

"If we haven't spent those dollars for what we said we would, why are we collecting them?" Meadows said last year as he was trying to muster enough votes to pass HR 158 out of his chamber.

Demonbreun-Chapman said residents have paid about $500 million into the Hazardous Waste and Solid Waste trust funds for community clean-ups since their creation in the 1990s, but about $200 million has been diverted to the state's general fund.

"HR 158 will help hold legislators accountable, and ensure that the fees we pay for specific programs will be used for their intended purpose," he said. "It's a measure that restores honesty and trust in our government."

The Georgia Water Coalition is lining up volunteers now for next week's 24-hour marathon. They'll push a large tire around the sidewalks surrounding the Capitol from 8 a.m. Feb. 28 to 8 a.m. March 1.

The roll will end as Capitol Conservation Day begins. Advocates from around the state will be meeting with lawmakers about legislation to protect Georgia's water resources. The free event includes breakfast and an information workshop.

To register, visit www.gawater.org. To sign up as a tire-roller, contact Joe Cook, CRBI advocacy and communication coordinator, at jcook@coosa.org.


HPC approves new plan for Hoyt Hill
• Demolition of the old home will be the next step.

Redevelopment plans for property at 603 W. First St. were approved by Rome's Historic Preservation Commission Wednesday, paving the way for demolition of the Hoyt House which has been in a state of decay for years.

New plans for the property include townhouse buildings that will front West First Street, and two single-family dwellings higher up the hill, which will be occupied by members of the Hoyt family. All told the development, called Hoyt Hill, will include 12 residences.

The project had been delayed by concerns about the initial look of the main townhouse building.

"Thank you for taking another look at it," said Beth Dunay, vice chairwoman of the HPC. The drawings show garage doors on the first floor facade facing West First Street, however architect Bill Jones said they would have a historic carriage house look to them.

The HPC also approved plans for a facade change and new entrance for stairs leading to a second-floor residence at 421 Broad St., the Lieberman Chiropractic building. The plans also call for converting the second floor into a single loft apartment with two rooftop decks on the building that will not be visible from either Broad Street or West First Street.

Plans were approved for the removal of an attached shed, along with replacement and repair of siding at a duplex home at 1001 Avenue A. David Clonts said his plans include a return of the structure to a single-family unit.

A request from Renee Fuller and Nathan Roberts for a new facade at 407-409 Broad St., including the removal of the Broad Street stairway entrance to the upper level of the buildings, was also approved Wednesday.

Harry Brock's request for a facade change at 412 Broad St. was also given unanimous approval. Brock also plans to convert the second floor into a private residence.

The HPC reviewed separate requests for work at 425 Broad St., the old Esserman building. Hatim Khateeb was given tentative approval for signage for his Middle Eastern Grill restaurant on the first floor, but that could be changed in the wake of a separate request from the building owners, RF & MK LLC, for a major facelift that will include removal of the panels covering second story windows on the old Esserman building.

The architect said the second floor of that building will be converted into four loft apartments.

The commission unanimously approved plans for an addition to a home at 509 E. Third St. The addition will feature two bedrooms and a bath and will not be visible from the street.

Architect Mark Cochran, who designed the addition at 509 E. Third, also spoke on behalf of a request for a renovation of the storefront at 247 Broad St. The Vogue building will be used as a special events facility operated by the catering team at the Harvest Moon restaurant, 234 Broad St. They will retain the historic Vogue name and sign, which was uncovered during early renovations to the building by new owner Wayne Robinson.


FCS ELOST 4 projects include security upgrades
• In addition to looking into further security measures at the request of the board, Floyd County Schools has already been planning CCTV security camera upgrades and equipping middle and high schools with buzz-in entry systems.

Tony Daniel

"Good security is never convenient," said Floyd County Board of Education member Tony Daniel.

His comment followed Floyd County Schools administrators briefing board members during a called meeting Tuesday on school safety protocols and infrastructure currently in place, along with measures which had been planned prior to the topic being elevated due to last week's deadly shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school.

Director of Students Services Glenn White said the system currently has four SROs — school resources officers — who are assigned to each district. They are mainly stationed at the high school, but do make rounds at the lower schools.

Every school has a radio which is tied into Floyd County 911, and a button can be pushed to make the call, White said. Also all elementary schools have buzz-in entry systems — an ELOST 4 project — where someone in the front office can see who is at the door before they are let in. Deputy Superintendent April Childers said installing similar systems at each middle school is being planned, and it was mentioned Tuesday for this to apply to the three high schools without them — Coosa High had it installed with new school.

White added that these same entry systems can initiate a lockdown in an active shooter situation; police response is estimated to be three to four minutes. Each school has emergency action plans which call for at least three drills — fire, tornado, lockdown — throughout the year.

Also for the first time, White said the system is planning a whole school evacuation April 30, moving students from Armuchee Middle to Armuchee High in buses. This will allow for an evaluation of safety plans, which the system receives guidance on from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, he continued.

A revision to the safety policy was made last year, cutting out the use of code words and instead using only plain English.

Additional projects aimed at school safety, to be funded by the current 1-cent education local options sales tax, include upgrading CCTV security cameras at Pepperell High, Model High and the College and Career Academy.

Childers said bids are currently out for these upgrades at Pepperell High, which has 180 cameras, monitoring the interior, door entries and parking lots. These upgrades will also reach middle schools.

For any construction involving entry ways, Childers said two-tier entry systems will be built into plans, including the modernization of Armuchee High and construction of a new Pepperell Middle.