101118 LawEnforcement

Rome Firefighters Memorial Plaza on the corner of West Sixth Avenue and West First Street downtown awaits the installation of a bronze statue, which will be unveiled at a dedication ceremony set for 10 a.m. on Oct. 20. / Diane Wagner

Construction is wrapping up on the plaza at the corner of West Sixth Avenue and West First Street, behind City Hall. A columned archway made from the keystones of one of Rome's 1870s-era volunteer fire departments draws the eye of passersby now. The true focal point — a bronze firefighter statue — will be unveiled during the ceremony.

Fire Chief Troy Brock said Wednesday that nearly 300 invitations went out to people connected with the memorial, but the event is open to the community and he's expecting a crowd.

"There's going to be a lot of foot traffic," Brock said.

West First Street will be closed from 9:30 a.m. to about noon between West Sixth Avenue and Fire Station 1 at the corner of West Fifth Avenue. Brock said they'll be bringing in fire apparatus from other stations to park there.

"It's looking good," said Floyd County Commissioner Wright Bagby, who chairs the county public safety committee.

The committee, made up of representatives from nine departments ranging from animal control to the 911 center, meets monthly to share updates.

Cathy Taylor of the Metro Task Force said members of the multi-department agency put in 667 hours of surveillance in September, made seven arrests and confiscated $11,440 worth of street drugs. That brought the total value of confiscations for the year to $532,029, she said.

The task force commander, Sgt. Brandon Ekey, said one officer was exposed to an unknown substance and was treated with the opioid antidote Narcan at the hospital. The substance was sent for analysis to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration crime lab in Virginia.

At full staff, the task force includes three representatives from the city police, three from the county police and two from the sheriff’s office. Several, however, are vacant or filled on a temporary basis.

Assistant Police Chief Tom Ewing said the department is training two recently graduated officers who will likely be ready for assignments by the end of the year. Five more new hires are completing their certifications and are expected to be working alone by May. Four certified officers are out recovering from various injuries.

"Hopefully we're going to fill those two Metro positions once we get those other two trained up," Ewing told the committee.

The fire department also is filling its vacant slots, with 14 new hires close to completing "rookie school," Brock said, although they'll be losing 10 older employees by the end of the year. Most are due to retirements.

Deputy Warden Frank Cronan said he expects to fill the sole vacancy on the county prison staff this week, but Maj. Dave Roberson of the Floyd County Sheriff's Office said they're always looking for applicants.

"It seems like every time we hire two or three, we lose two or three," Roberson said.

Ewing also announced that county police have launched their annual beard contest. Officers can pay $20 a month to let their beards grow from October through December. The first month's takings fund the department's Christmas luncheon, the money collected in November and December goes to breast cancer research, he said.