Full support for a new ELOST package is up in the air for the Floyd County Board of Education, after an hour and a half of discussion at their work session.
Both the Floyd County and Rome City school systems are planning to seek a renewal of the 1-cent education local option sales tax on the May primary ballot. Rome is planning to put most of its money towards a new Rome Middle School.
Floyd County is focusing on multiple projects that would provide upgrades to all schools, such as roof and HVAC system replacements.
The projects proposed were chosen by a district facilities committee made up of community members. Facilities Manager Jack Gardner provided the committee with a list of facility needs and they chose the projects based off of that list.
Board members will be voting on a resolution to approve the list of ELOST projects at their Jan. 10 meeting.
However, Floyd County is still working on one major project from the 2017 ELOST — the Armuchee High School modernization — and Armuchee board member Chip Hood is hesitant to give his support to a new ELOST while the Armuchee project is still ongoing.
“Until Armuchee is finished, I’m not supporting ELOST, unless all Armuchee projects are Tier I,” Hood said during the meeting Monday. “There’s a possibility that if we go ahead with this ELOST, Armuchee will never be finished.”
There are multiple reasons for the delay in the Armuchee modernization: a rise in material costs, supply chain issues and labor shortages. The construction of the new Armuchee gym, which was part of the modernization project, also took up the majority of the initial funds.
Still, Hood pointed out that they were able to finish the Pepperell Middle School project within a year and the Armuchee community is still waiting for its high school to be renovated and modernized.
Some of the projects listed in the proposed ELOST include new fieldhouses for Armuchee and Coosa High School, a complete kitchen renovation for Armuchee, auditorium upgrades and turf and field upgrades for all four high schools.
Many of the school board members argued that the Armuchee project is still underway and that this new ELOST will cover the remaining projects that can’t be covered under the remaining 2017 ELOST funds.
“I just want to be sure that we’re going to do what we say we’re going to do,” Hood said.
Hood also brought up a flyer from the previous ELOST that detailed projects for the high school that have since been pushed aside. Some of these include clerestory windows, which Superintendent Glenn White said were scrapped because of structural issues, and stadium renovations.
Board members agreed with Hood, but countered that some of the flyers sent out were approved by the ELOST committee but not the board.
From the public’s perspective, Hood said, it looks like Armuchee isn’t considered a priority and it’s not near completion.
“I’m not saying we should have new turf and field before other schools, I just think the Armuchee projects should be listed separately so that it says to the Armuchee community, ‘we’re going to finish what we started,’” Hood said. “To me, this is an integrity thing.”
If the ELOST is approved by voters, White said the systemwide projects will be done in the order of who needs it the most. For example, Model Middle School’s roof has several leaks so they will likely receive a new roof first.
Board member Melinda Strickland said the Armuchee community is upset that they didn’t get a new building and that they’re beginning to make it an “us against them” situation.
“If we built a new building, it would be half the size of what that school is now — because our numbers are low and the state wouldn’t allow us to build a facility as big as the current building,” Strickland pointed out. “They (Armuchee) are beginning to segregate themselves and that’s not the way it should be. We’re all in this together.”
Gardner said once the Armuchee project is finished it will look like a brand new building.
So far, a new roof has been installed and they’re replacing all the old wiring and electrical equipment.
Over the summer, construction workers will also be installing a new HVAC system. In addition, Gardner said they will be installing new toilets and sinks in the bathrooms, as well as installing a new plumbing line.
“Every classroom will have new lighting, new paint and new electrical equipment,” Gardner said.
Carroll Daniel Construction workers are currently renovating eight classrooms in the eighth grade wing.
By the time summer construction begins, about 80% of the electrical work will be completed.
If construction isn’t completed by the time students and teachers return in August, Armuchee High School will be temporarily moved into the former Glenwood Primary building.
To finish out the modernization, the school system will also have to install new flooring, new asphalt, new doors and windows and kitchen equipment. All total, it would be about $4.5 million.
Most of these items are included in the proposed ELOST, except for the new doors and windows.
As a compromise, White proposed to include $1 million in the ELOST to provide new doors and windows to the Armuchee building.
Right now, school board members fear their creditability is on the line.
“I think we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing with what we can,” Strickland said. “It shouldn’t feel like our creditability is at stake.”
Board Chair Tony Daniel said that they can’t give concrete answers as to when everything will be done, because they don’t know.
If the $51.7 million ELOST package fails to pass, many of the projects on the list will not come to fruition, according to the superintendent. It would also spike Rome’s plans for the middle school.
“We also need to consider the impact it would have on Rome City Schools,” Board Attorney King Askew said.
On Tuesday, Hood said that he still thinks finishing AHS should be a top priority.
“Are we getting closer to figuring things out? Yes, but we still have a ways to go before voting on Monday,” Hood said.
A caravan of supplies and volunteers left Rome in the early and cold hours of Monday morning bound for Southwest Kentucky.
Just days earlier, RomeGaCares had collected donations of food, clothes and other essentials for victims of recent tornadoes in Kentucky and the caravan headed to Marshall County and Graves County, some of the hardest hit areas.
What the team found there was almost total devastation. After meeting with Marshall County Sheriff Eddie McGuire on Monday, they prepared to deliver donations across the area.
They began assisting storm victims with tree removal, helping an elderly man clean up what was left of his business and helping a local church tear down falling buildings.
Steve Freeman is pastor of East Marshall Baptist Church in Gilbertsville, Kentucky. He said having the RomeGaCares team there to help was not just a blessing. It was critical.
“At this point it’s so overwhelming,” he said. “This (destruction) is beyond what we have the capability to respond to locally. In this part of the state it’s critical to get help like this. Many of the people in this area are being sheltered but I don’t know how we’re going to get enough contractors to rebuild the numbers of homes and businesses that have been destroyed.”
Many of the residents of that area are being sheltered at state parks. David Thornton, Floyd County Sheriff’s Office chaplain, is one of the organizers of the mission. He said that on Wednesday members of the RomeGaCares team would be visiting those parks to take backpacks and toys for the kids, to lift their spirits a bit.
Thornton said on Tuesday a crew was working at Freeman’s church in Gilbertsville, attempting to tear down parts of the building that were too badly damaged. Other RomeGaCares volunteers were working in other counties as well.
“We have 23 people divided into four teams working in three counties — Graves, Marshall and Calloway,” he said.
Sheriff Dave Roberson is also in Kentucky and he said the team had a full schedule of work on Tuesday. They also planned to cook for volunteers in their group as well as a team from the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office.
“The plan is to return to Rome Friday,” he said. “But that may change since there’s a 70% chance of snow for Thursday. We may have to return sooner.”
Time will tell if hospitalizations will reach record highs set in early September, but the daily COVID-19 patient count in Floyd County’s hospitals continues to increase.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 peaked in September, staying above 200. On Tuesday, Floyd County Emergency Management Agency records showed a total of 82 COVID-19 positive patients being treated in local hospitals — 52 at Floyd Medical Center and 22 at AdventHealth Redmond.
That’s up from 75 on Monday. While that’s potentially a daily fluctuation, the average COVID-19 patient count has steadily increased. Two weeks ago on Dec. 21 there were 30 COVID-19 positive patients in local hospitals, one week ago on Dec. 28 that number had increased to 39.
Georgia Health News reported that many Atlanta-area hospitals are already seeing peak numbers.
On Monday, Grady Memorial Hospital reported treating 239 COVID-19 patients and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta reported it had 102 patients hospitalized due to COVID-19. Both hospitals stated the numbers are record highs.
The webpage where the Georgia Department of Public Health reports COVID-19 statistics crashed Monday, citing “a large amount of data overwhelming the system,” but was back up on Tuesday.
On average, Floyd County has reported 171.6 new cases per day in the past week. That’s nearly triple the previous week’s 7-day moving average of 63 on Dec. 28. A week prior, on Dec. 21, the 7-day moving average was 23 new cases a day.
For reference, the highest 7-day moving average to date was on Sept. 6, at 171.4 new COVID-19 cases per day. The other issue is that there’s no indication the current spike is at its peak, meaning if the spread continues it will surpass any other peak Floyd County has seen so far.
There have been reports of long testing lines locally and across the state and nation. The upsurge has been attributed to a combination of things: the continued wide spread of the delta variant, holiday gatherings and the introduction of the highly virulent omicron variant.
Nationally, more than one million new COVID-19 infections were reported in the U.S. early this week as most states worked to clear holiday backlogs, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Rome Floyd Chamber has rescheduled its 2022 Business EXPO from January to November, citing a spike in COVID-19 cases.
“We were excited to return back to the EXPO in person, but with the recent spike in COVID cases, we decided to push to our November date,” said Chamber President and CEO Pam Powers-Smith. “We want it to be a great event so we will focus on making it just that when we bring it back. As always, we encourage everyone to support small businesses in our community, and we look forward to showcasing them this fall.”
The newly scheduled date of Nov. 3 is expected to be a return to an in-person event at the Forum River Center.
From restaurants to realty to landscaping, businesses represented at the EXPO run the gamut. The event aims to highlight the diversity of the business community that is the heartbeat of the Rome and Floyd County community.
“The EXPO has been an important event in the business community for decades,” said Thomas Kislat, director of membership and entrepreneurial development.
Focusing on a creating a connection between businesses and their peers, the Business EXPO seeks to help businesses grow their business by highlighting what they have to offer to customers and clients.
The event is generally open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with scheduled vendor to vendor networking times and a Business After Hours event for chamber members.
Typically, around 100 businesses participate in the Business EXPO. As of Tuesday, there were 15 booths still available.