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Business
Ball Corp. agrees to purchase industrial site at intersection of Ga.53 and 140

Ball Corp. has agreed to purchase approximately 109 acres at the intersection of Ga. 53 and 140 for a mammoth regional distribution center.

Just over two years ago Ball had agreed to purchase 67 acres in the Northwest Regional Industrial Park, off Ga. 53 in Shannon, for future growth. However, the site owned by the Gordon County-Floyd County Joint Development Authority ultimately did not meet the company’s needs.

Contributed 

This is an image that Rome-Floyd County Development Authority shows prospects of the 100-acre industrial site at the intersection of Ga. 53 and Ga. 140. Ga. 140 is at the left of this photo.

The Rome-Floyd County Development Authority and Development Authority of Floyd County agreed to the new deal Tuesday morning.

It will lead to a 750,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center on the property. Ball’s investment in the new facility is expected to be $51.8 million and create 70 new jobs over three years.

Ball has a major beverage container plant and a brand new recyclable aluminum cup manufacturing plant less than five miles from that site.

The company will pay $35,000 per acre for the parcel. A cell tower and easement allowing access to the tower is located on the western side of the tract. It is not included in the sale.

The sale will pay off the debt on the site and eliminate the interest payments on the bonds used to purchase the site. Floyd County has paid approximately $2 million in interest since the purchase of the property, which also includes the Lowe’s Distribution Center.

When the sale of the property closes, any money left over from the debt payment will be split between the two development authorities.

Ball will make a payment in lieu of taxes, amounting to $64,813 annually for 10 years, to the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority.

The first three years, the company will receive a 100% tax abatement. The next three years Ball will get a 75% tax break, then a 50% tax break for years seven though nine and a 25% break in year 10.

Doug Walker, File 

In this January 2020 file photo, Ball Corp. CEO and President John A. Hayes said the new aluminum cup plant being constructed northeast of Rome represents a major commitment to sustainability by the company.

Solar farm heading to Floyd County Industrial Park

The Development Authority of Floyd County also agreed to a 90-day option deal with Office of Solar Development LLC for between 20 and 25 acres in the Floyd County Industrial Park off U.S. 27 south near Georgia Highlands College.

Developers are seeking to put a four megawatt solar farm on the site, which has been largely undevelopable in the past. As part of the deal, OSD has agreed to a long term lease at $900 per acre for 30 years.

If the deal goes through, the new solar farm would produce enough electricity to power nearly 500 homes.

Partners sought for spec building

Missy Kendrick

Missy Kendrick, president of the Rome Floyd County Development Authority, said she will be seeking proposals from parties interested in a public-private partnership for a new industrial building on the property adjacent to the Lowe’s Regional Distribution Center.

Jimmy Byars

The proposal will specify the community is seeking at least a 100,000-square-foot structure and does not anticipate using more than half of the 52-acre site for the project.

Part of the public participation will involve construction of an access road to property.

“It’s exciting that we’ve got interest,” said Jimmy Byars, chairman of the RFCDA. “We tried this before and got no interest. But Missy’s already had some interest so we’re going to send it out to any and everybody.”

Byars also won approval from his body to spend up to $150,000 to evaluate and assess potential properties for economic development, including the former Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital property.

Kendrick said the RFCDA will conduct a Phase II on the northwest Georgia Regional Hospital site to determine any environmental issues, as well as the possibility of doing a demolition survey to assess the presence of hazardous materials such as asbestos and lead paint, to determine the cost of clearing the older buildings and residences.

The sale of the acreage at the northwest corner of Ga. 53 and 140 essentially leaves the community without a large parcel for future industrial development.

“We’ve been working really hard (on land), we’ve been doing so for over a year now,” said Floyd County Manager Jamie McCord.


Local
Rome alcohol board to look into gaming machines, approves pouring permits at Cod Tail

Rome’s Alcohol Control Commission wants to get a better understanding of the extent of gaming machines tucked away in convenience stores across the city.

According to the Georgia Lottery Corp. website, 102 locations in Floyd County are approved sites for the machines.

An issue is that stores with gaming machines are more often targeted for robbery or theft, Rome Police Sgt. Pete Sailors said.

Stores with gaming machines that are open 24 hours a day often have people, mostly unsupervised, on the machines late at night or in the early morning hours, he said.

To back up that assertion, Maj. Rodney Bailey committed to providing a complete statistical analysis of crime that may be related to gaming machines when the ACC meets in May.

The city has little authority when it comes to regulating the gaming machines; much of that falls to the Georgia Lottery Corp.

“We do have the authority to limit the number of gaming machines at an particular outlet,” City Clerk Joe Smith said. “The Georgia Municipal Association (ordinance), I believe, allows as many as nine.”

The city also can require that gaming machines not be in a back room, as is the case in many of the stores, Smith said.

For some background, state law prohibits the stores from generating more than 50% of their total gross revenue from the gaming machines. Stores that have gaming machines pay a $125 annual license fee per machine.

The law also prohibits any form of cash payout for gaming machine winnings. The redemption awards from the machines can be only for business merchandise or lottery tickets at the location where the game is played. No alcohol, tobacco or firearms can be redeemed.

Stores often skirt or ignore those laws to rake in additional profits and ACC board member John Kendrick questioned if there have been any investigations to determine which stores are paying cash.

Bailey said the GBI gambling unit is in charge of that and the Lottery Corp. has agents who conduct fraud and cash payment investigations as well.

“I am going to inquire about getting some training from them,” Bailey said.

New licenses, sting resolutions

Cod Tail, a new seafood restaurant at 2103 Shorter Ave., was approved for a new beer and wine pouring license. Owner Huang Lin said he is familiar with all the requirements for making sure the restaurant does not provide beverages to underage customers.

Also, the ACC recommended a $1,000 fine and 10-day package sales license suspension for Abul Siddiqui at the Maple Food Mart, 2017 Maple Ave.

A clerk at the store sold alcohol to a minor during a sting on March 10.

Siddiqui said the clerk had been conscientious about checking ID but had a COVID-19 death in his family and was on the phone with family at the time the sting took place.

This was the second violation for Siddiqui’s store in the last 13 months, which resulted in the proposed penalty. The Rome City Commission will act on the ACC recommendation when it meets April 26.

The panel postponed a hearing on an underaged sale of alcohol at the Calhoun EZ Stop, 618 Calhoun Ave., until their May meeting after no one showed up Monday night.


Local
Warnock speaks at U.S. Senate hearing concerning controversial Georgia elections law changes

Georgia’s controversial new voting laws took center stage Tuesday at a U.S. Senate hearing where majority Democrats blasted changes in state voting rules as a revival of the Jim Crow era of segregation.

The hearing, titled “Jim Crow 2021: The Latest Assault on the Right to Vote,” featured several Georgia leaders including Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and Georgia House Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones, R-Milton, who helped draft the Georgia law changes.

Leading members of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which held Tuesday’s hearing, took turns echoing stances on Georgia’s election law from Democrats who frame the changes as acts of voter suppression and Republicans who argue the legislation was needed to bolster election integrity.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill last month after party-line approval in the General Assembly.

It requires tighter absentee voter identification, empowers state officials to take over poor-performing county election boards, expands early-voting weekend hours and bans non-poll workers from handing out food and drinks within 150 feet of voters waiting in line outside precincts.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who chairs the committee, said Georgia’s bill is among hundreds that Republican lawmakers in several states have brought since the 2020 elections as part of a “wave of voter suppression laws” aimed at curbing minority voter participation.

“It seems Republican lawmakers in Georgia have concluded that the solution to their election problems is to make it harder to vote,” Durbin said. “That is fundamentally un-American. … It is democracy in reverse.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the committee’s ranking Republican, scoffed at Democrats’ attempts to paint Georgia’s new voting laws as racist. He stressed the need to shore up election rules amid distrust among conservative voters following former President Donald Trump’s fraud claims.

“Baseless claims of voter suppression are just as corrosive to our democracy as baseless claims of voter fraud,” Grassley said. “We should all be committed to making elections accessible and secure to maintain the confidence of voters in elections.”

The law changes in Georgia have become a lightning rod for national lawmakers to push for passing federal legislation that would broaden access to mail-in and early voting and revive oversight provisions in the 1965 Voting Rights Act championed by the late Congressman John Lewis of Atlanta.

Warnock, who won election to the Senate in January, said federal legislation is needed to tamp down “a full-fledged assault on voting rights” spurred by the new Georgia law.

“We’ve got to act,” Warnock said at Tuesday’s hearing. “History is watching us, our children are counting on us and we must pass federal voting rights legislation no matter what.”

Abrams, who founded the voting-rights advocacy group Fair Fight and will likely challenge Kemp in a 2022 rematch for governor, also called for federal election legislation to stave off the impacts of law changes such as those seen recently in Georgia.

“When the fundamental right to vote is left to the political ambitions and prejudices of state actors … federal intercession stands as the appropriate remedy,” Abrams said. “Simply put, (federal voting-rights legislation) is essential to the advancement of democracy.”

Republicans testifying before the committee batted back claims Georgia’s election laws would disenfranchise voters. They also condemned some companies that have denounced the new laws including Major League Baseball, which pulled the All-Star Game from Atlanta earlier this month.

Jones highlighted changes lawmakers passed that limit outside funding in elections, add more weekend days to early voting and replace signature matching for mail-in ballots.

“It’s easy to write alarming words and give misleading sound bites that would lead people away from the facts,” Jones said. “And it’s just plain wrong.”

Not present at Tuesday’s hearing was Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who has largely supported the new law changes despite facing attacks from Trump’s allies for not overturning last year’s elections results. Raffensperger slammed the Senate committee for not inviting him to testify.

“While I don’t love every part of this bill, it is no return to Jim Crow by any stretch of the imagination,” Raffensperger said in remarks he planned to read before the committee. “The comparison is insulting, morally wrong and factually incorrect.”


Davanci Dargin, a first-grader at Main Elementary School


Associated_press
AP
Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd's death

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted Tuesday of murder and manslaughter for pinning George Floyd to the pavement with his knee on the Black man’s neck in a case that triggered worldwide protests, violence and a furious reexamination of racism and policing in the U.S.

Chauvin, 45, was immediately led away with his hands cuffed behind his back and could be sent to prison for decades.

The verdict — guilty as charged on all counts, in a relatively swift, across-the-board victory for Floyd's supporters — set off jubilation mixed with sorrow across the city and around the nation. Hundreds of people poured into the streets of Minneapolis, some running through traffic with banners. Drivers blared their horns in celebration.

“Today, we are able to breathe again,” Floyd's younger brother Philonise said at a joyous family news conference where tears streamed down his face as he likened Floyd to the 1955 Mississippi lynching victim Emmett Till, except that this time there were cameras around to show the world what happened.

The jury of six whites and six Black or multiracial people came back with its verdict after about 10 hours of deliberations over two days. The now-fired white officer was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Chauvin's face was obscured by a COVID-19 mask, and little reaction could be seen beyond his eyes darting around the courtroom. His bail was immediately revoked. Sentencing will be in two months; the most serious charge carries up to 40 years in prison.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson followed Chauvin out of the courtroom without comment.

President Joe Biden welcomed the verdict, saying Floyd’s death was “a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world” to see systemic racism.

But he warned: “It’s not enough. We can’t stop here. We’re going to deliver real change and reform. We can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen again.”

The jury's decision was hailed around the country as justice by other political and civic leaders and celebrities, including former President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a white man, who said on Twitter that Floyd “would still be alive if he looked like me. That must change.”

At a park next to the Minneapolis courthouse, a hush fell over a crowd of about 300 as they listened to the verdict on their cellphones. Then a great roar went up, with many people hugging, some shedding tears.

At the intersection where Floyd was pinned down, a crowd chanted, “One down, three to go!” — a reference to the three other fired Minneapolis officers facing trial in August on charges of aiding and abetting murder in Floyd's death.

Janay Henry, who lives nearby, said she felt grateful and relieved.

“I feel grounded. I can feel my feet on the concrete," she said, adding that she was looking forward to the “next case with joy and optimism and strength.”

Jamee Haggard, who brought her biracial 4-year-old daughter to the intersection, said: “There’s some form of justice that’s coming."

The verdict was read in a courthouse ringed with concrete barriers and razor wire and patrolled by National Guard troops, in a city on edge against another round of unrest — not just because of the Chauvin case but because of the deadly police shooting of a young Black man, Daunte Wright, in a Minneapolis suburb April 11.

The jurors' identities were kept secret and will not be released until the judge decides it is safe to do so.

It is unusual for police officers to be prosecuted for killing someone on the job. And convictions are extraordinarily rare.

Out of the thousands of deadly police shootings in the U.S. since 2005, fewer than 140 officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter, according to data maintained by Phil Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University. Before Tuesday, only seven were convicted of murder.

Juries often give police officers the benefit of the doubt when they claim they had to make split-second, life-or-death decisions. But that was not an argument Chauvin could easily make.

Floyd, 46, died May 25 after being arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a corner market. He panicked, pleaded that he was claustrophobic and struggled with police when they tried to put him in a squad car. They put him on the ground instead.

The centerpiece of the case was the excruciating bystander video of Floyd gasping repeatedly, “I can’t breathe” and onlookers yelling at Chauvin to stop as the officer pressed his knee on or close to Floyd’s neck for what authorities say was 9 1/2 minutes, including several minutes after Floyd's breathing had stopped and he had no pulse.

Prosecutors played the footage at the earliest opportunity, during opening statements, and told the jury: “Believe your eyes.” From there it was shown over and over, analyzed one frame at a time by witnesses on both sides.

In the wake of Floyd’s death, demonstrations and scattered violence broke out in Minneapolis, around the country and beyond. The furor also led to the removal of Confederate statues and other offensive symbols such as Aunt Jemima.

In the months that followed, numerous states and cities restricted the use of force by police, revamped disciplinary systems or subjected police departments to closer oversight.

The “Blue Wall of Silence” that often protects police accused of wrongdoing crumbled after Floyd’s death. The Minneapolis police chief quickly called it “murder” and fired all four officers, and the city reached a staggering $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family as jury selection was underway.

Police-procedure experts and law enforcement veterans inside and outside the Minneapolis department, including the chief, testified for the prosecution that Chauvin used excessive force and went against his training.

Medical experts for the prosecution said Floyd died of asphyxia, or lack of oxygen, because his breathing was constricted by the way he was held down on his stomach, his hands cuffed behind him, a knee on his neck and his face jammed against the ground.

Chauvin's attorney called a police use-of-force expert and a forensic pathologist to try to make the case that Chauvin acted reasonably against a struggling suspect and that Floyd died because of a heart condition and his illegal drug use. Floyd had high blood pressure and narrowed arteries, and fentanyl and methamphetamine were found in his system.

Under the law, police have certain leeway to use force and are judged according to whether their actions were “reasonable” under the circumstances.

The defense also tried to make the case that Chauvin and the other officers were hindered in their duties by what they perceived as a growing, hostile crowd.

Chauvin did not testify, and all that the jury or the public ever heard by way of an explanation from him came from a police body-camera video after an ambulance had taken the 6-foot-4, 223-pound Floyd away. Chauvin told a bystander: “We gotta control this guy ’cause he’s a sizable guy ... and it looks like he’s probably on something.”

The prosecution’s case also included tearful testimony from onlookers who said the police kept them back when they protested what was happening.

Eighteen-year-old Darnella Frazier, who shot the crucial video, said Chauvin gave the bystanders a “cold” and “heartless” stare. She and others said they felt a sense of helplessness and lingering guilt from witnessing Floyd’s slow-motion death.

“It’s been nights I stayed up, apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more, and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” she testified.

———

Webber reported from Fenton, Michigan. Associated Press video journalist Angie Wang in Atlanta and writers Doug Glass, Stephen Groves, Aaron Morrison, Tim Sullivan and Michael Tarm in Minneapolis; Mohamed Ibrahim in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota; and Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin, contributed.

———

Find AP’s full coverage of the death of George Floyd at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd


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