A1 A1
April is child abuse awareness month

Pinwheels will be planted in front of the Rome Floyd Chamber on Thursday afternoon, to mark the start of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Rome’s Exchange Club Family Resource Center and the Rome-Floyd County Commission on Children and Youth are sponsoring the annual ceremony, which will start at 1:30 p.m. outside 1 Riverside Parkway.

“We invite community members to meet us there,” said Tina Bartleson, executive director of the Family Resource Center.

In the past, each blue pinwheel stood for a local case of child abuse and neglect. Starting this year, each pinwheel will now represent a family in the community that is accessing help.

The FRC wants the focus of the pinwheels to serve as a reminder that there are a lot of opportunities for families to connect with agencies that can help.

“Sometimes there is a stigma about reaching out, and those in need of some support might hesitate to reach out for fear of how it makes them look,” Bartleson said.

This also marks the first year that the pinwheels have been placed on the lawn at the Chamber.

“The reason we planned that is to highlight our renewed partnership with the Chamber,” Bartleson said. “We’ve realized over the last few months that we have some overlap — that the things that we do to strengthen families also helps with workforce development. Our business community has been invested in us already and we want to support them as well. I see us as all being partners.”

Bartleson and LaDonna Collins, executive director of RFCCCY, said they are excited about the community events scheduled for this month — especially since last April’s events were canceled due to the onset of the pandemic.

A brand new event this year is the Exchange Club Family Resource Center’s Glow Walk, set for April 23 at 7:30 p.m.

“We will walk down Broad Street as a group, carrying glow in the dark pinwheels,” Bartleson said.

The walk will begin in the parking lot of the Serve Rome building at First United Methodist Church on East Second Street and end at the Chamber with a short ceremony.

“We are expecting a pretty big turnout just based on the feedback we’ve gotten so far,” Bartleson said. “This will be a time to gather, to build each other up, and let families know there’s a network of support for them.”

The FRC also is offering their ABCs of Safe Sleep Class. In its third year, this online learning course helps educate parents about sleep safety for newborns.

“Any family who has an infant up to 4 months of age and is without a crib may take this class and receive a free pack-and-play with bassinet,” Bartleson said. “The pack-and-plays will be issued upon the completion of the class and have been made available by the generosity of the Junior Service League of Rome.”

Eligible persons may register for the ABCs of Safe Sleep Class by calling 706-290-0674 or by emailing tina@exchangeclubfrc.org.

Collins said the RFCCCY is still accepting applications through Friday for mini grants.

“If there are any nonprofit youth organizations that want to apply for the mini grant, they can find all the information on our Facebook page and website, rfcccy.org,” she said.

A shared mission

Bartleson said the FRC’s entire mission focuses on child abuse prevention efforts.

“We want families to have healthy support systems,” she said. “Abuse and neglect often happen because there is a lack of information about what might be going on with the child so we equip parents with the right information, resources, skill sets, and encouragement they may need when facing obstacles.”

Bartleson understands that there may be common developmental goals, but that every child is unique — that it takes understanding each child on an individual level in order to truly equip parents to see their child thrive.

“We want to help parents in understanding where their child is coming from because all children are different,” she said.

The FRC helps to provide practical advice in areas such as stress management and budget planning. And Bartleson notes that a support system is key.

“What we gather from parents is that a supportive relationship is what is needed most,” she said. “We have had parents who don’t have help in any way and are completely overwhelmed.”

That’s where the FRC comes in.

“What I love about our services is that we meet our families where they are,” Bartleson said. “I think one thing that’s powerful about prevention, and about our program, is that when families connect with other agencies you are getting a kind of a valve to release some of the parenting pressure.”

Collins said the Rome Floyd County Commission on Children and Youth, founded in 1989, has a broader mission. But it’s been partnering with the FRC since it was created in 1991.

“The commission is all about collaboration in the community. Our motto is ‘partnering to empower,’” Collins explained. “We want to make sure that we partner with different organizations, churches, families, and businesses in the community to ensure that our children and families are able to be productive citizens — not only in Rome, but across the world.”

This year the two agencies have changed the way they work together. Bartleson said they have a lot more cross-promotion in terms of the community.

The collaboration complements both agencies and has strengthened their overall goal of seeing children and youth be able to thrive and succeed.

“I think that’s what it’s all about,” Collins said. “To be able to decrease child abuse and neglect is a community solution. The only way that we’re going to continue to decrease our numbers is by working together as a community.”

GBI investigation confirms no wrongdoing in 2019 officer involved shooting on Kingston Highway

A Georgia Bureau of Investigation report confirmed a Floyd County police officer was justified in his use of force after coming under fire during a May 2019 raid.

“Based on the totality of the evidence in this matter I concluded there is absolutely no evidence of criminal activity or wrongdoing by Officer Carlos Ribot-Aviles for his use of force on May 23, 2019, on Michael Spears,” stated Rome District Attorney Leigh Patterson in a letter sent to Police Chief Mark Wallace.

Wallace, contacted Wednesday, said he felt that, based on the evidence presented in the report, Ribot-Aviles acted properly when he, alongside members of the entry team, were fired upon.

The GBI investigation concerned a Rome-Floyd Metro Task Force execution of a no-knock search warrant at Spears’ residence at 1933 Kingston Highway.

According to the report:

The scope of that warrant concerned the seizure of weapons believed to be at the home.

“Officers knew Spears to be a convicted felon, a member of Gangster Disciples gang, and involved, both as perpetrator and victim, in drive-by shooting incidents in the two months preceding the execution of the search warrant,” the report stated.

Several vehicles, including a Rome-Floyd SWAT Bearcat armored vehicle and several marked patrol cars, activated their emergency lights as they entered the driveway.

Floyd County Police Department, File 

In this May 23, 2019, file photo, the Metro Task Force and SWAT team were serving a warrant at 1933 Kingston Highway when they were met by gunfire on Thursday, May 23, 2019, at 6:30 a.m. Police returned fire and one person was shot.

The entry team arrived carrying a battering ram, announcing “police search warrant” loudly, and attempted to breach the door twice before it opened.

That was when two gunshots were heard from inside the residence. Ribot-Aviles shot back five times after seeing “one unclad individual moving around in the house.” No other officers discharged their weapons.

After gunfire subsided, an announcement on the Bearcat’s loudspeaker called for Spears to exit the residence.

A short while later, Spears came out and told police he’d been shot in the buttocks. Ribot-Aviles administered medical aid to Spears, applying pressure to the wound until an ambulance arrived. Ribot-Aviles surrendered his service weapon pending the investigation.

Another person, Amanda Nails, was also in the residence at the time of raid. She was unharmed but arrested on methamphetamine and gun charges and later convicted on a meth trafficking charge as well as a possession of methamphetamine charge concerning the incident.

One of the entry team members, Sgt. Williams Schwartz, rode in the ambulance with Spears. Spears told Schwartz he didn’t realize that it was police who were breaking open his door.

During that ride, according to the report, Spears told Schwartz “I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was ya’ll. I got people trying to kill me.”

“This statement strains credulity,” the letter stated.

It later says “Spears had a multi-camera system around his home that projected in real time onto a big screen TV in his living room. It is disingenuous for Spears to try to convince anyone that he did not know police were at his house. “

Spears has remained in jail without bond since the incident. He faces numerous state-level charges, including seven counts of aggravated assault on an officer and charges of possession of methamphetamine, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

He also faces federal charges stemming from the incident.

Since his arrest, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia indicted Spears on charges that he, as a convicted felon, was in possession of a Smith & Wesson SD40 VE pistol as well as over 50 grams of methamphetamine.

Rivers above flood stage after periods of heavy rain

As Floyd County received another wave of heavy rain Wednesday, Floyd County Emergency Management Agency is preparing to see water rise in already flooded areas — potentially leading to sewage issues.

Director Tim Herrington and staff are watching four areas: Armuchee Creek, the Coosa River at Lock & Dam Park and near the state line, and Weiss Lake in Alabama.

“If they don’t release their water, it can start backing up on us,” he said about the downstream lake.

The Coosa River and Armuchee Creek were over three feet above flood stage as of noon Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

The rivers had actually dropped about two feet since last week’s storm, but now they’re beginning to rise up even more than last week.

Herrington said they’re also watching the upstream Allatoona Dam, and Carters Dam in Ellijay, to make sure they don’t start releasing any water. If they do, the Rome rivers could flood significantly more.

Besides the heavy rain, Herrington said they’re not expecting anything particularly severe.

As the weekend approaches, the weather should begin to start clearing up and the rivers will begin to go down again. However, the ground is very saturated and will take more than a few days to dry out.

Rome Water and Sewer Director Mike Hackett said there will be a great impact on the sewer system.

Usually, the water treatment plant on Black’s Bluff Road processes about 6 million to 8 million gallons of water a day.

However, in the past week, they’ve been processing about 40 million gallons.

They’ve already had to report a sewer overflow near Kingfisher Trail to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. The area in Silver Creek often sees spillages during heavy rain periods, Hackett said.

They’re continuing to keep an eye other low-level areas near the rivers that are equally affected.

Omari McHenry, a sixth-grader at Main Elementary School

What passed and failed in 2021 Georgia General Assembly

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's General Assembly ended its 2021 session Wednesday, with lawmakers acting on the state budget, a rewrite of the state's citizen's arrest law and many other proposals as they worked until midnight. Some key proposals had already passed, including an overhaul of state elections law that adds new restrictions on mail voting and a small income tax cut. Only a few measures that made it to this point failed to move forward, such as a plan to raise Georgia’s age for adult criminal charges from 17 to 18. Because it's the first year of a two-year term, measures that don't pass this year could still make it through next year.

Here's a look at the status of some significant issues:


INCOME TAX CUT: Georgia will raise the amount of money someone could earn before paying income taxes under House Bill 593, which Gov. Brian Kemp has already signed, cutting overall taxes by $140 million.

CITIZEN’S ARREST: House Bill 479 would abolish the Georgia law that allows private citizens to arrest someone, while still allowing security guards and store employees to hold people they accuse of a crime until police arrive.

TAX BREAKS: Senators and representatives made a deal Senate Bill 6, which creates or extends a number of tax breaks but forgoes an overall review of how much revenue the state is forgoing because of tax breaks.

SCHOOL VOUCHERS: Senate Bill 47 would broaden eligibility for a program that pays for children with special education needs to attend private schools. The House failed to consider House Bill 60, which would have created a new educational savings account program to provide vouchers for private schools and home schooling.

DEFUND THE POLICE: House Bill 286 says cities and counties can’t cut spending on their police departments by more than 5% a year.

LAWSUIT LIABILITY: House Bill 112 would renew until July 2022 Georgia’s law protecting businesses and others from being sued if someone blames them for contracting COVID-19.

STREET RACING: House Bill 534 would enhance penalties for illegal street racing and stunt driving.

HOME-SCHOOLED ATHLETES: Public schools would be required to let home-schooled students take part in athletics and extracurricular activities as long as they take at least one online course through the local school under Senate Bill 42.

TIME CHANGE: Senate Bill 100 calls for Georgia to observe daylight saving time permanently if the federal government allows.

HAZING: Senate Bill 85 would making it a misdemeanor to force people to consume any substance likely to cause vomiting, intoxication or unconsciousness.

PORCH PIRACY: House Bill 94 would make it a felony to steal packages from three or more different addresses.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Senate Bill 33 would allow victims or state officials to file civil lawsuits seeking money damages against traffickers while Senate Bill 34 would make it easier for people who have been the victims of trafficking to change their names.

PAID PARENTAL LEAVE: House Bill 146 would offer three weeks of paid parental leave any time to nearly 250,000 state, public university and public school employees after the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child.

COCKTAILS TO GO: Georgia diners could order mixed alcoholic drinks to go when ordering food under Senate Bill 236.

INDICTED OFFICIAL PAY: Senate Resolution 134 would let voters decide whether to amend the state constitution to suspend the pay of elected state officials who are indicted.

PROBATION: Senate Bill 105 would create a path for some people to ask a judge to release them from probation after three years of supervision.

TEACHER INCENTIVES: House Bill 32 would give a $3,000-per-year state income tax credit to some Georgia teachers who agree to work in certain rural or low-performing schools.



SPORTS BETTING: Senate Resolution 135 and Senate Bill 142 would have let Georgia’s voters decide whether to allow sports betting. Lawmakers would have split the proceeds among college scholarships for low income students, expanded high speed internet access and rural health care services.

PATIENT VISITATION: Hospitals and nursing homes could have been be required to allow patient visitors, after many cut visitor access because of the coronavirus pandemic, under House Bill 290.

GUN LAWS: House Bill 218 would have loosened Georgia law to allow anyone from any state who has a concealed weapons permit to carry their gun in Georgia and prohibited gun permitting, gun sales and shooting ranges from being shut down in a state of emergency.

PROTEST LIMITS: House Bill 289 would have required a permit for any protest statewide, and classified it as an illegal assembly if two or more people harass someone in a wide range of public places, and enacted harsher penalties for acts including blocking highways.

PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT: The state would have created a commission to investigate and discipline elected district attorneys and prosecutors in House Bill 411.

ADULT CRIMINAL AGE: The age for charging most people with adult crimes would have risen from 17 to 18 in Georgia under House Bill 272.

COAL ASH: House Bill 647 would have required 50 years of groundwater monitoring at coal ash ponds near power plants that are closed.

DISTRACTED DRIVING: Georgia drivers wouldn’t be able to avoid penalties by telling judges they have purchased hands-free devices for their cellphones under House Bill 247.