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'Bright not blight': Development proposal seeks to breathe life into neglected corridor

A housing proposal seeks to revitalize a blighted length of Martha Berry Boulevard best known for drug activity centered around several run down hotels.

Dubbed The Point, the plan is for 210 multi-family apartments and condos proposed by developers 33 Holdings LLC alongside a small amount of retail space and a parking deck on 3.8 acres at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Martha Berry Boulevard.

Martha Berry Boulevard is one of the city’s entryways and has long been a target for redevelopment by city leaders.

Sanjay Raghavaraju, founder and CEO, 33 Holdings

By using local resources and a local architect the intent is to infuse life into an area notorious for drug and prostitution activity, Sanjay Raghavaraju, founder and CEO of 33 Holdings said.

The project area is located in a Tax Allocation District as well as a designated federal opportunity zone, essentially meaning developers are being incentivized to build in specific communities. The intent is to revitalize depressed areas within a municipality.

On the upside it’s also located near Publix and not far from revitalization efforts of a growing River District and downtown Rome.

“Growth is needed, but that doesn’t mean you need to go crazy,” he said.

Their hope, Raghavaraju said, is to invest in the area by building a flagship development that meets the needs of housing for young professionals and the medical community but also create the impetus for change.

Heather Beers, principal and chief operating officer, 33 Holdings

“When you can turn blight into bright, I think you’re winning,” Heather Beers, chief operating officer of 33 Holdings, said.

The development is planned to take all but a small corner of the triangle formed by Martha Berry, North Fifth and West 11th Street. The encapsulated area will contain the housing, amenities, a parking deck and a retail area.

The retail section of the development is a small portion, Chad Beers of 33 Holdings said, with the primary focus aimed at creating a work-play-live environment.

“When we’re creating plans, we also want to create value,” he said.

Chad Beers, principal, 33 Holdings LLC

While it’s still going through the approval process, Heather Beers said they hope to begin clearing the area by the end of the year with demolition in early January.

The completion of the project, Raghavaraju said, should be within two years if all goes well.

The deal was brokered by real estate company Toles, Temple and Wright and this week the Rome-Floyd Planning Commission recommended the development be given a green light. It will go before the full City Commission on Oct. 25.

“We’ve never seen a city more welcoming than Rome,” Raghavaraju said. “We also have other future plans here.”

Sheriff's Office officially dedicates training center to Kristen Hearne

Floyd County sheriff’s deputies and Polk County police officers gathered outside the Kristen Hearne Memorial Training Center Friday to officially dedicate it and pay respects to the fallen officer.

In September of 2017, Hearne was shot in the line of duty while assisting a patrol officer investigating a suspicious vehicle. The man accused of killing her is still awaiting trial in Polk County.

Hearne was in law enforcement for nine years and worked at the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office for a number of years before transferring to the Polk County Police Department to first serve as a patrol officer in 2012 and later become a detective in 2013.

“She worked all of her cases diligently, provided the DA’s office with good prosecutable cases and was always willing to help with any situation, even though she was a detective,” master of ceremonies Doug Walker said. “She would often commit to help cover off days on short patrol shifts. She was also one who backed up patrol officers when they received a dangerous call or would show up just to help on any or all calls, which is exactly what she was doing on the day her life was taken from her.”

Hearne’s family was unable to make it to the ceremony, but members of both law enforcement agencies, including Floyd County Sheriff Dave Roberson and Polk County Police Chief Kenny Dodd, talked about her lasting impact on themselves and her former coworkers.

“She was loved by all that knew her and made an immediate impact on us at Polk County with her smile and love for everyone,” Dodd said. “We’re so proud of her and the legacy she has left.”

While the training center has been open for over a year, they hadn’t done an official dedication ceremony, according to Roberson.

“Anybody who knew Kristen knew she had a big personality... we’re truly grateful to have known her and worked with her. Her name will go on forever as a reminder of who she was but also remind law enforcement officers of the risk they take each and everyday,” he said.

The ceremony also recognized those included on the Wall of Honor inside the new training center, which includes pictures of former sheriffs Tim Burkhalter and Joe Adams, Chaplain David Thornton, Sgt. Catherine Greene and Lt. Cecil Stewart.

Aaliyah Holloway, a student at Model Elementary School

Early voting for municipal elections begins Tuesday

Tyrone Holland

Voters can begin casting their ballots Tuesday as early voting for Rome municipal elections starts up.

Three Rome City Commission seats are on the ballot, as well as all seven school board seats. Incumbents Jamie Doss and Randy Quick are running for reelection and Elaina Beeman is stepping down from her role as a Rome City Schools board member to run for City Commission. Candidates Victor Hixon, Tyrone Holland and LuGina Brown are also running for one of the three seats.

All current Rome City School Board members, except for Beeman, are also up for reelection: Chair Faith Collins, Vice Chair Jill Fisher, Melissa Davis, Will Byington, Alvin Jackson and John Uldrick. Tracy McDew, Pascha Burge and Ron Roach are also on the ballot.

Early voting will run through Oct. 29 and weekend voting will take place on Oct. 16, Oct. 23 and on Oct. 24 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

During the two-week period, the Floyd County Administration Building at 12 E 4th Ave. will be open for early voting. The Rome Civic Center at 400 Civic Center Drive will be open Oct. 18 through Oct. 29 for early voting.

Voters planning to submit absentee ballots can request a ballot no later than Oct. 22 and must include a copy of their driver’s license or state ID when submitting their applications. They can then either mail it in or cast in the county’s ballot box, which will be located in the Floyd County Administration Building in the Community Room on the second floor.

All elections are scheduled for Nov. 2. The last day to register to vote is Oct. 4. Absentee ballots can be requested through Oct. 22. The earliest a registrar can mail out the absentee ballots is Oct. 11.

The Garden Lakes Baptist Church voting precinct has been moved to the Anthony Recreation Center at 2901 Garden Lakes Boulevard.

Voters can find their precincts for election day by visiting floydcountyga.gov/elections.

Cave Spring City Council election

Cave Spring also has a city council election on Nov. 2 for three of their city council seats.

Voters will choose either challenger Jason West or incumbent Nellie McCain for Post 3; challenger Stacey Royston or incumbent Charles Jackson for Post 4; and challenger Steven Pierce or incumbent Nancy Fricks for Post 5.

Early voting will be taking place Oct. 12 through Oct. 29 at Cave Spring City Hall. Weekend voting will take place on Oct. 16 and Oct. 23 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Click here for a link to the Georgia Secretary of State’s My Voter Page.

NAACP to meet with Coosa High School parents Saturday after complaints of racial harassment

Local NAACP leaders will meet with Coosa High School parents concerning complaints that the school system isn’t doing enough to address incidents of racial harassment at the school.

Rome-Floyd County NAACP President Sara Dahlice Malone said the group will meet with parents on Saturday.

“We want to hear the concerns of the parents,” Malone said. “We’ve received so many telephone calls we need to hear it from them. Then we’ll follow up on those complaints.”

Many of those complaints stem from incidents which took place last year, or earlier this school year.

One of the purposes of Saturday’s meeting, NAACP member Larry Morrow Sr. said, is to look at the issues in an organized fashion and decide how to move forward.

“It’s come time that something has got to be done,” Morrow said.

The group sent a letter on March 24 addressing some complaints by students and parents of the school to the Floyd County school system’s superintendent, Glenn White.

Charles Love, first vice president of the Rome Floyd County NAACP, said they were concerned about a culture at the school that allowed racially motivated incidents to occur. Love said he doesn’t feel the school system has addressed the issue. This week’s occurrence, he said, is a direct result of that inaction.

From the school system’s perspective the incidents, including one on Monday where students waved a Confederate flag outside the school, are isolated.

Action has been taken in that incident, White said, although he would not give any additional details.

Other videos and photos circulating on social media showing a teacher holding up a Trump flag in class and a student shouting racial epithets were dealt with as far back as last year, White said. He declined to comment further on either incident.

School officials earlier stated there had been plans for a protest on Friday after the Monday incident. White said no protests would be allowed on school grounds and a letter from CHS Principal Judson Cox stated that only business-essential visitors would be allowed on campus Friday. The letter also said any students involved with “racially motivated” social media posts will be dealt with in accordance with the Floyd County BOE policies.

Police police presence was requested at the school on Friday. While protesters gathered nearby, no incidents were reported on or off the school’s campus on Friday.

Jessica Murray, a parent of a child at the school, said racial tensions at Coosa High School have existed long before Monday’s incident.

“This has been a problem for years. Me and my kids have experienced a lot of racism, specifically at Coosa High School,” she said. “I have always followed the proper chain of command. I reached out to the assistant principal of the school, the principal and then I moved up to the board of education, student affairs and the superintendent.”

She said her daughter had been harassed about her hairstyle and race and Murray reported it, but the principal asked her if there was any proof of the harassment. Nothing was done, Murray said.

“My daughter also tried to wear a George Floyd and Black Lives Matter shirt,” Murray said. “The school called me saying it was causing a disruption at the school and that certain kids felt a certain way about it.”

Murray added that what happened on Monday was the final straw.

“This will be the second superintendent I’ve made these type of complaints to about racism at the school.” Murray said.

Lakeisha Morgan, another Coosa parent, said she wanted to clear up rumors concerning another videoed incident on Monday posted to social media where students and school resource officers appear to be arguing.

“They were not getting sent out of school,” Morgan said. “I want to make sure that’s clear. We were checking our kids out because we felt like our children were unsafe.”

The kids gathered across the street from the high school Friday afternoon, shouting several chants, including, “Fire Mr. Cox!”

“Our reason for being out here is because we want the policies, the principal and the superintendent to have the passion for our Black children,” Morgan said. “If it was me, I don’t care if a green child came to the school, I would protect that child.”