A proposed resumption of jury trials in Floyd County Superior Court has been pushed off a month, with the new target date of January 2021.
“The judges of the Floyd County Superior Court have determined to postpone the resumption of jury trials until after the first of the year,” Floyd County Superior Court Judge John “Jack” Niedrach said.
“While the judges are anxious to resume jury trials to address the continuing backlog of cases, the safety and security of court personnel, parties, attorneys, and, especially, jurors is of utmost importance,” he said. “In light of the spike of COVID-19 cases and the concern expressed by participants in the court system, no jury trials will be conducted in December.”
Jury proceedings have been halted since March under an emergency order issued by Georgia Chief Justice Harold Melton as a result of the pandemic. He signed an order on Oct. 10 lifting that suspension and allowing court systems to begin formulating their plans for moving forward.
During that time courts have still met to move forward with essential functions, like bond hearings primarily using video conferencing. Even with the reduced functions, the virus found its way into the courthouse causing a two week shut down in June.
For the last five months, a statewide task force made up of judges and lawyers appointed by Melton has been developing guidelines for the safe reopening of in-person court proceedings.
Topics in the guidelines include the use of masks, the reconfiguring of courtrooms and chairs, installation of plexiglass barriers, and the use of markers to ensure social distancing.
Locally, Judge Niedrach has been appointed to head up a committee comprised of lawyers, administrators and representatives from the public health department to come up with the plan to safely resume jury trials in the Rome circuit.
That committee is comprised of representatives from the law community, public health, sheriff’s office and the county government.
The committee began meeting in October and put together a tentative plan to reopen. That plan covers, among other things, how to comply with social distancing recommendations prior to and during a trial as well as where jurors will deliberate after a trial.
They have also been working on how to allow public access to trials and court proceedings, which may include remote access.
Courtroom A was deemed large enough to accommodate a socially distanced jury and court staff, he said, but the other three courtrooms may not. Judges will have limited use of the Forum River Center, which was annexed to be used as a part of the courthouse.
The resumption of grand jury proceedings, which have also been on hiatus since March, began on Nov. 13 using space at the Forum.
A canvassing effort is ramping up in Floyd County as the runoff for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats approaches on Jan. 5.
A group from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a national organization whose aim is to keep the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, has moved in at the GOP headquarters on Broad Street.
“It looks like a real war room now,” Floyd County GOP Chair Luke Martin said. “They’ve decided to put their regional office in Floyd for this runoff.”
Prior to the turnout, U.S. Rep-elect Marjorie Greene will speak briefly after returning from orientation in Washington, D.C., before the volunteers begin the canvassing effort.
As the two runoff races gain steam over the next six weeks the state will continue to see intense national attention as well as money pouring in from both political parties to bolster each campaign.
There’s a short amount of time for Republicans to step up their ground game. Early voting for the Senate runoff elections starts Dec. 14. The deadline for Georgia voters to register for the runoffs is Dec. 7.
In the past couple of weeks the GOP ramped up efforts to catch up with an established Democratic Party ground game in Georgia.
City Commissioner Wendy Davis, who is a member of the Democratic National Committee, said the GOP is playing catch up because they assumed Georgia was a given.
Democrats have focused heavily on the state and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is credited with much of the effort in bolstering the efforts after narrowly losing in 2018.
Vice President Mike Pence stopped in Cherokee and Hall counties Friday afternoon. He made it plain that with Biden’s win and U.S. House Democrats retaining their majority, Georgia Republican voters will need to hand GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler victories in the Jan. 5 runoff elections to block Democratic control of Congress and the White House.
“We need the great state of Georgia to defend the majority,” Pence said at a rally in Canton. “And the road to the Senate Republican majority goes straight through the state of Georgia.”
Hinting at the prospects of an incoming Biden administration, Pence said Georgia “could be the last line of defense” against Democratic control in Washington, D.C., though Trump still has not conceded defeat in this month’s general election.
Pence is the latest high-profile national Republican to stump for Perdue and Loeffler in Georgia ahead of the runoff elections, following visits from Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida and Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
They are helping fuel a campaign by national and state Republicans to paint Democratic Senate hopefuls Jon Ossoff, an investigative journalist, and Rev. Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, as too far left for Georgia voters.
Ossoff and Warnock punched back this week, highlighting news reports on moves Perdue allegedly pursued to benefit a Navy supplier and professional sports owners, as well as an ethics complaint lodged against Loeffler for appearing to solicit campaign donations on federal property.
While Rome is planning a unique static Christmas parade spread out across the parking lot at State Mutual Stadium on Dec. 1 — Lindale and Cave Spring are moving forward with their annual rolling parades, both set for Dec. 5.
The theme for the Rome parade is Miracle on Braves Boulevard: Saluting the Heroes of 2020. Floats will be set up at 6 p.m. in the Red and Gold parking lot at the stadium, between the ballpark and the RiverPoint Apartments.
Floats will be set up around an inner perimeter and traffic will be allowed to drive around the floats in a one-way pattern until 8 p.m.
When the parade was originally planned for Broad Street, the Christmas in Rome committee decided to limit it to 40 units, but that has since been waived and co-chairwoman Janet Byington said that the community has responded well to the new format.
The Lindale parade will line-up as usual at Pepperell Primary School at 2 p.m. and roll out from Dragon Drive to Park Avenue beginning at 3 p.m.
Organizer Tim Reynolds said there is no pre-registration for the parade so he has no way of knowing how many folks plant to participate.
“We just go with whoever shows up,” Reynolds said.
The parade will end at First Baptist Church on Park Avenue
The Christmas in Lindale event from 2-6 p.m. on Dec. 5 along South First Street. Reynolds said he has already got 50 vendors signed up this year, significantly more than the last several years.
The annual lighting of the Christmas Star between the smokestacks of the old Lindale Mill is scheduled for 6 p.m.
The Cave Spring parade is scheduled for 6 p.m. on the same day.
The route in Cave Spring will begin at the red light on Padlock Mountain Road then make a right turn into Rolater Park.
Nancy Fricks, who is serving as the parade organizer said she hopes that by adding a little more length to the route that parade watchers will be able to socially distance themselves from everyone else more easily.
People on floats will be prohibited from throwing candy but Santa Claus, who walks the route each year in Cave Spring, will distribute pre-packaged candy to the children along the parade.
“We (the council) debated long and hard because of the COVID-19 situation,” Cave Spring Mayor Rob Ware said. “We’ll keep our fingers crossed and say a prayer.”
Ware said he believes there has been little opportunity for people to enjoy a special part of the year and is hopeful the public will respond responsibly. The city has a supply of masks and sanitation supplies which will be available to anyone on the night of the parade.
Cave Spring’s Small Town Christmas in the Country arts and crafts event is also slated for Dec. 5 and 6 in Rolater Park.
Add the Cave Spring City Council to the list of local governments recognizing the need for affordable housing.
The council has authorized a call for proposals to renovate the old Georgia School for the Deaf dormitory building directly behind City Hall.
The request for proposals is being developed by Cave Spring City Attorney Frank Beacham.
“We’re just going to try to see what options people respond with,” Beacham said.
The attorney said that the request for proposals, not yet finished, will not necessarily limit the future use of the building to residential purposes.
“We own that building and would like to put it to good use,” Cave Spring Mayor Rob Ware said. The city is looking for anyone who would be interested in a long term lease or even someone seeking to purchase the building.
Since the building was designed as a dormitory, Ware said he feels like its most likely best use moving forward would be for residential purposes.
Hunt & Associates is in the process of developing an appraisal for the building.
The building has been abandoned for close to to 50 years.
The council has also approved its first liquor package store license for Mumtaz Merchant in a building behind LaCabana restaurant at the intersection of U.S. 411 and Ga. 100. City Clerk Judy Dickinson said Merchant has completed all of his paperwork for the city and is awaiting formal approval from the Georgia Department of Revenue.
Merchant has operated a convenience store near that intersection for years.
La Cabana is also the first restaurant in the city to get a liquor by the drink the license. Ware said he was not sure whether or not the restaurant had received its state permits yet.
“This is all brand new to us,” Ware said. The city approved liquor by the drink and package sales more than a year ago when a group revealed plans to open a micro-distillery in the city. Those plans never came to fruition.
The council has also designated sections of Love Street and Fannin Street for repaving with GDOT Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant money in 2021.