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Committee approves $1M ask for ARPA funds by Land Bank Authority, eyes North Rome for assistance program

For areas already struggling in Rome that have been economically hard hit by the pandemic, the Rome Floyd County Land Bank Authority is viewing an infusion of federal funds as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity.

A letter to City Manager Sammy Rich from LBA Chair Roger Smith seeks an allocation of $1 million of the city’s $11.5 million American Rescue Plan Act funds.

They’ll use it, he said, to “support economic development, blight removal and community stabilization and housing security that will generate returns on investment for decades to come.”

Meredith Ulmer

After Assistant City Manager Meredith Ulmer said Rich, who was not in attendance, supports the idea, the Community Development Committee unanimously recommended approval Tuesday of the request to allocate those funds to the land bank.

The proposal must be approved by the Rome City Commission.

The land bank has an identical ask in to the County Commission. Floyd County has been allocated $19.1 million from ARPA.

They’ve not talked about that particular ask yet, County Manager Jamie McCord said, but the county is looking at matching grant programs through the state that could compliment the federal funds.

The land bank’s idea is to obtain blighted or run down properties. Those properties would then be either rehabbed or used to construct new single family, duplex or triplex housing — similar to what the authority has done in areas in South Rome.

The ARPA funds can be used in low-income Census tracts or, in the case of portions of North Rome, locally designated areas. The Community Development Committee also voted to include much of North Rome as a locally designated area.

City Commissioner Sundai Stevenson suggested the land bank consider not only specific properties but also taking entire blocks of blighted land in the area of Stevens Street and King Bee Circle.

Jake F. Hager

The committee also sent a recommendation to allow as much as $300,000 in APRA funds to be used for the Covington Park proposal at the corner of Cave Spring Street and East Main Street.

The park, as proposed by South Rome Alliance Executive Director Jake Hager, would be a community park as well as veteran’s memorial on 5 acres. They intend to build a pavilion as well have walking trails and a veterans plaza on the site.

The park, Hager said, will promote healthier living in outdoor spaces.

“This is part of the true spirit of the (ARPA) legislation,” Hager said.

The committee approved the proposal but it also must go before the full City Commission for ultimate approval.

“Anything we can do like this, I’m all about it,” City Commissioner Jim Bojo said.


The proposed Covington Park at the corner of Cave Spring Street and East Main Street would have a pavilion, picnic tables, nature walks and a veterans memorial area.

Redmond names Karen Steely as chief operating officer

Karen Steely has been named as the chief operating officer at Redmond Regional Medical Center.

She will oversee the operations of assigned clinical and non-clinical departments, ensuring that objectives and results align with the overall needs of the hospital.

Steely holds a Master of Science in Health Systems Leadership from the University of West Georgia. She is an experienced healthcare executive, most recently holding the position of COO at AdventHealth Gordon and AdventHealth Murray. As a registered nurse of 20 years, Steely is also a Dove Leadership Award and Heart of Nursing Award recipient.

She has worked closely with Mike Murrill, CEO of Redmond Regional Medical Center — soon to be AdventHealth Redmond — in the Gordon County market for over a year.

“We are thrilled to have Karen at Redmond,” said Murrill. “With her proven leadership ability and diverse background in healthcare operations, I am confident that she will continue to build upon Redmond’s strong legacy of success.”

Outside of her profession, Steely enjoys spending time with her husband, Lynn, and their two children, Bree and Jake.

“I am honored to be joining the Redmond family,” she said. “In the healthcare community, Redmond is known for its commitment to quality care and patient safety. I am excited to be joining this great team and furthering Redmond’s tradition of maintaining a high standard of excellence for this community.”

Ayden Alexander, a student at Model Elementary School

St. Simons theater firm purchases Movies at Berry Square property for $1.3 million

The Movies at Berry Square property has been sold to a theater chain based in St. Simons Island for $1.3 million.

Georgia Theatre Company, GTC Movies, operates 263 auditoriums at 25 locations in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Virginia. The company is a fourth-generation, family-owned business specializing in movie theater exhibition, according to the company’s LinkedIn page.

Doug Walker, File 

The Movies at Berry Square, in front of Mount Berry Mall on Martha Berry Highway.

The Rome theater, valued at $2.8 million by the Floyd County tax office, was built on the edge of the mall property on Martha Berry Highway in the 1990s and has been renovated several times since.

Until recently, all of the movie theaters in Rome were owned by Dr. Gary Smith and his family. Smith, and his entire staff, retired from his optometry business in 2013.

The theater is the third of Smith’s theaters, under the company Village Theaters, to be sold.

The former Rome Cinemas location on Alabama Highway was listed in April 2021 and recently purchased by U-Haul. Village Theaters and MB’s on Turner McCall Boulevard, also a Smith holding, shut down in 2011 and is now the location of ALDI.

The theater industry as a whole has undergone drastic changes since the coronavirus pandemic. The lack of movies coming out of Hollywood, alongside many movies going directly to television subscription services, prompted the family to move forward with the decision to sell.

Pfizer vaccine for kids under 12 expected to be approved by FDA this week, oral treatment undergoing studies

As Floyd County sees the continued spread of COVID-19, the FDA is reviewing more preventative tools to slow the pandemic as well as reduce the risks of the disease.

Public health officials are currently awaiting FDA approval for a low dose Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Other than the much lower dosage, the vaccine would be identical to the one adults receive, according to Northwest Georgia Public Health Director Dr. Gary Voccio.

“We’re hoping the FDA will act on that this week,” he said.

However, Voccio said he can’t predict the impact this may have on the current vaccination rate.

Although vaccinations continue to go up, it’s still very slow, with 41% of Floyd County residents being fully vaccinated and 45% having received at least one dose. Georgia overall was at 48% full vaccination rate as of Tuesday afternoon.

Local hospitals have begun to see a decrease in COVID-19 patients after being overwhelmed just a month ago. According to the Floyd County Emergency Management Agency, there were 23 COVID patients at AdventHealth Redmond and 41 patients at Floyd Medical Center on Tuesday. Redmond also had four patients waiting on test results to come back.

The FDA is also looking over a new antiviral treatment regimen developed by Merck & Co.

According to Voccio, molnupiravir is an oral pill that, taken twice a day over a period of five days, has shown significant reduction in hospitalizations and deaths for people with COVID-19.

“It ... basically causes (the virus) to replicate itself to death,” Voccio said. “It’s fairly expensive though. ... It apparently, from what medical data shows, is highly effective against COVID variants.”

Right now, it’s still in the preliminary study stage but is expected to go before the FDA for approval in the near future.

Other companies, including Pfizer, are also developing their own antiviral pill to fight COVID-19.

However, Voccio and public health officials are still recommending vaccinations as the best way to prevent the spread. While the cases continue to drop, Voccio still advises caution for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

“In situations where COVID might be present, wear a mask. ... All these non-pharmaceutical interventions need to stay in place,” he said. “We are glad to see cases declining, particularly in children, but we still want people to be cautious. With the holidays coming up, we don’t want any spikes. ... We don’t want to be put back in a situation we just go out of.”

The COVID-19 testing site in Floyd County has moved back to the Coosa Valley Fairgrounds at 1400 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Free testing will be offered Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Register online at honumg.info/LTSGA011.