Rome city commissioners approved a $99.4 million process to remove harmful chemicals from the Oostanaula river, the city’s main water source, during Friday’s special called meeting.
InSite Engineering, LLC provided results from the recently completed PFAS Pilot Study started in March to determine the best method of removing perfluorinated chemicals from water taken from the river. The study was the largest of its kind in the U.S.
PFAS are man-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products, such as nonstick cookware, water-repellent clothing as well as stain resistant fabrics and carpets.
Seven pre-treatment options and nine PFAS mitigation options were tested on Oostanaula river water, Etowah river water and a blend of the two.
While most options removed between 98%-100% of PFAS chemicals from a small sample of water from each river, the commission ultimately determined the closed-circuit reverse osmosis method as the best option.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency website, reverse osmosis is “extremely effective” at removing PFAS chemicals.
The process is expected to cost the city $3.07 million in annual operational costs. That cost is on top of the price tag for the overall fee.
Commissioner Jim Bojo made the initial motion for the commission to approve the new process. Commissioner Sundai Stevenson seconded the motion and it was unanimously approved.
The commission went into closed session to discuss litigation.
City Attorney Andy Davis did not comment publicly about the nature of the litigation.
However, the city is involved in a lawsuit filed in 2019 against 30 companies that own or operate carpet facilities in Dalton.
The lawsuit contends the companies — including 3M, DuPont, Shaw Industries and others — knew the perfluorinated compounds used in their manufacturing were toxic.
The state Senate took another step Friday toward completing the once-in-a-decade task of redrawing Georgia’s legislative and congressional districts, approving a map drawn by the House of Representatives.
The Senate’s Republican majority prevailed 32-21 in a vote that fell nearly along party lines.
Floyd County will still be divided into three House districts. However, instead of a small section being part of a Bartow-based district, a different section would be part of a larger Gordon County district.
House District 5, currently represented by Matt Barton, R-Calhoun, would take in the Shannon area, down to Wayside Road and nearly all of Gordon County. It would be 75.46% White, 3.76% Black and 15.29% Hispanic. The balance would be made up of Asian, American Indian and other races.
With 58,837 people, HD05 would be one of the least populous districts in the state. The ideal population for each of the 180 House districts is 59,511. The GOP proposal has districts ranging from 58,678 to 60,401 people.
House District 12, currently represented by Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, would cover all of Chattooga County and the western and southern part of Floyd, including Cave Spring and Lindale.
It would have 59,300 people, with 78.45% White, 8.61% Black and 7.68% Hispanic.
House District 13, currently represented by Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, would take in the city of Rome and the Silver Creek community, running east to the Bartow County line.
It would have 59,150 people, with 62.24% White, 18.71% Black and 13.52% Hispanic.
House District 14, currently represented by Mitchell Scoggins, R-Cartersville, would be moved out of eastern Floyd County and become a wholly Bartow County district.
Earlier this week, the Senate approved a map that redraws its own districts. The House has not yet approved the Senate map, though. as state Sen. John Kennedy, R-Macon, said Friday, there is a longtime understanding that neither chamber will alter or change the other’s proposed maps.
With Republicans holding majorities in the House and Senate, both maps were drawn by GOP legislative leaders. Democrats continued to complain the Republican-led map-drawing processes have been rushed and have not allowed sufficient public input.
Kennedy, who chairs the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee, said the process of drawing the maps has been fair and devoid of any political gamesmanship or partisanship.
Democrats including Sen. Donzella James, D-Atlanta, vehemently disagreed.
“All Georgians want are fair maps,” James said. “These maps are rushed and are not fair.”
State Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, was the only Republican who voted against the House map after his GOP constituents from northern Coweta County packed committee hearings to complain about the map.
The new House map essentially draws incumbent Republican Rep. Philip Singleton of Sharpsburg out of his district and instead moves northern Coweta into two new districts that include enough of Fulton County to allow Democrats to pick up those seats.
“They’re loud, obnoxious, crazy,” Brass said of the Coweta voters who showed up at the state Capitol. “But they’re my crazies. They’re mine. I’m theirs. One of my constituents back home who’s not happy about his new district told me, ‘Sometimes you have to lose it all to gain something worth having.’”
“There’s nothing crazy about the city of Decatur wanting fair representation,” countered state Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta.
Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett appeared before the Senate redistricting committee on Thursday to protest her city’s new legislative district lines.
The House map, which now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk, likely would result in Democrats gaining up to six seats in the House, according to an independent analysis, reflecting minority population growth during the last decade. Currently, Republicans outnumber Democrats in the lower legislative chamber 103 to 77.
But Democrats and civil and voting rights advocates complained as the map went through the legislature that a fairer map would have set the stage for larger Democratic gains.
While the Senate map is still awaiting House approval, the final step in the redistricting process is redrawing Georgia’s congressional districts.
For Republicans, the key question will be whether to try to regain one of the two congressional seats in Atlanta’s northern suburbs lost to the Democrats during the last two election cycles or go for broke and try to take back both seats.
A congressional map Georgia Senate Republicans released in late September goes after the 6th Congressional District seat Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, won in 2018 by moving heavily Republican Forsyth County into the district and removing portions of North Fulton and North DeKalb counties more friendly to Democrats.
When Tracy Owens found out she won Floyd County Schools Teacher of the Year 2022, she felt like all the hours she spent working on math homework in college finally paid off.
Owens is in her fifth year as a teacher at Model and thirteenth year as an employee for Floyd County. She first came on staff in 2008 as a one-on-one special education paraprofessional while also serving students in the MHS autism program.
Owens went back to school at 45 and worked on her bachelor’s degree in special education during this time, graduating from UGA in 2016.
“I started at Georgia Highlands College with zero credits. I mean I had nothing. And I graduated from Highlands in three years with an associate,” she said. “I had to take remedial math to get into college math and it was hours of that math... It finally felt like all of that was worth it, because it was the only time I felt like giving up.”
After teaching for a year at Coosa Middle School, she returned to Model as a special education teacher for the 2017-2018 school year.
“It was so nice to be recognized as a special educator because I feel like, sometimes, special education is forgotten,” she said.
Owens is a staunch supporter of Model students and faculty, always willing to pitch in when and where she can. She goes above and beyond with anything she is involved in, whether it’d volunteering to chaperone school dances, helping with sporting events or serving as prom coordinator. She described her job as something that doesn’t truly feel like work to her because she loves Model, her coworkers and her students as if they were her family.
In addition, she is the advisor for the Sign Language Club, which currently has 34 members.
When her daughter played basketball for Model, Owens fervently served as the Lady Devils basketball booster club president. Coach Echols says she was indispensable in that role.
During the COVID-19 shutdown, Owens met with her students daily via the virtual learning option. She even found a way to continue hands-on learning with her students by delivering supplies and activity bags to their homes.
When in-person learning resumed, Owens created a “First Friday” program for her classes. Her students planned, assembled, and distributed gifts to faculty and staff on the first Friday of each month, all funded out of her own pocket. This activity taught her students job skills, such as marketing and budgeting, and also how a simple act of kindness can bring joy to others.
“Tracy is the kind of teacher that empowers her students and by saying that, she gives them a voice and makes each one feel like they have something great,” Floyd County School Board Model representative Melinda Strickland said. “She recognizes the talent in each of her students and empowers them to share them with others.”
In addition to her selfless work at Model High School, Owens donated a kidney to a stranger in need over the summer break.
She said she was inspired to do the selfless act after her own husband received an anonymous liver donation. After getting in shape and finding someone local to donate to, she went through the kidney transplant last June and recovered in only two weeks.
Her advice for all teachers, whether new or long-time, is to develop relationships not only with students but the parents as well.
“Often times, as educators, we see people’s children more than they do sometimes and we need to be mindful of that,” she said. “We all need to work together and be on the same team because I don’t know better than they do.”
Owens is also going to be a part of a special Georgia Public Broadcasting documentary about teachers who went above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have a great number of outstanding teachers in the Floyd County School System, but Tracy Owens is super amazing,” Superintendent Glenn White said. “She goes above and beyond for her students, Model High School and our community.”
Other finalists were FCS Elementary School Teacher of the Year, Corrie Henderson from Glenwood Primary School, and FCS Middle School Teacher of the Year Dr. Christy Davis from Coosa Middle School.
Each school nominated an individual Teacher of the Year by May 2021. After the field was narrowed down by qualifications for state honors, eligible teachers were interviewed by a panel of community partners who then voted anonymously to select two semifinalists from each grade band. The semifinalists were observed and evaluated in their classrooms by another set of judges to finalize the list of finalists. Top finalists and winners were announced during the FCS Teacher of the Year banquet held Thursday evening.
Elementary School Teachers of the Year were Stephanie Ayers (Alto Park Elementary), Angie Fletcher (Armuchee Elementary), Leann Fowler (Cave Spring Elementary), Laura Getchell (Garden Lakes Elementary), Corrie Henderson (Glenwood Primary), Dena Heard (Johnson Elementary), Kathryn Lee (Model Elementary), Nicole Martin (Pepperell Primary) and Suzanne Osborne (Pepperell Elementary).
Middle School Teachers of the Year were Ashley Puckett (Armuchee Middle), Christy Davis (Coosa Middle), Shelley Callier (Model Middle) and Kim Baker (Pepperell Middle).
High School Teachers of the Year were Donald Bettler (Armuchee High), Beth Wade (Coosa High), Tonya Strickland (FCS College & Career Academy), Tracy Owens (Model High) and Caitlin Floyd (Pepperell High).
The vote on bills that would dissolve the current Floyd County Board of Elections and create a new five-person board was delayed Friday, but will likely go before the state House on Monday.
The discussion on redistricting dominated much of the session Friday and the House Bills 9EX and 8EX didn’t come up, Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, said.
Under the proposed legislation, the three-member Floyd County Elections Board would be dissolved and replaced with a five-member board. Dempsey; Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee; and Rep. Mitchell Scoggins, R-Cartersville, all sponsored the bill.
The five members would be appointed by the Floyd County Commission.
Commissioners would choose four of the members from lists submitted by county executive committees of the two local political parties whose candidates for Georgia governor received the most votes in the previous election. At this point, that means two members from the Floyd County Republican Party and two from the Floyd County Democratic Party.
The fifth member would be selected by the Floyd County commissioners and would serve as chairperson of the board.
There would be an elections supervisor position, completely separate from the board, who would be a county employee. The board would make the recommendation but county commissioners would have the last say.
If the legislation is passed with a Dec. 1 deadline, that would leave the county with two and a half weeks to get the new board together.
Once it passes the House, it goes to the Georgia Senate for a vote. Dempsey said she’ll ask that it be transmitted to the Senate immediately, where it could come under first reading on Monday. That sets the potential that the second reading and vote, at the earliest, could happen by Tuesday. The bills would then go to Gov. Brian Kemp, who has up to 40 days to sign it or it automatically becomes law.