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Local
Joe Smith: Recorder of all things Rome for three decades

When it comes to making sure city government functions on an even keel, Rome City Clerk Joe Smith has charted Rome’s course from City Hall for three decades now.

“I’ve got a lot more years to go, I hope,” Smith said.

Smith joined the city in 1987 as deputy city clerk to Branson Gayler, who held the job for 20 years until he retired in 1990.

“My primary function is to serve as secretary to the city and all that entails,” Smith said.

During his first 10 years in the job, he also served as the city’s chief tax collector. That responsibility was relinquished in 2000 when the city and county consolidated the service in the tax commissioner’s office.

The clerk is still responsible for issuing city business licenses, keeping tabs on alcohol and entertainment licenses, overseeing Municipal Court operations, and looking after public facilities from the City Auditorium to Stonebridge Golf Course.

Changing technology has impacted his office significantly through the years.

“Obviously a lot fewer things are being done by hand now,” Smith said. “But a lot has stayed the same.”

Anyone wanting to know what happened at a city commission meeting over the last 144 years can probably get Smith’s help in finding out when it happened.

Computerized minutes of City Commission meetings go back to the year 2000. Prior to that, minutes were typed or even hand-written and put into a hardbound book.

“We go all the way back to 1876,” Smith said.

Records from the first 30 years of Rome’s charter as a city, 1834 to 1876, are unclear.

“A lot of the minutes are good reference but they’re not very detailed,” Smith said of the old minutes. “There might be record of a vote but nothing about any of the discussion. They were true action minutes, not much of a meeting summary.”

Chief among things that have remained consistent through the years is his staff.

Deputy Clerk Joy Weeks has been with the city almost as long as Smith has — 25 years in her current position. Jo Ann Bell, the executive secretary to the clerk, has been with the city for 27 years, the last 16 with Smith.

There has been a little turnover in the positions of business license inspector and facilities manager, but Smith said he’s been blessed to have had good people in those roles throughout the years.

Jason Greenawalt has been the license inspector for the past four years, while Wendy Reid has been the facilities manager for the past six years.

One job he says that few people realize he does involves recording cemetery deeds.

There are no lots available at the historic Myrtle Hill Cemetery — but in the event a lot is sold from one family to another, the sale is recorded at City Hall.

Smith is also an encyclopedia when it comes to city ordinances.

His minutes of City Commission meetings where laws have been adopted or amended go well beyond simple recording of who voted for or against. They include summaries of the discussion that will allow future generations of Rome residents to better understand why certain actions were taken by city leaders.


Local
'More special than ever': Harbin Clinic hosts employee appreciation event

Even in professions where it’s obvious that your work matters, it’s nice to get a little pat on the back — especially in trying times.

As with many things in the midst of a pandemic, it looks a little different but the feeling of appreciation is even deeper than before.

“I think this year’s event seemed more special than ever,” Harbin Clinic’s chief compliance officer Lori Custer said. “And it’s even more fun because it lasts a lot longer.”

Over the next several weeks, Harbin Clinic will be hosting employee appreciation week at all of their locations to recognize the work the staff does over the year.

Dr. John Scott Carroll, one of the doctors that oversees family medicine at the Martha Berry Boulevard location, talked about how “incredibly important” his staff is to him.

“I could not function without my staff,” Carroll said. “Any little encouragement, especially during this difficult time, is greatly appreciated.”

Usually, the clinic has a weeklong event to celebrate their employees, but this year, they have had to switch gears because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, they’re visiting each location over a period of 10 weeks, giving out goodies and popsicles and getting pictures. Employees also wrote words of encouragement on paper shaped like puzzle pieces, as part of the theme “Everyone is a piece of the puzzle.”

The words and quotes were placed on a gratitude board for the staff to keep.

“We’re visiting each location to greet every employee and thank them for the work they do,” Chief Operating Officer Wendy Pitts said.

The Harbin Clinic on Martha Berry Boulevard specializes in pulmonary medicine, sleep center, family medicine and 12 other specialties. The center is so big that this will be the first of two events at the location.


Scarlett Rhyne, a second-grader at Model Elementary School


Business
Authority OKs $38 million in bonds for Ball Corp., will seek state grant for Kerry

The Rome-Floyd County Development Authority approved the issuance of $38 million in bonds for one of two expansion projects at the Ball Corp. plant on Tuesday.

The project involves the addition of a line to manufacture new 7.5 ounce beverage containers.

In March, the authority approved the issuance of up to $64 million in bonds — which allow the company to access funds at a low interest rate. However, Ball officials decided to use lease or purchase financing options for a major portion of the project.

Ball also is receiving a $500,000 state EDGE grant as part of the package that convinced the company to expand its operations in Floyd County.

The expansion, within the footprint of the original plant, is expected to add another 40 to 50 jobs to its local workforce.

The EDGE fund was created by the state to offer financial assistance for projects where the company is considering one or more states for a relocation or expansion — and where the project will enhance the local community by adding or retaining jobs.

Authority attorney Andy Davis said the company will pay fees amounting to $47,400 a year over 12 years, in lieu of taxes.

The authority also approved a resolution to submit a state EDGE grant application on behalf of Kerry, which is expanding its bakery facility on Douglas Street in the Lindale area. The grant is expected to total $575,000.

Also, Development Authority President Missy Kendrick reported that her office is still getting new project inquiries, although she did not identify the sources. A month ago she said that Floyd County is the only site in Georgia in consideration by two different prospects. Nothing has changed on that front, she said.

The authority also conducted a brief closed door session at the end of the meeting to discuss potential real estate acquisition.

Rome and Floyd County have long needed additional properties for future industrial development. Voters approved money in each of the last two special purpose local option sales tax packages for that purpose. So far, the community has yet to lock down a location.


Local
Housing, monuments among the topics for Rome City Commission retreat this week

The Rome City Commission is slated to delve into topics ranging from development to infrastructure and public art at its annual planning retreat.

Commissioners will be meeting at the Hawthorn Suites in downtown Rome from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday. The extended team-building workshop also includes meals before and after the formal discussions. All sessions are public.

First up are updates on economic development initiatives and municipal law from Missy Kendrick of the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority and City Attorney Andy Davis.

The agenda for the Wednesday morning session also includes discussion of the local housing situation, along with possible construction incentives, and a look at the Unified Land Development Code and annexation policies.

The afternoon session, which starts at 1 p.m., is scheduled to focus on parking and street-paving plans and several potentially contentious issues. The city’s teen curfew and discussion of the new “landmarking” review of public monuments are on the agenda, as well as commission protocols and caucus policy.

Thursday will wrap up the retreat with two hours of discussion on more visible projects.

It’s expected to start with considering the next step in revamping the city’s bus service. Future plans for the donated former General Electric property off Redmond Circle are on the table along with some talk about public art initiatives, entrance corridor cleanups and progress on making Rome a business friendly community.

Commissioners hold a planning retreat each year to share their perspectives on ongoing projects and set priorities for the upcoming months.