THE INSIDER: What we’ve seen and heard . . .
Rome, Floyd schools — openings, closings and special taxes: Despite a continuing community outcry, Cave Spring Elementary begins its final year of service in August. So, too, Glenwood Primary. Both will follow Midway Primary and McHenry Primary into “retirement” and they might be joined by two others soon.
The agenda for last Monday’s Floyd County Board of Education meeting included text about asking the state to revise capital outlay spending for several reasons for Alto Park and Garden Lakes elementaries as they “are being withdrawn due to future consideration of possible closures as a result of a system consolidation.”
That lit a match for some as they had not heard about potential closing plans. All week, we were peppered with requests for more information and we, in turn, directed those enquiring minds to the school system.
One issue is the shrinking enrollment of county schools even as Rome City Schools counts more than 6,600 students (up from 5,000 several years ago). The city is facing a different problem: Accommodating younger students. Superintendent Lou Byars, attending the recent Rome City Commission retreat, was all ears as housing growth discussions continued. Byars explains they can handle the older students at Rome Middle and Rome High already are planning for needs in the younger grades, including moving sixth grader.
The county solution appears to be a “regional” elementary concept, something that could be on the next education special tax package (voters approved the last five-year, penny-per-dollar assessment in 2017). Some grade levels already have been shifted to other schools. Given the hard feelings the county consolidation is causing, we wish them luck with that special tax vote. It is going to be a very hard sale.
Guests will be allowed to carry open containers of alcohol purchased from downtown establishments as part of today’s River District Arts Festival (including Broad Street). That was OK’d by Rome’s Alcohol Control Commission on Monday and was followed by the panel’s blessing to again try a 90-day trial — with guidelines — for downtown, perhaps starting as early as Aug. 5.
You’re familiar with past attempts to allow open containers; the two most recent bids in 2017 and 2020, were rejected by Rome city commissioners. That’s why we’re taking a low-key approach to coverage, especially with three commission seats on the November ballot.
But the Downtown Development Authority is trying again, this time fortified with a survey of “downtown business owners, residents and other community members;” the results were 105 people in support, five opposed and five others remaining neutral.
So what happens next? The DDA is scheduled to brief commissioners at Monday’s caucus session at 5 p.m. before the City Commission meeting.
- It would then be up for a first reading on July 12.
- The second reading, and public hearing, would occur July 26.
- If approved, it would start Aug. 5 and end Oct. 30.
- The hours would be 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Please see the minutes from Monday’s DDA meeting below.
Round one: Margie vs. Wendy. In 2018, the race to replace retiring Sheriff Tim Burkhalter was the top political event — even though the primary was two years off. The same scenario is shaping in this “off-year” election cycle where municipal elections (city commissions, councils and schools boards) are on the November ballot. The only race people are talking about is the collision course set for November 2022 — Marjorie Taylor Greene vs. Wendy Davis. Both must win party primaries to get that far (and qualify as well). That’s the small stuff. The war of words is under way.
Greene’s campaign shared this shot earlier this week:
“Wendy Davis is an open-borders socialist who supports stimulus checks to Illegal Immigrants, teaching our children to hate America through dangerous Critical Race Theory indoctrination, violent BLM and Antifa mobs, and wants to strip away our gun rights. She is handpicked by the Hillary Clinton/Stacey Abrams wing of the Democrat party. They are prepared to unleash MILLIONS of dollars to take me out. Some political experts even expect $15-$20 million spent against me.” (She concludes with an attack on breakaway Republicans and a pitch to support her campaign).”
We assume these funds would be in addition to the millions from national sources Greene has collected from fellow “Trump won” believers. (See AJC).
Davis, in announcing her District 14 bid and decision not to seek a third term on the Rome City Commission, opened her declaration in June with:
“We need a true Northwest Georgia voice for our communities in Washington. I’ll focus on getting results for our families, not chasing national attention with
embarrassing, erratic conspiracy theories.”
This could come down to another massive spending spree as seen in the 2020 U.S. Senate races, Jon Ossoff’s earlier House race and a few others. Get ready for a lot of national media to be in town as well. We’ve yet to see a national, state or local news organization resist any Greene soundbite (even as some editorialize about what her attraction is to begin with). Now you know why they call it “click bait.”
CATCHING UP: Martha Berry zone
Last week’s Newsletter broke the story about expected land purchases on Martha Berry Boulevard, a sign of hope for ridding the area of street-level crime. It seems some of those deals are still in the nexus. We asked City Manager Sammy Rich about the real estate assemblage at Friday’s downtown event and he replied that some properties are under contract while others are pending. He also said the area is prime for redevelopment as it is a federal opportunity zone which makes it even more appealing.
- Our take: Let’s give it some more time to simmer but so far, so good.
CATCHING UP: River District 2.14-acre purchase
Rome City commissioners, at Monday’s meeting, will be asked to formally bless selling 2.14 acres off West Third Street to Four Stones Real Estate and the group behind massive revitalization of the River District. The price: $407,000. You can read the 54-page contract here.
- Final signoff? This was scheduled for approval June 18 but there were some late discussions about development deadlines and the property being returned to the city if those deadlines weren’t met. At the time, City Manager Sammy Rich said he was confident all would be worked out. It appears we’re at that point.
PEAKS & VALLEYS: The highs and lows of Northwest Georgia.
Peak to Independence Day celebrations stretching more than a week: As pandemic concerns ease, area communities and service groups are bolstering plans to celebrate Independence Day 2021. It all starts today (Saturday) in Lindale and spreads to Cave Spring, Cartersville, Rome and beyond through Sunday night, the Fourth of July. Our favorite remains the Norman Rockwell come-to-life scene in Cave Spring with the 9 a.m. parade on July 3 followed by a full day of festivals and evening fireworks. Our advice: Get that homemade ice cream from the Methodist Church. Each of these events has a lure to itself and we commend the staff and volunteers celebrating the nation’s birthday.
Valley to those sitting out of jobs. With the state unemployment regulations rolling back to prepandemic levels starting Sunday, we’re hoping the loss of lazy income will get more people back into the workforce. We’ve seen businesses, especially restaurants, cut hours and days because of a lack of workers. Available workers are at a premium as you ready this. On Friday, a local/regional employer told us he could put another 15 people to work that day if he had the staff. He even made a public appeal for employees at the meeting we were attending. Come Sunday, that paid vacation is over.
Peak to the folks who work to reunite lost pets with owners: PAWS had a special advertised last week regarding “chips” for your pets to help find their owners in time of need (see above). That’s a huge plus and so far volunteers and vets who fill Facebook with lost pet pictures in hopes of reuniting split families. These Facebook posts do more good than you’d realize — and so do the well-meaning folks who put them up.
FOOT NOTES: Minutes from DDA meeting. “Downtown Open Container Trial Period.”
The topic of allowing alcohol consumption in downtown Rome on public property was
once again addressed by the Alcohol Control Commission. This topic was studied in
detail in 2017, and a recommendation was made for adoption by the Alcohol Control
Commission to the City Commission. The City Commission did not adopt that
recommendation. In 2020, the topic of open containers was once again approved by the
Alcohol Control Commission (via email correspondence since no live meetings were
being held). The 2020 effort also failed to gain passage at the City Commission (failed
via a 3-5 vote).
Downtown Development Director Aundi Lesley was present to report on a survey
conducted with downtown business owners, residents, and other community members.
Ms. Lesley stated that 115 business owners were surveyed; 105 of those persons support
the open container trial period for 90 days; five business owners expressed their
opposition, and five business owners were neutral. Of the 53 downtown residents
surveyed, 51 of those are in favor of the open container trial period. Two expressed their
opposition. Ms. Lesley also presented various demographic statistics for residents and
other community members. Of the 71 community members surveyed, 69 were in favor
of the open container concept, with only 2 opposed.
The ACC is aware that there have been many one-day open container events held in
downtown Rome over the past several years, and there are no known problems that
occurred during these events. There are 30 or more Georgia cities that currently allow
some type of open public consumption, and these cities all report positive impacts. The
City of Cartersville is one of the more recent cities to try the open container concept on a
trial basis. Ms. Lesley cited some specific examples of cities such as Gainesville that
report overwhelmingly positive impacts from the open container concept.
Rome Police Major Rodney Bailey was present and was asked his opinion of this matter.
Mr. Bailey stated that the Police Department does not oppose the trial period and that
they will provide their feedback to the ACC, DDA, and City Commission during and
after the trial period, if it is approved. Mr. Billy Cooper had several comments and
questions during the ACC discussion of this topic including, if during the trial period,
consumption should be allowed as early as the proposed 11 a.m. There is some thought
that some of the groups that visit Rome, such as the geocachers, would likely enjoy
having the option to have an alcoholic beverage during their activities which sometime
begin in the morning.
Mr. VanMeter moved for the ACC to approve the concept as presented today and
recommend to the City Commission that the 90-day trial period for downtown open
container be allowed. The period would be applicable from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m.
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday during the 90-day trial period. Mr. Morgan
seconded the motion, and the vote was unanimously in favor.
Ms. Lesley explained that she will make a presentation to the Rome City Commission
during their Caucus Session on June 28th. The proposed ordinance could then go before
the City Commission for First Reading on July 12th and Second Reading and vote on July
26th. If approved, the 90-day trial period will begin on August 5th and extend through
Saturday, October 30th.