Some of this is understandable — which does not mean acceptable — in light of several years of economic downturn and plunging revenues. That situation may, or may not, be coming to a conclusion although only the foolhardy would suggest things will return to “the way they were.” There are very fundamental changes involved. Simply having governments and citizens start understanding that they must live off of their means instead of their credit cards would be huge.
However, there are reasons for optimism even though not signaling an overnight improvement. Basically, when this year started most of us were treading water and hoping the riptides would not sweep us out to sea. Now many toes seem to be touching sand of the statistically positive variety, even if fleetingly, and that at least offers hope we can walk back up onto the beach to bask in the sunshine of possible prosperity.
Far less understandable is that during this period of travail there has been a marked tendency by the county government to be paralyzed by fear and do little other than hunker down. There seems to be little optimism about this changing. In sharp contrast, the Rome city government, while facing the same problems and similarly cutting budget, seemed to always have faith in there being a light at the end of the tunnel and proceeds accordingly.
Now, as next fiscal year’s budget is sorted out, it is plain that for the county the nasty stuff is hitting the fan. Every report is steeped in gloom and doom ... and continuing emphasis on putting off until tomorrow stuff that should have been resolved yesterday with growing evidence that tomorrow may arrive rather quickly now.
WERE THIS not so sad for the entire community it might almost be funny.
To hear county leaders object about a site chosen by the city for a new fire station (it is the Rome Fire Department, remember, and covers the unincorporated area in a paid arrangement decided long ago) is laughable. This hangup involves SPLOST funds approved by voters in 1996 and long banked and waiting. That is 16 years ago!
The argument that the city-chosen location would not sufficiently cover a future growth area along the unincorporated U.S. 411 corridor to Bartow County is ludicrous. What growth? What construction boom is there for either retail or residential? Sure, land has been bought (by SPLOST funds again, which come from everybody) for frontage roads there in the future. How’s about finding money for some pavement before worrying about fire trucks traveling down them to save a dreamed-of shopping center or subdivision?
By the way, this affects fire insurance ratings that many don’t really understand. Briefly, if fire protection is farther away from you, what you pay will go up. The county’s position would result in fire insurance costs being lowered mostly for things that don’t even exist yet while possibly making them go up for owners of structures already present.
Geez ... just serve current business/homes better now and let tomorrow take care of itself. If ever U.S. 411 East imitates Armuchee then have some faith the voters will again respond more intelligently than some in leadership roles. When that part of the county needs a big new public park and community center is when it would also require its own fire station.
AND A POINT to again be made: If Rome/Floyd had the consolidated government long kept on the backburner then this “my turf is more important” roadblock would not even exist.
If Dalton/Whitfield can forge ahead with a consolidation effort even while having and retaining two separate school systems through special General Assembly legislation then so could Rome/Floyd. Indeed now — for the first time in many years — a majority of the local legislative delegation that must agree on such a measure is made up of Greater Rome residents. And three of the four have served in local government and know this perennial obstacle first hand.
Similarly, as the city and county hammer out a division of cost in maintaining the new SPLOST-paid fire headquarters and emergency-operations center (at least they’re sorting that one out) the thought should occur: Imagine the time saved and jaw-flapping avoided if there were but a single governing authority. This is a facility of benefit to everybody in the community; everybody will have to pay to mop the floors, change the light bulbs, mow the grass just as everybody chipped in pennies to build this improvement in the first place.
The same head-scratching, unresolved, holds true on how to pay for maintenance, year after year, of the important but very pricey (also SPLOST paid) consolidated emergency radio network shortly to come on line.
This newspaper has for years, while being highly supportive of almost all SPLOST proposals adding major infrastructure improvements to the community, pointed out such pennies can only pay to build things and not to staff or maintain them. What comes afterwards is something the city/county governments (and Cave Spring) should have figured out and agree to going in, not wrangled about while trying to protect their individual purses in later years. Having one responsible party makes arriving at decisions easier.
KNOWN and predictable future added costs should always be a part of SPLOST planning — and Greater Rome needs a new one right now ... and a big one — going in and not coming out.
Those radio towers and the ability they will provide for all public-safety personnel (and schools, etc.) to speak to each other directly will in coming years and decades save a lot of lives and property. So we build them and then start arguing about who is going to pay the electric bill? Are there really supposed to be “sides” in creating a better and safer community?
And note, all this without even mentioning the inability to get the Tennis Center of Georgia accomplished without waiting, like beggars, for alms from the rich and powerful in the Land of Oz, which is planning on a building itself a new billion-dollar football stadium.
Or the biggest of current heavy-heavies now hanging over the entire community as the county continues to try to balance its operations budget, even after all those staffing reductions, on the back of ceasing to do basics rather similar to changing the furnace filters or the batteries in the smoke alarms.