Photos Andy Calvert
Q 1: What motivates you as a city commissioner?
I don’t want to say there’s not enough being done, but I think there could be more, and I wanted to be in a position that I could help. I’ve served on three different SPLOST committees through the years and saw a little bit about how things worked and how things could get better. I wanted to be a part of that.
Q2: What are your goals as a city commissioner?
One of my goals was to… work with our police department and fire department and work to get them more money because they were grossly underpaid. We’ve accomplished that goal right now. We worked and they got a raise that went into effect August 1. That brought them up to a comparable level with other cities around northwest Georgia and even really over into northeast Alabama. Now, did we get them where we want them? No, but we are much closer than what we were six months ago. That was one of the goals.
We are in bad need for workforce housing, and I think that we’re going to have to work out something to get some workforce housing built. By workforce housing, I mean houses that are in the $175-$250,000 range. That will allow people to come into Rome, get a job, and be able to have housing for their families.
We want affordable housing… so that we can have people able to make a living, tend to their children, their wives, their husbands, and be able to grow and bring people into the city. We’ve met with some developers about doing that very thing and building these houses. What’s holding the developers and builders back right now is the cost of supplies. They used to could buy their supplies at $120-125 a square foot, and since COVID came into play, those costs are now up to $175-180 a square foot. To build an affordable workforce home, now instead of it costing $150-175,000 dollars, it’s costing them probably $225-250 to build it.
They’ve come to the city and asked for some help because the city needs it, they’re willing to provide it, but they’re looking for some help in the cost of the homes. It’s something the city’s talking about. I can’t say that this is where we’re going with it, because I don’t know just yet, but we have kicked around the idea of incentivizing the builder or the developer. It’s just going to be a question of can the city afford to help, and will it be enough for the developer to say “okay, we can do this”? We’re still trying to figure out what’s the best route to go.
Q3: What are you looking forward to in 2021?
This has been a crazy year. I think that any goals that we set, we’ve had to slow down a little bit as far as getting them put into action because of where we are right now with COVID and what’s been happening. I still think that we need to do a better job with our trail system… we’ve done a really good job with the trail system, but I’d like to see it expanded.
Whatever it takes, we need to get into that. The technology downtown needs to be upgraded. Where I live, which is in the city limits, I have a hard time with internet and things of that nature because we don’t have the technology in place yet in these subdivisions to make it happen. I’m all the time getting knocked offline. We need to be upgraded as a city. If we’re going to attract new businesses or students for college or people to go into these workforce houses, then we’re going to have to upgrade all our technology and how things operate… If we’re going to be progressive, we’ve got to correct that.
Also, I’d like to continue to work on our corridors coming in and out of the city. We are currently working with some developers on the Martha Berry corridor, from Turner McCall pretty much out to the Harbin Clinic, that are willing to help us with that area by making some changes. We’ve got North Rome corridor… we’ve got to do something up in that area because anybody coming off I-75 from the north pretty much comes down North Broad corridor… we’re not presenting ourselves as a city really well coming through those areas because they need help, they need to be spruced up… It’s just getting the right things in place to get that help.
Closing Thoughts: We’ve got the city government and the county government, but I think it’s important for everyone to know that these two different entities really work well together, and we try to complement each other with things that we do. We can’t do it all the time, but I think by and large there’s a good working relationship between the city government and the county government.