Sunday brunch enthusiasts looking forward to having a mimosa or bloody mary before noon in Rome can now toast the Rome City Commission for unanimously agreeing Monday to allow voters to decide Nov. 5 whether local establishments can serve alcohol as early as 11 a.m. on Sundays.
As the law stands now, those who wish to imbibe must wait until 12:30 p.m. There were no public comments and very little discussion on the matter during the Commission’s regular meeting at City Hall.
Continued caucus discussion on the need for speed detection cameras — especially at Rome High School — was a bit more animated as the School Zone Speed Detection Camera Ordinance headed to a first reading.
Commissioner Jamie Doss expressed concerns over a possible public outcry over tickets being automatically generated through the devices.
“People will need to understand that the focus is on school zone safety, not revenue generation,” Doss said during the 5 p.m. caucus discussion. “I’ve gotten some automated tickets and they make people mad. I understand people shouldn’t be speeding, but this would be a big change and we should be cautious.”
Rome Police Capt. Chris Dehart reassured Doss that the system would not be completely automated. Each infraction would be reviewed by officers before drivers would be fined for speeding.
However, the cameras would take a huge load off of the police department that is already stretched thin, Dehart said. He added that having to cross four lanes of traffic on a divided highway in front of RHS makes it nearly impossible to stage a patrol car or motorcycle to monitor speeders.
“Rome High School is a booger,” Dehart stressed. “We can handle the elementary schools, but Rome High is a nightmare. It’s a high speed zone.”
Dehart said it’s common for vehicles to travel more than 60 mph and they see speeds “in the 70s and 80s” in a 45 mph zone on a daily basis.
“The legislature got it right when they passed this bill,” Dehart said of the ability of local communities to install speed cameras in school zones. “We owe it to our kids.”
Drivers can be fined $75 for traveling over 55 mph when the school zone lights are flashing and for going over 65 mph when the lights aren’t activated, he said.
Such a system most likely wouldn’t be installed until closer to the end of the school year as a contract with RedSpeed USA would need to be drawn up and it would take about 90 days to get the Georgia Department of Transportation permit and install the cameras, according to Greg Parks of RedSpeed.
Commissioners also discussed a Small Wireless Facilities and Antennas Ordinance that was up for a first reading.
City Manager Sammy Rich assured commissioners that the ordinance and the devices proposed by 5G providers such as AT&T would not cause “open season” on them in October because it would not entail large, intrusive structures in public rights-of-way. The ordinance is written such that already-existing poles would be utilized for the upgrade.
“At the end of the day, everybody wants their device to work so they can stream their favorite cat videos,” Rich said. “It puts us in a place of regulating and permitting facilities, which is new for us. We don’t want to see a lot of ugly utility poles sticking up everywhere.”
Permit fees ranging from $100 to $1,000 would be charged carriers, with the ability to raise rates by up to 2.5% down the road.
“AT&T gets it,” Rich explained. “They don’t want to become public enemy number one.”