A North Rome citizens group is fighting to make their community safer and economically viable.
About 40 members of the North Rome Community Action Committee met last week to update each other on initiatives ranging from the future of Eagle Park and the old recycling center on Watters Street to public safety, jobs and neighborhood anchors.
“North Rome citizens have made a big difference since we started about five years ago. From crime reduction, safety, trash and debris ... People notice the pride we take in our community,” said Charles Love who, with Bill Schroeder, founded the group.
Schroeder said he and Love were introduced by Mary Hardin Thornton, the former Keep Rome Floyd Beautiful director, when she noticed the two were separately pushing for improvements to the area. At first, he said, the idea was just to inform their neighbors who to call to get a problem addressed.
“It just grew from there,” Schroeder said. “Now we have a board of directors and at least 25 to 30 people at every meeting.”
Love and Winston Sirmans represent the NRCAC at Rome City Commission committee meetings, learning about activities and relaying concerns.
The active participation has netted buy-in from city officials.
Among the guests Thursday night was Rome-Floyd Planning Director Artagus Newell, who answered a few questions about land-use regulations.
City Commissioner Milton Slack and his wife, Clem Slack, have become members, pitching in for their neighborhood.
When members said they end up calling Love about nuisances — loud music, junk vehicles, deliberately broken street lights — because the response is faster, Commissioner Slack offered his advice.
“Show up at the next public safety meeting,” he said, noting that he chairs the committee. “The ordinance is there. We need enforcement.”
And Slack went even farther, educating members on how their local government works.
“Go to the individual committee meetings. That is where you get your information because the experts are there,” he said. “By the time it gets to the City Commission meeting, everything is done.”
The group decided Thursday to go to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting to express their hopes for Eagle Park. The park off Callahan Street has been under private lease for five years but returned as a public facility this month.
The NRCAC consensus: Use it as greenspace, not an active park. Love said some picnic tables and a walking track would establish a family-friendly atmosphere.
The North Rome Youth Center is due for some outdoor recreational equipment, he noted, and they’ve said neighborhood kids could play there.
“They’ll be supervised there,” one woman agreed. “And we won’t have to worry about some of the things that used to go on (at Eagle Park).”
They’re also sending a contingent to the Solid Waste Commission to let them know retail or some kind of commercial business is their choice to replace the recycling center. The SWC is calling for purchase proposals with an eye to weighting planned improvements to the site as heavily as the price.
“That’s a great idea,” Schroeder said about the SWC’s extra consideration. “It tries to protect the community so we’re not right back where we were again.”
The discussion then turned to redevelopment of a mostly vacant strip mall on Calhoun Avenue at Atteiram Drive. A grocery store — with fresh fruits and vegetables and reasonably priced staples — drew a groundswell of support.
Love cautioned that a major chain is unlikely to locate in that space, but said the owner is open to including one if a prospect can be found.
“Cave Spring has Casey’s,” one man noted. “There’s a grocery store in Shannon,” noted another.
A committee of Schroeder, Phil Carter, Wayne Ray and Coretta Houston was delegated to look for potential independent grocers that might be interested in serving the community. Those that also offer lottery machines, however, aren’t welcome.
While the meeting only lasted just about an hour, members also managed to touch on a number of other initiatives as well.
An effort to get Georgia Power to replace their street lights with brighter energy-efficient bulbs is now underway. They’re also planning to be involved in the city-county litter and blight task force that’s forming and they’ve applied for a grant that would support neighborhood activities such as block parties.
Iris Kinnebrew also reminded them to spread the word about the free summer meal program for kids up to the age of 18. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“The perception of a community that seems to be doing good things will attract good things,” Love reminded them as the meeting ended.