City Discusses Dog, Eyesore Ordinances, New Playground Equipment at Jenkins

Mayor Alex Case (left) reviews an ordinance with City

Hall employee Cindy Robertson.

“Who goes out and enforces these ordinances?”

That’s a question that the Trenton City Commission and Mayor Alex Case discussed during their regular monthly meeting Monday night, and the answer is still hazy—but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Meanwhile, ordinances were at the forefront of the May 9 meeting: The commissioners finalized their revisions to a contested vicious-dog ordinance, pending review by the city attorney, then moved on to knock the dust off an eyesore ordinance passed during a previous administration.

First, the dog ordinance: A couple wishing to adopt a pit bull from a rescue organization had last month petitioned the commission to amend a city ordinance defining pits as well as other breeds with bad reputations as “vicious,” and imposing such draconian security measures on them as to make the rescue group unwilling to place a dog in Trenton at all.

The commissioners brought an amended ordinance to the meeting: They had simply lined out the first part of the ordinance that defines vicious dog as belonging to the bad-rep breeds including pit bulls, then gone through and also deleted parts that require owners to keep their pets in the dog equivalent of high-security solitary.

For example, the requirement that dog fences had to have ceilings and be anchored by poles buried two feet into the ground or sunk into concrete went away. So did the double-fencing rule that would keep confined animals a minimum of 15 feet away from the edge of the yard. And the clause that would keep them muzzled at all times similarly bit the dust.

The procedure now, explained Mayor Case, is to get the changed ordinance reviewed by the city attorney and then posted for public review for two weeks. Then at least one but possibly two public hearings may be required—Ron Moss, the city attorney, will advise—and the new ordinance must be subsequently approved by a formal vote of the commission.

Case proposed doing the hearings on May 31, one at 10 a.m. and the other at 5 p.m., followed by a special called meeting at 5:30 p.m. to vote. The commissioners approved the timetable, always supposing the attorney gives the new ordinance his blessing.

Now, the eyesore ordinance: Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten said constituents had thanked her for last month’s citywide volunteer cleanup but what about the trash heap next door the neighbor kept adding to? Which reminded Mayor Case of the anti-litter ordinance he’d dug out of the municipal files and brought for review.

Case and the commissioners reviewed the eyesore ordinance passed under Mayor Anthony Emanuel’s tenure with longtime City Hall staffer Cindy Robertson, sitting in this month for elected City Clerk Lucretia Houts: The procedure was, neighbors pitched a fit, then the city sent out letters, right?

“Everybody pitched a fit,” Ms. Robertson replied. “I don’t know that the letters went out.”

Neither did he, said the new mayor. He hadn’t found one copy of one letter or in fact any evidence at all that the eyesore ordinance had ever been enforced. “There’s no paper trail,” he said.

Case and the commissioners discussed the procedure: They understood that in theory the city was to identify eyesore properties, send out certified letters to their owners, give them a specified time to clean up the problem, and if they failed to do so, the city could get it done unilaterally and place a lien on the property pending recompense, after an order from city court.

But again, it is unclear as matters stand whether the city has ever done this at all. “We’re starting from scratch to a point,” said Case.

Commissioner Wooten remarked, “No one wants to go out and be the bad guy but we’re going to have to get serious about this.”

But like the dog ordinance, that may take a little time: Case and the commissioners decided to start the process by sending the Emanuel-era ordinance to the city attorney for review.

In other business, the mayor and commissioners discussed the imminent arrival of new playground equipment for Jenkins Park and what to do with the old stuff. They had decided last month to see if local churches were interested. Two were, said Case, but now the question was posed by Monda Wooten: “Do we have the right to just donate it?”

Another job for the city attorney, it was decided. Meanwhile, moving the old equipment for storage while the question was settled could end up costing the city money, and the alternative of crushing it and putting it in the landfill was discussed as a cheaper alternative. The Planet will announce the city’s decision when it makes one. Mayor Case suggested that anyway the first step was to officially designate the equipment as surplus, and the commission voted to do so.

The commission also voted to accept Vanguard Drive as a city street, to approve an alcoholic beverage permit for the Eagle Express convenience store replacing Forshee’s Chevron, currently under renovation, and to award a contract to design a new city website and logo to Brikwoo of Trenton for $1848 plus a monthly maintenance fee of $60.

Fire and Utilities Commissioner Jerry Henegar proposed disposing of the $35,000 the city made from selling a used fire truck in this way: $10,000 toward improving the fire station parking lot, $10,000 into the city’s general fund, and $15,000 partially toward paying wages for a part-time fire department employee, the remainder to go toward small appreciation payments to the city’s volunteer firefighters.

Mayor Case said that the city used to have a small fund to reward the volunteers with $200 or so around Christmas but that it had been eliminated in a budget cut some time ago. “This puts us back to where we were a few years ago,” he said. The commission approved Henegar’s suggestion.

Parks and Recreation Terry Powell announced that the playground at Jenkins Park is now closed until the aforementioned new playground equipment can be installed. But the city pool across from the playground is shortly to open for the year, he said. Swimming season commences May 28, and fees at the pool are $3 a day, $50 for a season pass and $100 for a family season pass.

Powell said if anyone wants to reserve the pool for a party the time to do that is now. Several parties are already booked and the schedule is beginning to look crowded.

And he expressed pride in Jenkins Park: “The park, with the help of this commission, should be one of the best around.”

Citizen LeBron Hibbs during the citizens’ participation portion of the meeting challenged Police Commissioner Sandra Gray on her pet project, a new 3550-square-foot training building at the city firing range, plans for which were approved at this meeting. Yes, it was necessary, Commissioner Gray told Hibbs; not just police officers but churches and the general public did gun safety and self-defense classes at the range.

“I’m very proud of that firing range,” she said. “It’s probably the best in the state of Georgia.”

Hibbs also questioned the purchase of a new radar gun for the police. Commissioner Gray pointed out that the city had collected $63,000 in traffic fines so far this year. “That brings revenue into the city,” she said.

The city commission meets at 6 p.m. at City Hall on the second Monday of each month.

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