Trenton Coughs Up For Vanguard Road, Downtown Parking Lot

Trenton Mayor Alex Case opens sealed bids Monday night.

Trenton Mayor Alex Case easily persuaded city commissioners to part with $65,220.28 for a road and $50,000 for a parking lot at Monday night’s meeting of the Trenton City Commission.

As for the road: Case explained that the Dade Industrial Development Authority (IDA) was in trouble with its crown project, a road to the new Vanguard International Trailer plant IDA has brought to the county. “They don’t have the money to finish this,” he said.

Vanguard is important to Trenton and Dade because of the 400 jobs IDA promises it will provide. The plant is slated to open within a few weeks with a fraction of that staff but IDA projects it to grow within the next several years.

In any case, with IDA out of funds, said Case, the Dade County Commission is chipping in $134,450.56 to finish the road and had asked the city government to split that cost. Case in turn asked the Trenton City Commission to approve $65,220.28 in SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) to do so. After all, said the mayor: “It’s going to be our road that’s in our city.”

The commission voted in favor without much discussion, the only comment about the expenditure coming from Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten, who—first pointing out she wouldn’t be voting on the issue anyway because her husband, Nathan Wooten, is IDA’s chairman—said, “We’ve already put in $100,000.”

She referred to the city’s consent just two months ago to furnish $100,000 in SPLOST in response to a similar request from the county via Mayor Case to shore up a similar shortfall.

Commissioner Wooten also pointed out no one from IDA had appeared before the Commission to talk about the shortfall. “It looks like one of them would be here to explain it,” she said.

The Dade County Commission having met just the previous Thursday, and no word having been mentioned there, or at any other public forum, about the $134K for IDA and Vanguard, The Planet consulted Dade County Executive Ted Rumley by telephone Wednesday.

Rumley said the county had in fact discussed the expenditure but had not definitely agreed yet to “cash it out” or furnish it in construction services. “We’ve not decided,” said Rumley. He did not say in what setting such discussions had occurred.

Now, as to the parking lot: Mayor Case explained that Larry Case of Case Hardware had approached the city wishing to sell his vacant lot behind Lalito’s, a Mexican restaurant on the town square, for $70,000. Mayor Case had it appraised, and the appraiser valued it at $45,000. Mayor Case then offered Larry Case $50,000 for it. After a bit more haggling the Cases agreed on $50,000.

Larry Case has moved Case Hardware from the square to a location further south on Highway 11 and apparently no longer needs the downtown lot. Mayor Case says the city needs it for parking because: “We’re crammed at lunchtime and evening up there.”

The only resistance to the idea again came from Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten, who said, “They want us to half that road with them. Let’s make them half this with us.”

The city commissioners made that request a proviso in their resolution before voting in favor without further discussion; they had, presumably, been apprised of the proposals and the price dickering during several closed-door “executive sessions” after their regular meetings during recent months. Governmental bodies are allowed this exception to so-called sunshine laws in certain cases including personnel issues, legal matters and for some reason real estate.

As to the probability of the Dade County Commission’s going in halvesies with the city, it too, has been holding regular and lengthy executive sessions after its regular monthly meetings.

And as to why the city and county would need a parking lot behind the square when both have been moving their offices steadily away from it for decades—and why they would pay $5000 over the lot’s appraised value—those matters may have been discussed during executive sessions protected from the popping eyes and pricking ears of the local press, but as it is the local press can only speculate.

In other business, the mayor said budget discussions would require special called meetings in the near future. Budget-wise, he mentioned considering changing health insurance policies for city employees. Fire and Utility Commissioner Jerry Henegar said such hypothetical changes should be instituted gradually.

Parks and Recreation Commissioner Terry Powell apologized for the continued

closure of the Jenkins Park playground. The city closed it last month to facilitate installation of $240,000’ worth of modern new play equipment and had hoped to have it open by now, but, said Powell, “It’s going a little slower than we were told.”

Recent rains, while sorely needed, have thrown the groundwork for a loop, said Powell; so, with a little luck, maybe next week.

The commission and mayor opened bids for the old playground equipment and voted to accept the high bid of $601.99, awarding it to Scott Jones. Terry Powell is sad about the playground closure.

Donna Street, who is spearheading the current push to renovate Dade County’s historic courthouse, gave the city commission a presentation about the effort and suggested a city contribution of $5000 toward financing it.

“Have you noticed that nobody slows down for foot traffic since the courthouse closed?” she said. That’s because there’s not enough foot traffic to slow down for she said. A restored, occupied courthouse, would change all that and Trenton would be the main beneficiary, she said, seeing a surge in tourist trade and a revitalized downtown.

Speaking of revitalizing downtown, Mayor Case said he’d signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to hear more about the Streetscapes project, a grant-driven initiative that would beautify the town by burying downtown electric infrastructure. For $72,000 in matching funds, he said, Trenton would get $369,000 in work. “That’s a big, big deal,” said Case.

He also updated the commission about ongoing design consultations with Fred’s Dollar Store, which plans to open a new super-center on South Main pending its acquisition of a lot from the county, a deal slated to close later this month.

The mayor presented the commission a display of suggested logos for the town (see accompanying article). The commission heard from Dade Public Manager Marshana Sharp, who reported on library achievements and announced coming library programs (see “Upcoming Events” list and county commission article, below).

The Trenton City Commission meets the second Monday of each month at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

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