Trenton Will Pave Roads, Likely Cut Employee Health Benefits

Trenton Mayor Alex Case (right) stands with workmen by the courthouse's gutted lawn. A lot of work is going on around town and more is on the way.

Navigating around Trenton these days, you may have noticed the town is a construction zone, with plastic fences to keep you off the sidewalks and Roadwork Ahead signs all over the place. If the business discussed at Monday's meeting of the Trenton City Commission is any indication, that trend will continue as we move into autumn.

Mayor Alex Case and city commissioners discussed yet more sidewalk work. The Gaddis building on the west side of the square, with offices on the bottom and apartments on top, was built in 1947 and has sidewalks wildly out of compliance with ADA (the Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements, he said. "We really need to get it fixed before we have an issue and it comes back to us," said Case.

The commission also approved SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) funds for resurfacing three roads, Case Circle, Tinker Avenue and Church Street, and for patching West Pace, Montague Street and Cora Circle, from a list submitted by Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten. The total price tag of $42,085 will be offset by $32,000 in LMIG money--that's short for Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant--so that the city's portion should come to only $10,085.

Utilities/Fire Commissioner Jerry Henegar (right) reported that seven building inspection jobs

are ongoing on construction around town, including work on the old Chevron station, the Artzy Café, and the old Thatcher's Barbecue site, as well as on several private homes. The new Vanguard plant recently completed the last of its inspections, he said.

Dade County's courthouse is also the subject of extensive current work, and Mayor Case explained to The Planet later that the reason the lawn had been excavated was to lay new water, sewer, fiber optic and electric lines.

In other business, Mayor Case sought and obtained the commission's approval for SPLOST funds to buy the city a new bush ax and a tractor to put it on. "It's something we really need," he said. "Our streets are looking really bad."

Case explained that to clear city streets a tool must cut up, cut out and cut down, functions the city's current two tractors are not, ahem, cut out for. "They're designed to cut hay. They're not designed to cut right of ways," he said.

He said the old tractors can be surplussed out and sold to offset the cost for the replacement, and that the replacement can be a used model, but that the city needs a tractor with an enclosed, air-conditioned cab to protect the workers. Trenton only has two streets workmen, plus one seasonal, he noted. "We've got to be able to work smarter not harder," he said.

The commission approved funds "not to exceed $80,000," but Case thinks the price tag will come to $25,000-30,000 for the new bush ax and the same amount for the used tractor. "We need to start shopping," he said.

The mayor and commissioners set a workshop for 6 p.m. on Sept. 23 for the purpose of sussing out the city's fiscal 2017 budget. The mayor warned that the agenda would include discussing changes to the city's health insurance policy, under which, he said, the city is currently paying the entire premium not just for its employees but for their spouses and families.

"No one in the world gets 100 percent paid family insurance," said Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten.

Whether on a related subject or otherwise, after the regular meeting, the mayor and commissioners went into executive—which is to say, closed-door—session to discuss "personnel matters." After a 50-minute discussion sheltered from the pricked ears of the local press, they returned to report that the issues discussed during the session would be addressed by the individual commissioners with the city employees in their departments.

Mayor Case (right, with City Clerk Lucretia Houts) hinted that the city's generous employee heath benefits may have to be slashed.

Parks and Recreation Commissioner Terry Powell in his monthly report to the commission said that the city pool this summer had hosted 4,925 swimmers and 19 parties. "That pool is being used and is worth its money," he said. Mayor Case added that revenue from Parks & Rec had been $27,313, including fees collected by Animal Control, which falls under Powell's department as well.

Utilities/Fire Commissioner Jerry Henegar reported that the city's sewer system is getting geriatric and several lines must be replaced. But he also said he'd seen a $285 power-bill saving between June 2015 and June 2016, after pumps were modernized. "We basically updated it to where they're not running so hard," he said. Of course, the savings might be for other reasons, including this summer's drought, he said, promising to provide overall figures at the end of the year.

Henegar also said the sewer system is considering passing on cost additions as "impact fees" to big added users like the new Fred's "supercenter." "The city has been eating that cost for years," he said.

Police Commissioner Sandra Gray was on vacation but had turned in a report of collected police fines of $16,054.96 for August with a year-to-date total of $125,128.20.

Dade County Public Library Manager Marshana Sharp was out sick but Library Board member Reece Fauscett reported in her place that the library's new hours are Tuesday 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Wednesday 10 a.m-5 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Friday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m. He explained that the library had been able to reopen on Wednesdays because of the Dade Board of Education's decision to restore part of the funding it rescinded in 2012. "We're almost a full-time library again," said Fauscett.

Dade Chamber of Commerce Director Charlie Gray reported that last weekend's Dade Days festival had been well attended and thanked Ingle's Market for donating the meat that Pucket EMS won first prize for in the event's barbecue competition. Gray reminded all of this Friday's C of C luncheon (noon in the Administrative Building) and said the speaker, George Nelson of the Southeast Lineman Training Center, will talk about the growth of small business.

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

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