Trenton will now hire attorneys to prosecute arrestees in city court rather than relying on police officers to make their own cases.
Mayor Alex Case sought and obtained approval for the change at Monday night's regular October meeting of the Trenton City Commission. Case said the move comes at the recommendation of City Attorney Ron Womack. "It's not come as a mandate yet, but it's fixing to be," said the mayor.
The mayor said the city will pay Womack or one of the other attorneys in his law firm to prosecute cases as needed.
The vast majority of people--97 percent, says Case-- charged by Trenton police officers with DUI or other offenses plead guilty and pay their fines, explained the mayor. But they have the right to plead not guilty and hire a lawyer to represent their interests, and some do.
In such cases, the arrestee goes before the judge--in this case, Dade Magistrate Joel McCormick, who doubles as Trenton City Court judge--armed with an attorney, while on the prosecution side the police officer is left to speak for himself. "Our officer needs that representation just as much the person arrested," said Case, elucidating the point during a break.
And often, he said, the outcome is that the case is sent on to Dade Superior Court. That's what happened with a DUI case that stayed on Trenton's books through a series of delays and postponements, was given a special court location and time, then ended up being sent on to Dade Superior anyway. It was in reviewing this case that Womack recommended the change.
"It'll help our officers know we've got their backs," said the mayor.
In other business at the Oct. 10 meeting, the commission accepted a bid from Case Concrete for $11,389 for work on the bridge and gate at Jenkins Park to make them ADA (Americans with Disability Act) compliant. It voted to approve SPLOST (special project local option sales tax) funds to pay for this, plus $200 for materials Parks and Recreation Commissioner Terry Powell asked for to buy materials for a related project city employees will do in-house.
As they have done through the last few regular meetings and special called budget workshops, the city commissioners spent a sizable percentage of their time discussing human resources issues pertaining to the city's 22 employees. Mayor Case asked the commissioner to begin thinking about adopting the state holiday calendar, as Dade County has, which would give city employees three additional holidays. Case said that, Monday being Columbus Day, he'd found that it was difficult to get much done with other government offices and businesses closed. "It's been really really dead today here in the office," he said.
Another HR issue was whether, with most salaried workers being converted to hourly in reaction to a new federal mandate strenthening overtime pay rules, to give employees who work over their alloted hours comp time or overtime pay. Case said the tentative fiscal year 2017 budget contains no overtime pay. If the city does choose the comp time route, said Case, "We've got to control it or we have got to cap it."
The need for employees to work outside their normal schedules varies from department to department and season to season, he said, but if, say, the Trenton Civics Center is rented for a big messy party on Saturday night and then a church group has rented it for a Sunday morning function, someone needs to clean it in between. "I've mopped that floor a time or two," said the mayor. "It's a big floor."
But this and other matters the commission left pending. Mayor Case set yet another budget workshop for 6 p.m. on Oct. 24 at City Hall, and he reminded commissioners that representatives from a health insurance company would be coming for an information session in early November.
In his monthly financial report, the mayor said Trenton is doing well enough though, "This is one of our lean times of the year." City tax bills should be going out by the end of October, he said, and are payable nolater than Dec. 30.
Case also pointed out that the Georgia Department of Transportation was in the process of resurfacing both North and South Main, AKA Highway 11, though it had promised not to let the work interfere with Dade High's homecoming parade this Thursday. GDOT is storing paving material on the city lot, but has also promised to restore the municipal property to as good or better a state than it found it in, said the mayor.
Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten interjected that she had had several calls from citizens who have seen the paving material and wished to purchase some. She asked the local press to make it clear it is not for sale. "We're not in the retail business," agreed the mayor.
Fire/Utilities Commissioner Jerry Henegar asked the mayor for an update on pending matters including (a) the city's search for a used tractor and new bush ax and (b) adoption of a city logo to go with its new website. The mayor answered (a) he was still in the process of tractor-shopping, sniffing hydraulic fluid and tasting it if he had to; and (b) the city website was completed and ready for the commissioners to review, but that they still needed to decide which of the logo choices they preferred. The Planet will continue to report on both these weighty matters.
Eloise Gass reported for Trenton Tree City that the group was due to start planting pansies shortly and was hoping to get help from the schools. Charlie Gray reported for the Trenton Chamber of Commerce that Janet Cochran of the Georgia Tourism Board would be the speaker for the next Chamber of Commerce luncheon, which is at noon on Nov. 18.
The Trenton City Commission meets at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at City Hall.