Trenton City Commission Meeting: Hello, Christy, Goodbye, Charlie!

At its regular December meeting on Monday, the Trenton City Commission approved some hiring, heard about some firing, and finalized its long-discussed 2017 budget.

After numerous budget workshops in recent months, the commission quietly passed a final budget of $1.57 million, as opposed to $1.48 million last year. Mayor Alex Case said the increase was due to increased health insurance premiums and other costs.

Police Commissioner Sandra Gray announced at the Dec. 12 meeting that Trenton Police Officer Christy Smith (right) would be acting police chief in the absence of Roger Castleberry, who is taking some time off and won't be back until after the beginning of the new year. "Christy's going to be taking care of day-to-day operations," said Commissioner Gray.

Reconvening after an executive, or closed-door, session to discuss personnel following the regular meeting, the commission announced its intention to hire a new lab technician for the sewer plant to replace an employee who is retiring. The incumbent will stay six months to train his successor. The job will be advertised shortly.

The commissioners voted to approve $20,000 to pay for its third of the cost of installing a long-discussed traffic light in front of Dade High School. Dade County and the Dade Board of Education will pay for the other two thirds, and the city will foot the electric bill for operating the light henceforth. Mayor Case said this will be more convenient, and a considerable savings, over having a police officer out on the road in all weathers directing traffic. The hang-up in getting it done, he explained, has been finding a contractor who could do the installation work.

In her monthly report, Police Commissioner Gray listed, as is her wont, collected police fines for the month and year. The Planet duly passes those on, as is The Planet's wont: $16,191.99 for November, $174,140.21 year to date.

Parks and Recreation Commissioner Terry Powell reported his department has added two new benches at Jenkins Park. "It was time to update all the old benches," he said. Mayor Case added that the park had also improved its handicapped accessibility yet more.

Utilities/Fire Commissioner Jerry Henegar said grant-funded emergency pumps for the sewer plant had now been installed. "We've basically got the plant running at full capacity now," he said.

He had Assistant Fire Inspector Ansel Smith (left,standing, with Henegar seated) report on Trenton's progress enforcing its eyesore ordinance: Smith said the city had sent out 21 letters to the owners of neglected property as of Monday.

Of those, seven cases were completed, which he explained meant demolished or fixed, and three letters had come back undelivered. Five of the properties were now under a plan of action agreed upon by the city and the owners, and three final notices had been sent out.

Mayor Case and Smith explained that the eyesore cases arise from citizens coming in and complaining about the derelict properties.

Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten was out sick but Mayor Case reported for her that the Streets Department was now picking up leaves twice a week and citizens should call City Hall if they need this service performed. He particularly urged citizens to report leaves and debris in their ditches and culverts--the city would much rather come and clear them out than let clogs develop. Citizens may reach City Hall at (706) 657-4167.

In his own report, the mayor said the ongoing cleanup of I-59 is looking good. "It's getting closer every day coming north."

He was less optimistic about Main Street north and south. "What you see now is going to be redone probably in a year," he said, referring to the Georgia Department of Transportation's recent repaving of Dade's main thoroughfare. "It's not the roundabout but they're going to squeeze South Main from Ingle's Drive toward Ingle's and try to straighten out stuff."

He said that he and Dade County Executive had spoken to GDOT about plans but were expecting to collect citizen complaints. "I wish they had fixed it right like they were supposed to," he said.

On the bright side, he said Highway 136 East should be repaved by this spring and 136 West to the Alabama state line in 2018.

Marshana Sharp, manager of the Dade Public library, announced the library has hung a Christmas tree outside its building with donated gloves, hats and scarves, and she invited all in need of warmth to help themselves. "Just don't take the lights," she said. (Photo at right courtesy of the library.)

She also urged anyone with a Dade County story to come and share it for the library's living history documentary. "Everybody's afraid to get in front of the camera," she said. But it's off to the side, she assured: "You won't even notice it's there"

Dr. James Cantrell, president of the Dade Chamber of Commerce, gave the Chamber report in place of Executive Director Charlie Gray, explaining that Gray and the C of C had parted ways. Gray had been named to the directorship only last summer. ''It was just a mutual agreement," said Cantrell.

He said the city and county should consider funding a full-time director at the Chamber. "We may could hire somebody and pay them a little better and get a better-quality person," said Cantrell, and: "If we really want to grow the Chamber ... we need a go-getter."

Cantrell said he had had personally gone and gotten new Chamber board members including Schools Superintendent Jan Harris, businessman Nathan Wooten and retired General Bob Wood. "We've got some people who are movers and shakers," he said.

Movers and shakers are needed for a number of projects, said Cantrell, including getting billboards on the highway to encourage people to stop and eat in Dade. But, he concluded in a medley of metaphors: "When the rubber meets the road, most people lay their shovels down."

Cantrell spoke at some length, detailing the Chamber's plan to make the Dade Days festival the same day as the Chamber's annual car show and move both to the high school. He said the Christmas parade has grown exponentially and the Chamber wants it to continue growing, inviting high school bands from nearby Alabama schools to march in it.

Cantrell announced his term as the C of C president is over and Heather Cochran will take over in January, with Steven Ryan as president-elect to follow the next year.

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

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