Across the nation, Americans are fighting about the big issues: democracy versus a perceived creeping fascism, inclusion versus prejudice, good versus evil.
At the Trenton City Commission's regular February meeting on Monday, meanwhile, the issue of the night was the three-way stop sign at Cedar Lane and Rosewood Drive.
"What value do you put on these kids' lives?" demanded one citizen.
"I had to get in the ditch," said another.
"Leave the stop sign up!" was the general consensus.
The fact that local issues are the ones closest to local hearts (which is, incidentally, The Dade Planet's central tenet and raison d'etre) was handily demonstrated at the city commission's unusually well-attended Feb. 13 meeting. The stop sign at Rosewood and Cedar was an action item on the agenda, and Trentonians had turned out in force to make sure that that action was not removal.
"We're glad it's there," said a resident.
Citizens complained that drivers coming off Highway 11 treated Cedar Lane "like a drag strip," endangering residents' lives, their children and vehicles parked in their driveways.
Another suggested city police arrest speeders at her house. "Come collect some revenue at 16 Rosewood Drive," she invited.
"The police can back into my driveway any time they want to," said a third.
Some people ignored the stop sign, complained the residents, and one mentioned with nostalgia a bygone speed bump that once deterred speeders in the neighborhood. But the stop sign was better than nothing, all agreed, and their message was loud and clear: Leave that stop sign where it is!
Mayor Alex Case assured the residents the sign was going nowhere. The issue tonight was not about revisiting the decision to put it there, he explained, but correcting the regulatory process. "We went about it in a way that got us into trouble," he said. "We're backing up tonight to make it right."
The problem as the mayor explained it seemed to be that the sign had been installed through the agency of Street Commissioner Monda Wooten without a vote by the whole city commission. That was quickly rectified by a unanimous vote though Commissioner Wooten herself was absent from the meeting with a bad case of flu.
In other business, the commission without much discussion agreed to amend its accommodation, or hotel/motel, tax to reflect changes in state law that made it possible to collect more. The Dade County Commission's recent exploration and ultimate adoption of an accommodation tax of its own had brought to light that the city is currently only taxing the first 10 days of accommodation at 5 percent. Georgia now allows local governments to tax the first 30 days of accommodation at 8 percent.
"We don't know how much lost revenue's there," said Mayor Case.
Dade elected to impose a 7 percent tax on lodging to make the county competitive with its neighbors. "Ron recommended that we do the full 8 while we're in there," said Case, referring to Ron Womack, the city attorney, who consults with Trenton from his Walker County law firm.
Case went over the bookkeeping: At 8 cents on the dollar, pennies 1-3 are permitted to go straight into the city's general fund; pennies 4 and 5 must be used to promote tourism; and pennies 6-8 are to be used for "DMOs," designated marketing organizations such as local chambers of commerce and welcome centers. The current 5 percent tax is shared 60-40 with the Dade Chamber of Commerce, he said.
The Scout Building
Dade County District 4 Commissioner Allan Bradford (right) appeared before the city commission as a representative of American Legion Post 106 to ask that Trenton take over ownership of the Scout Building at Jenkins Park. The building is an equipment storage facility for local Boy Scouts but a major meeting place for Girl Scouts. "I hope you can decide not to kick them out," Bradford told the city commission.
He went over the background: Though the Scout Building is on park land owned by Trenton, the building itself is the property of the American Legion post. Now Post 106 is in a financial crisis, trying to pay off the mortgage on its own meeting hall with donations because revenues are down to zero since it closed its bingo operations and restaurant. The post simply doesn't have the $125 or so needed to run the building, said Bradford. Additionally, it emerged, the Legion has been paying insurance on the building at an assessed value of $187,000. "No way that building is worth $187,000," he said.
Mayor Case and the commission agreed that the building should be taken by the city and kept for the Scouts--"Our park is there for our children," said Case--but referred the matter to the city attorney to decide how precisely to do that.
The commission approved $3400 and $5200 for New World software upgrades to Trenton Police Department capabilities. "This is going to help everyone," said Police Commissioner Sandra Gray. Mayor Case explained that the upgrades will allow city and county to better coordinate law enforcement.
Commissioner Gray also announced the Trenton PD is collecting donated equipment to convert a room at the police building next to the city public works into a gym open 24/7 to cops and city and county employees.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner Terry Powell said work on handrails and handicap accessibility is ongoing at Jenkins Park, and he thanked animal welfare activist Ann Brown for her help in placing stray animals.
Tree City's Eloise Gass told the commission this Friday is Georgia Arbor Day, and said trees would be planted at locations to be announced.
Dade Public Library manager Marshana Sharp urged all to submit photographs for the book the library is compiling by March 1, and to tell their stories in person for the videotaped Living History project the library is wrapping up this month. She also said nine places are left in the library's popular beginning computer class, to be offered this month at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Feb. 28. Call (706) 657-7857 to reserve a place or for more information.
The commission discussed a possible liquor-by-the drink city referendum (see previous article) but tabled the matter pending review by its attorney.
During an executive (closed-door) session to discuss personnel, the commission decided to hire Dustin Wade to replace Trenton's retiring lab technician. The commission also set times for interviews for candidates for police chief during this session. The town's current police chief is also retiring.
The Trenton City Commission meets at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at City Hall.