Pickleball, Anyone? Dade Commission OKs Plan to Redo Tennis Courts

Dade's tennis courts are in a sorry state but not for long! This summer the area will be revamped to include courts for tennis, basketball, volleyball and "pickleball," whatever that may be.

The big crowd at the Dade County Commission's regular March meeting Thursday evening had doubtless showed up for the exciting denouement of the liquor-by-the-drink issue (see earlier article). But there was lots more on the agenda at the March 2 meeting and the county commissioners seemed to enjoy discussing it before a full house for once.

First on Thursday's lineup was Stacy Stephens, Dade's director of parks and recreations. He requested $1736 for bleachers and fencing at the county ball fields and $35,100 to be paid to Courtmakers Inc. to revamp Dade's crumbling tennis courts.

Stephens described at some length the decay, dereliction and decrepitude of the tennis courts at the Four Fields athletic complex. They hadn't been resurfaced in years, he said, resulting in cracks in the pavement he made sound deep enough to subsume tennis balls or small island nations. "It is a liability the way it is now, to let anybody go out there and do anything," said Stephens.

His proposed fix was not just a resurfacing but a renovation that would fit basketball, volleyball and "pickleball" courts along with tennis courts inside the present tennis area. "That way we incorporate four sports in one area."

What is pickleball? Stephens explained it had features of badminton, tennis and table tennis, very popular with seniors as it is easier on aging physiques.

District 2 Commissioner Scottie Pittman recommended the county go ahead and do the renovation now; otherwise, he said, the tennis courts would cost $280,000 to replace later on.

The commissioners granted him both the $1736 for the bleachers and fencing and the $35K for the tennis court. County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley said the money would come out of SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) and warned the work probably wouldn't start until May--a hard freeze during resurfacing could ruin everything, he said. But come summer, pickleball, anyone?

County Clerk Don Townsend asked for and was granted approval of a budget amendment, from $9,112 000 to $10,868,000. He explained the formality was necessary to take into account federal and state grant money that had come in to pay for repairs after 2015's Christmas flooding and for other projects. District 3 Commissioner Robert Goff reiterated for the benefit of the audience that it did not mean the commission had spent more than budgeted.

Clerk Townsend also presented a resolution to be sent to the state formally identifying projects to be paid for by the county's new hotel/motel, or accommodation, tax. "It's basically allowing the General Assembly to allow us to collect this tax for specific purposes," he explained.

County Boss Rumley took advantage of the presence of Friends of Cloudland Canyon State Park members in the unusually hefty audience to highlight a recent snag with the new tax: Cloudland Canyon State Park had declined to enter into an agreement with the county allowing Dade to tax its cabin and yurt rentals.

"We hope to bring them on board with that," said Rumley, pointing out that by law the tax collected from park rentals had to be spent on promoting the park. "It could be a big boost to the park.".

Former FOP president and current audience member Tom Pounds pointed out what may be the park's objection to that argument: The money would goes to the county to promote the park, not to the park to promote the park.

The commissioners OKed $10,500 for a detailed survey of the Lookout Lake dam area. Rumley explained after the meeting that such an exhaustive survey, showing where all the nearby structures were, how many people lived there and how much water would reach each house in the event of a dam breach, was required by the Georgia Safe Dams bureaucracy before the county's proposed fix to the dam can be approved. "It's the final part of this," he said. "This summer we'll be through with it."

Rumley said the county hopes to gain approval from the capital with two or three weeks. "Even after we do that, we've still got to spend money on the dam," he said. "We've got to cut the dam down, because it's too high for them, we've got to resurface the road and put in a spillway." But all that work, he said, the county can do cheaply itself, in-house.

Alex Case appeared before the commission not in his guise as the mayor of Trenton this time but as Dade's Emergency Services boss. His department had been awarded $4412.87 in grant money and wished to apply it toward the $15,000 price tag of a Lucas compression device, a mechanical CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) provider, with the balance to be paid for in SPLOST funds. His request was granted.

Dade's First Lady, Diane Rumley (right), announced that the county's annual Festival of Life will take place on April 6 this year. The festival is a benefit to help local people and this year's beneficiaries are Karen Gass and Brenda Kessler Gass. "It's always hard to pick the people we help," said Ms. Rumley. "But we know when we've gotten the people we're supposed to have."

She said the Trenton gazebo will be painted pink shortly. For the festival, there will be vendors, food and music. Meanwhile, if you'd like a T-shirt, you can contact her through the Dade County Festival of Life Facebook page.

During his monthly address to the public, District 1 Commissioner Mitchell Smith revealed that the annual bicycling event, 3 State 3 Mountain, will not be coming through Dade this year as it has for the past 29. See The Planet's earlier article on that.

District 3's Robert Goff, who follows the Georgia Legislature for the commission, said a new Georgia house bill would make it more difficult for the county to collect fees and other routine chores. "We asked our representative not to vote for it but he did vote for it and it passed," he said.

Dade's representative in the Georgia House is John Deffenbaugh.

County Boss Rumley in his own address brought up the "Water Wars" issue which has again raised its watery head after a recent court ruling made it feasible for Georgia to pursue. Georgia has its eye on water from the Tennessee River, to which the state periodically insists it is entitled according to its original border with Tennessee. If the Supreme Court ever agrees with Georgia on that, and if it proves possible to pipe water from the Tennessee River to Atlanta, the pipeline would have to go through Dade. "It could really be a revenue generator for us if it was handled right," said Rumley

He said Dade residents would be hearing more about the issue in the coming months. "Now this is back on the table," he said.

Marshana Sharp, manager of the Dade Public Library, announced that the library's Read to Lead program will take place from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday, March 18. In

this popular annual event, community leaders (including the Boss) read to children. Last year, 300 kids participated, she said.

Ms. Sharp is still looking for pictures old and new that say, "This is Dade County" for the library's local history project. These will be on display at a reception on at the library on March 31.

Additionally, she said, every Friday this month, the library will offer free help downloading ebooks and helping patrons however they need it with their cell phones or tablets.

Cheryl Painter of the Dade Chamber of Commerce announced a packed agenda: March 18 is the C of C's awards banquet at 6 p.m. in the Trenton Civic Center. Theme is Western, tickets are $20A, and for more information call (706) 657-4488.

On March 30, staff from welcome centers throughout the state will tour Dade County. On April 8 is the Festival of Life and on May 6 is Sheriff Cross's benefit. Finally, on May 20 the Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a golf tournament.

The commission went into executive, or closed-door, session following the regular meeting but came back with no action to announce.

The Dade County Commission meets at 6 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month in the Dade Administrative Building.

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