Besides the announcement of a new police chief for Trenton (see previous article at the dadeplanet.com home page), the big news from Monday night's regular March meeting of the Trenton City Commission is that the town must indeed and will indeed hold its own referendum on liquor by the drink.
The city commission unilaterally granted restaurants within its city limits the right to serve beer and wine by passing an ordinance in 2010, and two of the town's handful of restaurants do serve now.
Six years later, city residents voted in the November 2016 referendum with all other Dade precincts to allow distilled spirits by the drink in county restaurants. But at the March 13 meeting, Mayor Alex Case explained to the city commissioners--as he had to the county commission earlier--that the city attorney had determined that unless Trenton could show that a majority of city voters had voted yes in November, the town must hold a separate referendum on the alcohol issue if Trenton is also to allow alcohol. Case conferred with the Dade Board of Elections and ascertained that it could not be verified how many Trenton residents voted yes; processes had not been set up to make that information extractable.
Case also explained it was up to the commission whether to act at all too make Trenton's rules match the county's. "You can have a wet county and a dry city," said the mayor.
"I'm not adamant one way or the other," said Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten. But she said her feeling from talking with voters was that the town would reject liquor by the drink, probably because it was an older population inside the city limits.
Police Commissioner Sandra Gray said the voters should decide the issue. Parks and Recreation Commissioner Terry Powell made no comment, and Fire and Utility Commissioner Jerry Henegar was unable to attend the meeting due to work obligations. Mayor Case said he'd wrestled with the issue--"I asked my Sunday school class to pray about it"--but in the end he and the commissioners agreed to let the voters vote.
Another issue was setting fees for pet tags, shots and adoption fees inside the city. Mayor Case proposed $9 for an identification tag, the veterinarian fee of $16 for a rabies shot, and an adoption fee based on the accumulated per-diem charges for days spent in the animal shelter by impounded animals.
Streets Commissioner Wooten intercedes with the mayor to keep pet adoption fes low.
Enter Streets Commissioner Wooten, an animal welfare champion, who said the per diem charge was fine for pet owners who had let their animals stray, but not for dogs the city hoped to find homes for. "We need to be cheap," she said. She reminded the mayor the city has to pay a euthanasia charge for animals it sends to Walker County to be destroyed, and that the smaller the charge for adoption, the more animals might be placed. "You want to try to save the animal if you can," she said.
The mayor agreed, and an adoption charge of $55 was voted in, along with the other charges as previously stated.
Case also proposed a deep discount for city residents who bring their pets in on a to-be-announced "Dog Day," during which animals may be rabies-vaccinated and issued ID tags.
And he had glad tidings for local animal lovers: Both Trenton and Dade County have earmarked SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) funds for a new animal shelter and have been talking about it for years. Now the two local governments are cooperating and aspire to action soon. "Ted's very adamant about getting something this spring," said the mayor, referring to County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley.
At present, the county has no animal shelter and the city only a small, usually overcrowded one. But Wooten, Case and crew had good news on that front, too: adoptions are up and there had been no need to spend "euthanasia money" for some time.
Mayor Case introduced the subject of raising sewer rates for heavier users to match a similar hike in local water rates. The local water authority used to charge one price for the first 3000 gallons or below consumed monthly, he explained, then a per-gallon rate for additional gallons. Several years ago, it changed that minimum to 2000 gallons, charging the per-gallon rate for consumption above that lower threshold.
Sewage rates are based on water consumption, said Case, and studies had been done to show how much revenue could be realized by altering sewage charges also to reflect the new smaller minimum--as much as $38,000 to $42,000 by the end of the year.
Case explained that as matters stand the sewer loses money or at best breaks even, and that the system has old clay pipes and seepage in some areas--so that the system could seriously use the money. But the commission decided to table the matter until Utilities Commissioner Henegar could be present to address it.
Speaking of raising money, Commissioner Wooten pointed out that the city installs culverts for city residents for free, though homeowners must buy the actual tile, when it could feasibly charge for the service. "Y'all are looking for revenue," she said. "I'm trying to tell you what I can do for you."
Case put the kibosh on that one, saying Trenton prefers to do the work so it gets done right; otherwise floodwater could potentially damage infrastructure citywide. "It costs us 10 times as muchmoney in the long run," he said.
In her Streets Department report, Commissioner Wooten said she was recruiting seasonal help for the department and also hoped for volunteer work for a city cleanup like the one in 2016. "I'd like that to be a yearly thing," she said.
Parks and Recreation's Terry Powell said the Trenton Civic Center had been rented out eight times in February and that handrails in the city park had been completed. "I want to thank Bull Moose, who always seems to come through for us, " he said.
Police Commissioner Sandra Gray said her department had collected $14,055.73 in fines in February and $35,905.02 year to date. She urged residents who saw activity at the city park detrimental to children to call 911; it wasn't possible to have a police officer on site at all times but one would come promptly if summoned.
And she delegated Christy Smith--who was to be anointed Trenton's police chief later in the meeting--to report on recent police activity. Investigator, ahem, Chief Smith said police had been patrolling the stop sign area on Cedar Lane Planet readers heard so much about last month and that the drug ecstacy had been recovered during a stop at a safety checkpoint.
She also said going forward the TPD would have an increased presence with the young: "We want to be in our schools more than we are," she said.
In his report, Mayor Case said Highway 136 should be paved from Main Street east to Walker County by this fall and then west to Alabama before June of next year.
Marshana Sharp invited all to the library-slash-Veterans Park on Saturday for Read to Lead from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. There will be plenty of festivities for children including stories read to them by local leaders, including the mayor.
She appealed for Dade County photographs--see preceding article--and invited the county to use the library's new jumbo printer, which can produce large posters. She also said the library will be showing video from its "Live History" project all day on March 31.
Cheryl Painter with the Dade Chamber of Commerce urged all to attend the Chamber banquet at 6 p.m. Saturday. (See previous article.)
Eloise Gass of Tree City was not present but that doesn't stop The Dade Planet from showing off this photo of her from February 17, when Arbor Day was honored in Georgia, and Ms. Gass and Georgia Forestry Commission Ranger Bobby Dunn planted a tree at American Legion Post 106 in honor of its late former chaplain, Leroy Peppers, in the company of members of Peppers' family and other Tree City members. Ms. Gass is in the middle.
During its lengthy executive, or closed-door, session, the commission discussed a joint-venture land deal with Dade County as well as personnel issues, but came back with nothing to report publicly except the announcement of a new police chief. Another personnel matter would be dealt with by the commissioners, said the mayor.
The Trenton City Commission meets at 6 p.m. the second Monday of the month at City Hall.