Endangered Concerned Citizen Species Seem to Make Tentative Comeback at Trenton City Meeting

Mayor Alex Case swears in Police Commissioner Sandra Gray and Parks & Recreation Commissioner Terry Powell. Both were reelected in November. Seated is City Clerk Lucretia Houts.

If rare and coveted occurrences are the stuff of news, then members of the public attending public meetings in Dade County qualify under that heading; and by that reckoning 2018 is getting off to a pretty serious start as a record news year for a certain online newspaper at the center of the universe. After a well-attended county commission meeting last week, multiple specimens of the endangered Concerned Citizen species turned up at Monday’s January meeting of the Trenton City Commission.

The issue that brought citizen Brenda Allen to the Jan. 8 meeting was eyesores in her Jeffery Town neighborhood of Trenton. “It’s just disgusting to see junk, junk, junk,” she said.

Ms. Allen described a derelict camper abandoned in a yard choked with garbage, as well as multiple junk cars. She said when she herself had had two unusable cars parked in her own yard eight to 10 years ago, the city had given her a warning. She had obligingly found a dealer in junk vehicles who agreed to haul them off. Should the owners of the offending Jeffery Town property not do the same?

Mayor Alex Case assured her the city was on it, and Fire/Utility Commissioner Jerry Henegar agreed that the city had recently mailed out eight eyesore letters. Mayor Case described the process for dealing with eyesores, which involves notification, granting an opportunity—and reasonable time—for property owners to clean their places up themselves, then as a last resort, the city stepping in to repair or raze the eyesore itself, afterwards placing a lien on the property to force the owner to reimburse the city’s expenses.

Case said the city tries hard to work with homeowners on cleaning up their messes—“We know it takes money to get that stuff done”—and that it also has to obey the sometimes slow process of the law—“We’re following the charter,” he said.

But, said Case, Trenton takes its eyesore ordinance seriously, realizing that people who live within the city limits expect certain standards to be upheld. In 2016, said Case, the city had completely "removed" five offending houses.

Ms. Allen then raised a separate but not unrelated question: When is the public auction for local houses on which property taxes have not been paid? Mayor Case explained the auction was a function of the Dade County Tax Commissioner’s office, not the city.

But the dissemination of information in general is a function of newspapers and The Planet is pleased to disseminate that snippet here: This year’s Dade tax auction is at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, April 3, outside the new county courts facility. A list of properties to be auctioned is usually available from the tax office a week or two before the event. That office may be reached at (706) 657-7563.

Citizen John Huffman had appeared last month to encourage the city commissioners to take their message “beyond these walls” via the modern magic of the internet. He stood up at this month’s meeting to announce that that culmination had come to pass; tonight’s proceedings were being streamed live on Facebook.

Other attendees of the Jan. 8 meeting sat quietly but did not address the commission, perhaps content to listen and perhaps biding their time until some future moment seemed ripe for the airing of their musings.

In regular business, the commission approved $20,385 in SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax), plus a $3,584 maintenance fee for a new electronic ticketing system that will allow Trenton Police Department officers to print traffic citations as they give them.

​​Don’t they already have printers in their cars? asked Fire/Utility Commissioner Jerry Henegar.

Yes, said the mayor, but several of them were out of order. Trenton Police Chief Christy Smith said that when officers handwrote tickets, only one charge could be listed per ticket. The new system will allow multiple charges to be listed per ticket. “That’s going to save a lot of time,” she said.

Mayor Case said the Dade County Sheriff’s Office was participating in the purchase of the new system and that it would pay $27,640 for its own share. “It’s a joint venture,” he said.

Another discussion item was city personnel. Mayor Case said Trenton’s employee handbook must be updated and that new job descriptions were needed for all positions. He seemed particularly interested in Trenton’s city clerk job.

The mayor and commission had in executive, or closed-door, session quietly agreed in 2016 to amend the city charter to change the city clerk’s job to an appointed rather than elected one, removing it from last November’s ballot without notice to the voters. This once accomplished—and it required legislation at the state level—they after the election reappointed to that post Lucretia Houts, who had held the office as an elected official for 26 years.

The next step, apparently, is to write a job description telling her what to do. Mayor Case said Fire/Utility Commissioner Jerry Henegar had been looking at the employee handbook and job description situation lately but suggested the commission schedule some workshops to get this task done. “It really all comes down to what your charter says,” said the mayor.

Case also said Ron Womack, the commission’s out-of-town city attorney, had found four other sections of the city charter that needed amending, a process which will also require action by the Georgia Legislature.

Police Commissioner Sandra Gray and Parks and Recreation Commissioner Terry Powell, who both were challenged for their seats in the November and who both retained them handily, were sworn in anew at the Monday meeting. Commissioner Gray forthwith reappointed Christy Smith and Jeff Hartline police chief and deputy chief, those positions apparently requiring renewal for the new year.

In her report, Commissioner Gray said the Trenton Police Department had collected $23,959.66 in police citations for December for a 2017 total of $223,994.07.

She also thanked donors and volunteers for helping with the PD’s Silver Bells gift drive for the elderly, which wound up the week before Christmas. “They were all thrilled,” she said. “They couldn’t thank us enough.”

Commissioner Powell of Parks & Rec said the park doesn’t see much action these Arctic days so he reported instead on some achievements for 2017 as a whole: Jenkins Park was now ADA (Americans with Disability Act)-compliant, with more than 700 feet of sidewalk. The city pool had had 4962 swimmer and grossed $18,700 in 2017, while the civics center had had 75 rentals for total revenues of $11,115.

Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten said her department had been bush hogging lately and had affixed a nasty road problem at First and Case streets.

Commissioner Henegar showed the commission calculations and statistics on building permits and sign fees in Trenton as opposed to surrounding municipalities, with a suggestion that the town should consider upping its charges. “You can see how far we are behind,” he said. He said Trenton charged $267 for a building permit for 1800 square feet while in neighboring municipalities the fee was $360. Likewise a sign up to 75 square feet is permitted for $50.60 in Trenton while anywhere else applicants would pay $100, said Henegar.

Mayor Case said the long-heralded city website was up and running and would soon have meeting agendas and minutes of past meetings posted for the public’s edification. That is not a consummation that has yet come to pass, but the site does have some names, telephone numbers and email addresses listed the public may find useful. Readers may access the site at trentonga.gov.

He took the commission exhaustively through the city’s financials, with the good news that many revenue channels had seen gain over budget projections, including the park and civic center and hotel/motel taxes. He said yearly income had been expected at $1,578,505 but had come in at $1,613,420.

Case said the city was still waiting for an ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission) grant to finish paving at the new Vanguard plant, and that grant money for the city’s Streetscapes project was also “still processing through.”

Eloise Gass of Tree City said the group had big plans for 2018, including Arbor Day on Feb. 16.

Cheryl Painter remind all that the Dade Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet is March 10 and that anyone with antiques to sell should let her know—the “American Pickers” antique team will be in Dade shortly. Interested parties may call the C of C at (706) 657-4488.

Marshana Sharp, manager of the Dade Public Library, was full of news: She encouraged parents to sign up math-resistant kids for the library’s math club right after school. It teaches measurement by wrapping people in toilet paper and such-like antics. “They don’t really realize they’re doing math,” she said.

She said the library board of directors’ meeting was at 5 p.m. on Jan. 18 at the library and that Dade First/Family Connection meets for lunch there at 12:30 the fourth Thursday of the month, in this case Jan. 25. Parent Café will be Feb. 6. Visit the Dade Public Library on Facebook for more details, or call (706) 657-7857.

The Trenton City Commission meets at 6 p.m. the second Monday of the month at City Hall.

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