Well, that’s an overstatement, but the regular meeting of the Dade County Commission on Thursday was in fact more notable for what did not occur than what did. Though it was the last commission meeting before the May 22 primary, which includes a referendum on TSPLOST, the proposed transportation special purpose local option sales tax that would raise the local sales tax by a penny, and though opponents of the tax have stood up to denounce it angrily at virtually every meeting this year, no one stood up to say anything at all during the citizens’ participation part of the May 3 meeting.
Sen. Jeff Mullis was scheduled to come, but didn’t. The commission had the final reading of an ordinance forming a joint Trenton-Dade historic preservation committee, and local historian Donna Street was on the agenda to speak, but she didn’t show, either.
There were no board appointments. The dependable old standbys, representatives of the Dade Library, Chamber of Commerce and 4-H who come each month to report to the commission that endows them, did not do so this time. They were all AWOL, not much was on the agenda, and the commissioners instead of taking their usual places at the discussion table for the pre-meeting workshop moved immediately into let’s-get-it-over-with formation behind their nameplates at the front of the room.
Aliens did not land in the Administrative Building parking lot. Terrorists did not storm into the Commission Room waving automatic weapons and shouting their love for Allah. Beer and dancing girls were thin on the ground. Really The Planet didn’t even notice any nice-looking doughnuts. If, in fact, you had to miss one Dade County Commission meeting per year, this one would have been the standout favorite.
Well. Shall we make the best of it?
But seriously, folks...
The commission approved $59,900 for a gently-used ambulance from Global Emergency Vehicles. It also agreed to designate as surplus and send to auction a Ford F150, a Ford E-350 and some printers.
The commissioners proclaimed May Foster Care Month and May 19 Armed Forces Day.
Trenton Mayor Alex Case, left, and Dade Executive Chairman Ted Rumley show a Foster Care Month proclamation with DFACS's Kathy Johnson. DFACS is always desperate for foster homes. Interested? Call the Trenton office at 9&06) 657-7511.
Alex Case, speaking in his capacity as Dade’s emergency services director, asked for and was granted approval for a hazard mitigation planning contract with North Georgia Consulting Group. “Mitigation is something that FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) requires,” explained Case. He said Dade’s current disaster plan runs out in 2020. The new session of planning will extend that to 2025.
Case said the county has a $28,000 grant to pay for the services, though a 15 percent local match is required. He said public hearings are called during the planning process and invited the public to attend them.
“We’re still in the hopper for the shelters,” he said, referring to three tornado shelters FEMA that has approved for Dade but that still linger in bureaucratic limbo.
District 1 Commissioner Mitchell Smith, who leaves the commission this year, praised the fortitude of county volunteer firefighter trainees at a training session he’d attended recently. He also warned of a fundraising scam that targets Wildwood residents with letters asking for donations to the “Wildwood Fire Department.” “We don’t have a ‘Wildwood Fire Department,’” said Smith.
County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley said one generous letter recipient had donated $2000. He and Smith reminded all that Wildwood does in fact have a volunteer force called the “North Dade Volunteer Fire Department,” and that it does in fact need their donations—but that it won’t get the money if they send it to the “Wildwood Fire Department.”
District 2 Commissioner Scottie Pittman said that paving of the long-awaited Davis walking track would have to be a little longer-awaited; it had to be delayed while the county performed other paving projects. He also reminded all that early voting had started and urged them to get out and cast their ballots.
“We’ve got exciting news,” said District 3’s Robert Goff: SPLOST collections were up. Goff usually makes the opposite announcement, but this month, he said, SPLOST had been $181,474. “You’ve got to go back 20 months before you get a SPLOST as big as we’ve got in,” he said.
Goff also said he had just come back from a training session for county commissioners in Savannah where he’d heard horror stories about how badly constitutional officers in other counties got along during the budgeting process. By comparison, he said: “Dade County shines.”
District 4’s Allan Bradford agreed. “They couldn’t even have a meeting without having a big argument,” he said of other county commissioners.
(A big argument, The Planet must note here, is big news; three surplus printers less so. But shall we move on?)
Bradford also reported 632 tons of garbage had been handled at the county transfer station in April. The press corps snapped eagerly at the information.
A lot of campaign effort was visible outside the Administrative Building Thursday. Inside? Not so much.
Bradford invited candidates for local offices to the American Legion dinner preceding its monthly meeting this Tuesday, May 8, at 6 p.m. He said candidates are allowed to speak for 10 minutes and that it’s a good opportunity for seekers of elected office to get their message before the public.
(So are county commission meetings; but no candidates took advantage of that opportunity on May 3.)
In his own monthly address to the public, Chairman Rumley also crowed about how civilly Dade’s governing officials interacted during the always-touchy budgeting process, especially the sheriff. The county sheriff can be serious trouble to a county government if he wants to be, said Rumley. “He can challenge you and he can go before a judge and force you to buy him a helicopter,” he said.
(There, by God, would be a headline. But no such luck Thursday night.)
Rumley also touched on what he described as the county’s ongoing trouble with rail crossing blockages by Norfolk Southern trains. “We still have issues north and south,” said the county boss. “I know this is getting unbearable in Trenton.”
But there wasn’t much the county could do it about, said Rumley. “Try not to get too mad about it,” he said. “They’re their own government. They’re pretty protective of their turf.”
As he often does, Rumley touched briefly on Dade’s broadband access problems and state and federal efforts to fix them. “It’s getting closer,” he said.
Rumley had Trenton Telephone/TVN’s Audrey Clark give an update on the status of the local internet service provider’s ongoing fiber expansion. She said the company was working on infrastructure in the north Dade area from the old Clark Lumber to the northern border of the telephone company's territory, roughly in the area of the old Dave L. Brown farm. With any luck, she said, installation should start there in the next two months.
The Dade County Commission meets at 6 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month in the county Administrative Building. It is usually quite eventful. Though there are no guarantees.