Dade Chamber of Commerce Reamed at City Meeting

At a Trenton City Commission meeting with little else on the agenda, criticism of the Dade Chamber of Commerce took center stage Monday night.

Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten brought the subject up at the July 9 meeting, pointing out that Trenton kicks in about $20,000 to the chamber yearly and asking what the town receives for its money. "We need to require more than we are getting,"| she said.

Commissioner Wooten drew attention to the evolving reality that though the chamber's executive director has traditionally updated the city commission as to its activities at monthly meetings--as do representatives of other agencies the city helps fund, such as the local library and Trenton Tree City--lately that tradition has become a thing of the past.

"Cheryl is here tonight, but she hasn't been here for a while," she said. She referred to Cheryl Painter (left), the chamber's one employee.

Commissioner Wooten said she'd spoken to Ms. Painter earlier in the day so that she wouldn't be "blindsided." Ms. Painter, speaking in her turn later in the meeting, attributed some of her absences to ill health in her own case or that of family members. She also said that with funding cuts, the chamber no longer has a clerical employee, keeping her confined to the office during the day.

The body-art-intensive ED has also been thin on the ground at county commission meetings in recent months. But in any case, Commissioner Wooten made it clear she didn't blame the employee so much as her employers, the chamber's board of directors. "I really think it's just lack of leadership and direction," she said.

Commissioner Wooten described the chamber board as a moribund organization that had not had a meeting for six months because not enough members showed up to constitute a quorum. "It has come to my attention that the chamber is basically on life support," she said. Ms. Painter confirmed that during that time period, the board had in fact tried twice to meet but been foiled by lack of a quorum both times.

"Everybody's busy," Ms. Painter explained.

Mayor Alex Case added that the amount the city gives to the chamber depends on revenues from its hotel/motel tax. He said with the Dade County Commission initiating its own new accommodation tax, and the C of C named as the designated RVIC (regional visitors information center) for both entities, defining the function of the chamber will become doubly important.

Commissioner Wooten (right) said chamber board members had not made much of an appearance at last week's July 4 celebration, though that was officially a chamber event. "It basically consists of two or three people doing everything," she said.

"What can we do to help fix this?" asked Police Commissioner Sandra Gray.

Maybe, said the mayor, the president of the chamber board can meet with the commissioners to discuss the issue. The president, it was ascertained, is Steven Ryan.

The Dade County Chamber of Commerce is, according to its website, "a voluntary organization of businesses, civic organizations, and government entities have [sic] joined together to promote the civic and commercial progress of the community." Its revenues come from local governments and from selling memberships to local businesses and civic groups. It cosponsors with other organizations community activities such as the popular Halloween Alley and Christmas parade as well as events to benefit its members, such as a yearly golf tournament. It is governed by a volunteer board recruited from membership.

But back to the July 9 city commission meeting. Routine business was, again, light. The commission voted to designate as surplus a K-9 officer kennel--"It's outdated; we don't use it anymore," said Commissioner Gray--and give it to the K-9 handlers in Catoosa County. Mayor Case clarified that Catoosa County had recently surplussed flat-bottomed boats and gifted them to Trenton. "We're going to return the favor," he said.

On that subject, Commissioner Wooten, an animal welfare activist, asked if Trenton's K-9 officer had a bulletproof vest. "We're working on it," said Commissioner Gray.

And Mayor Case took the opportunity to brag how the city and county K-9 handlers had worked together to figure out and fix a problem with the "hot pop" button on two identical, newer kennels, which is meant to ensure the safety of dogs in overheating situations. "They've been working very hard to keep the dogs comfortable," said Case.

And on the subject of dog comfort, Commissioner Gray added that Ivo, the Trenton PD dog, had been bitten by a spider and had ailed briefly but had recovered nicely and was now back to 100 percent.

Mayor Case described a couple of road crises that needed fixes pronto: LaFayette Street, near the intersection of highways 11 and 136 East, had developed a soft spot and the city, in repairing it, had cut the sensors laid under the pavement. "That's why the light's so short at the top of the hill by Pizza Hut," said Case. "It thinks there's a car on LaFayette Street every time it changes."

GDOT (the Georgia Department of Transportation, which installed the sensors) had contacted the city about the problem, said Case, making it clear it was the city's responsibility. "We've got to fix it no matter what," he said.

Another headache was a chronic mud puddle near Huddle House where drainage was inadequate. Trenton would have to use part of its LMIG (local maintenance and improvement grant) money as well as SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) funds to fix that one, said Case.

The mayor also brought up ongoing concerns about the Scout building in Jenkins Park, where an outdated heating system generated budget-busting electric bills last winter. "We've got to get something better in there," he said.

The Trenton City Commission meets at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of the month at City Hall. The next meeting is on Aug. 13.

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