An interesting piece of news from Monday night’s regular August meeting of the Trenton City Commission is that the town will shortly have a new tobacco, wine and beer store in the space that was previously its one health food store. City commissioners approved Sanjay Patel’s wine and beer package sales license on its consent agenda at the Aug. 13 meeting after being presented with completed paperwork and a satisfactory background check.
Patel (foreground)- had bought the Highway 136 West building that houses the Subway sandwich shop and the adjoining storefront and plans to sell packaged beer and wine from it--for now. Apparently he also hopes to sell hard alcohol there in the long run: In the discussion it emerged that he is the business owner mentioned at a previous city meeting who is collecting signatures for a petition to allow package sales of distilled spirits in Trenton. Mayor Alex Case intimated that if Patel’s petition is successful, a referendum on package sales of alcohol could go before voters as early as this November.
The Trenton City Commission unilaterally allowed beer and wine in restaurants in 2010. Then, after Dade County voted to allow restaurants to serve distilled spirits in 2016, the city held its own referendum on the issue the next year. Voters said yes. Now, per the mayor, the next step away from Temperance requires yet another referendum.
The adult beverage application went through without a snag, but while she had Patel in front of her, Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten brought up a sore point from a previous city meeting: Couldn’t Patel mow the grass around the Subway building a little more regularly? “We work real hard to keep the city looking good,” she said.
Patel was conciliatory, saying he’d hired somebody now to make sure the lawn stayed cut. “We want to make sure we keep the city clean and neat,” he said.
In other business, citizen Doyle Stone (pictured here with Commissioner Jerry Henegar) appeared before the commission to ask that all his property—he has about 6.83 acres in the city, he said—be rezoned to R-2, which allows for apartments or hotels to be built on a property. Some of his property, he said, is currently zoned only R-1, meaning only single-family houses could be built there. He wants to sell it all as a piece and thinks it will fetch more if the buyer can do whatever he wants to with it. “I want to sell everything,” said Stone. “I’m retired.”
Mayor Case said the matter had been brought to the commission’s attention too late for action this month so it would be treated as a discussion-only item, to be acted on next month.
Trenton Police Chief Christy Smith asked for $1,990 in SPLOST (special purpose local options sales tax) funds for eight 9-millimeter magazines for police weapons. She said all neighboring police agencies had switched to them and: “The ammo’s a lot cheaper.” The city commission approved the request without objection.
Another matter the mayor brought up for discussion only was the millage rate for city property taxes. He had City Clerk Lucretia Houts calculate projected tax revenues with the current rate, 4.50, and then with the slightly higher rates of 4.75 and 5.0, and asked Streets Commissioner Wooten if she’d be willing to surplus one of the city trucks. (Answer: If we have to, but it’s used every day.) Case suggested a special work session on the budget and one was set for 6 p.m. on Sept. 6.
The other local taxing agencies, the school board and Dade County Commission, have already passed their budgets and approved their millage rates for next year, but Trenton still operates on a calendar year while the other two have gone to a July-June fiscal year. Meanwhile: “This is our crunch time,” said Case. Clerk Houts said it’s the time of year when the general fund gets thin and the city may have to dip into reserves.
Commissioner Wooten brought up, as she did last month, better guard-dogging one regular recipient of city funding, the Dade Chamber of Commerce. “Just to protect our money,” she said.
She suggested having a city commissioner sit in on Dade Chamber board meetings, the obvious problem with that being, as she pointed out last month, that the chamber rarely has any. At the city commission’s July meeting, C of C executive director Cheryl Allison (right) had confirmed that the board hadn’t met for six months, having tried twice during that time but failed due to lack of a quorum. But Ms. Allison said the board should be meeting this afternoon, Tuesday, August 14.
Mayor Case said he’d talked to Steven Ryan, the chamber’s current president, and confirmed that the reason that the board doesn’t meet is that board members are too busy. “But they heard us,” he said.
The mayor discussed how the city finances the C of C: The chamber gets a percentage of the city’s hotel-motel tax proceeds for providing the area’s visitor information center and another for being its marketing arm, currently totaling about $14,000 a year. At last month’s meeting Commissioner Wooten had introduced the idea the city wasn’t getting its money’s worth. This month, the other commissioners joined in.
“What do you feel is the problem?” asked Fire/Utilities Commissioner Jerry Henegar.
“Participation,” said Ms. Allison. “To me, it’s just that everybody’s busy.” She said many board members wouldn’t respond to her calls and emails.
“Who do you take your orders from?” asked Commissioner Wooten.
The executive board, said the ED.
“Are they interested in what’s going on?” asked Police Commissioner Sandra Gray.
“Some of them,” said Ms. Allison. Three or four of them responded when she went to them with an idea, she said.
“If you don’t come up with ideas, they just don’t do nothing?” asked Commissioner Gray.
“The chamber of commerce can’t just be you,” said Commissioner Wooten. She told Ms. Allison she wasn’t out to jump her (though she did note the ED had skipped city committees lately and had admitted she hadn’t planned to come to last month’s). “How can we help you?” she said.
“The board needs to be fired up,” said the ED of her bosses. “We need participation.”
“We need to meet to see why they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do,” said Parks and Recreation Commissioner Terry Powell.
Another C of C problem discussed was its location in the old Trenton railroad depot building east of downtown. “They’re in the worst place they can be,” said Case. “They can’t be seen.” Commissioner Wooten pointed out the visitors center was eventually to be moved to the historic county courthouse, but only if and when it was renovated. “How long is that going to be?” she asked.
No action was taken on the matter. Ms. Allison said she would send Mayor Case a profit and loss sheet he needed for bookkeeping. Commissioner Wooten said she would attend Tuesday’s C of C meeting.
During her regular monthly report to the public, Police Commissioner Gray said the TPD had taken in $21,437.66 in traffic fines for July and $170,946 year to date. Police Chief Christy Smith said the PD’s Touch-a-Truck event for kids in late July had been a hit. Both of them devoted a good percentage of their reports to Maj. Tommy Bradford, the sheriff’s department second-in-command who lost a leg last week as he laid down spikes on Highway 11 to stop an Alabama woman leading officers from two states on a high-speed chase from Fort Payne to downtown Trenton.
Maj. Bradford sudden and grievous injury has preoccupied the small and close-knit Dade community since it happened on Aug. 7, and shockwaves continued to reverberate at the Monday night city meeting. Commissioners Gray and Wooten reminded all of the black-and-blue ribbons and flags JB’s Variety Store has designed in honor of the wounded officer, half of the selling price to go to his family. Commissioner Wooten is putting the flags up on the city flagpoles and has had to get more. “I’ve had two people buy 10 each,” she said.
Commissioner Gray said Maj. Bradford is in good spirits and thankful to be alive. “We all need to be thankful for that, too,” she said.
And Mayor Case, whose day job is as director of Dade County Emergency Services, gave a moving account of the events of Aug. 7 as experienced from the 911 floor, including getting the cop-down call and realizing it was his longtime friend. Case responded to the scene with other trained paramedics and was grateful that his training kicked in, overriding his shock. “Even though it was Tommy, we went to work,” he said. “He got mad at me for cutting his clothes off.”
Case spoke of making impromptu tourniquets with belts. A recent high school graduate, Bradley Nelson, stopped to help the paramedics at the scene and was so affected by the experience he has decided to take EMT (emergency medical techinican) training at the next local class, and Piney Grove Baptist Church has stepped up to sponsor him, said Case.
Case said Bradford was doing well at the hospital though very sore and should be moving to Siskin to begin extensive rehabilitation today or shortly thereafter.
Case declined to answer questions about whether the fugitive driver had targeted Bradford as has been alleged, saying only the matter was still under investigation. “Tommy was worried about the city and the kids,” concluded Case. “He was doing his job.”
Parks and Recreation Commissioner Terry Powell said the city pool had closed now and had grossed $3,843 in admissions over the summer and $985 in concessions. The Trenton Civic Center was rented out 75 hours in July.
Fire and Utility Commissioner Jerry Henegar said the municipal sewage plant had finally recovered from a lightning strike that did $18,400 of damage. “It actually kind of benefitted us,” he said. The plant was getting on toward 30 years old and everything that had to be replaced was replaced with new, modern equipment, with everything but a $2500 deductible covered by insurance. “We got a lot of upgrades for $2500,” he said.
Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten asked the media to help get the word out that the city can no longer pick up trees—it has no place to take them and no idea what to do with them. “A lot of people still don’t understand we can’t take these trees,” she said.
She introduced all to “my friend Sam,” young filmmaker Samantha Wishman, who is in town making a film about dog rescue in the South. Ms. Wishman explained that she had adopted a dog who had been rescued down South and transported up North and had become interested in the whole process.
Marshana Sharp, manager of the Dade County Public Library, announced a free beginning computer class at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 28 and a Parent Café cooking class hosted in conjunction with Dade First the same day at 6 p.m. A nutritionist will show working parents how to put together and freeze recipes that can be tossed into the crock pot for easy and delicious weeknight meals. Admittance is free and everyone will take a home a dinner. Call the library to register for either at (706) 657-7857.
Mayor Case asked her to explain how the library had spent a recent $60,000 grant, and Ms. Sharp listed the library’s new sound studio—grand opening soon—flooring, lighting and the new LED signs on the historic courthouse lawn, which are there to list community events. She explained that Case can override the signs’ messages for important emergency warnings.
William Back reported at some length for the Dade IDA (Industrial Development Authority,” among other comments soliciting input for a new name for Wildwood and the Highway 299 area. “We need a name for that exit,” said Back, suggesting “Chattanooga West.” “We are Chattanooga,” he said. “As Chattanooga grows, it’s sure to eventually come this way.”
He also solicited land to rent: If you have reasonably clear land he can get you $1000 per year rent per acre from a company that will put solar panels on it. If interested, readers may call him at (423) 667-3889.
The Trenton City Commission meets at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of every month at City Hall.