Reappearin' Restaurants, Unappearin' Picnic Tables, Disappearin' Public Funds....It'

Yes, Planet readers, it's that time again--time for iotas, scraps, tidbits and whatnots of information, none of it large enough for a whole article, most of it worthy of mention, and the rest of it here anyway so readers are cautioned from looking it in the mouth. It is, in fact, time for...

First of all, popular Trenton eatery, Date- Nightery and Listen-to-Quiet-Musicry The Artzy Cafe has lately caused considerable consumer consternation by closing due to staffing problems. Now, announces owner Ruth Reed, it is not only reopening this Friday but also plans to begin serving Saturday dinner as well as lunch. New weekend hours are Friday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. and Saturday noon-9 p.m. Weekday schedule is Tuesday through Thursday 11am-8pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.

​​Speaking of restaurant options, here's a snippet that may interest the lunch crowd: The Li'l Chicken Coop restaurant is expanding. Husband and wife Zack and Lynda Ditmar have been running their businesses in adjoining Crabtree Street premises (opposite CBT Bank) for the past year, Zack managing Mountain Valley Cleaners and Lynda The Li'l Chicken Coop. Now Zack will close the dry cleaning service and gut the space to expand the restaurant. The Li'l Chicken Coop will continue to cater and serve lunch only, say the Ditmars. So the bad news is Trenton is down a dry cleaner; the good news is that it may become easier to find a seat at the Chicken Coop of a Friday noon.

What's missing from this picture? Right. A picnic shelter is lots easier to eat a picnic in if it has a picnic table. The Dade County Commission built these new pavilions at the Four Fields to fulfill an old SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) project that had fallen by the wayside. Kids do use them to get out of the hot summer sun, but drive by of a weeknight and you'll see them standing side-by-side in the bare pavilions like miniature subway riders. County boss Ted Rumley said on Aug. 19 that picnic tables had been delivered and would be installed in the pavilions "next week." But as of Tuesday, Sept. 4, this child was making do with the concrete floor for a seat. So: Vot hoppened to these picnic tables we've hoid so much about? Why not show up and ask your county commissioners at...

...the next meeting of the Dade County Commission at 6 p.m. this Thursday, Sept. 6, in the county Administrative Building. There is no PAVILION PREVIEW or GREAT LAKE DEBATE UPDATE on the meeting agenda, but that doesn't mean you can't ask about issues that concern you. Remember, it's easiest to participate in government at the local level, your representatives do listen to you, and you can make a difference where you live!

Ditto for the city government. The Trenton City Commission meets at 6 p.m. this coming Monday, Sept. 10, at City Hall on Highway 11 North. The public is welcome and in fact encouraged to come--and almost never does.

So if you'd like to be part of what happens in Dade and Trenton (instead of complaining about it later), it's 6 p.m. the first Thursday of the month for the county, second Monday for the city. Remember the Woody Allen mantra: 98 percent of success is showing up!

IDA: (Mostly Planet-Bashin')

The big news at the Aug. 27 Dade Industrial Authority (IDA) meeting was this new Trenton sign. Prompted by a question from county boss Ted Rumley, IDA executive director William Back gave an exhaustive history of his long quest to get new signs for the town. In the end, he said, the new signs were financed not by tax money but by a small grant and by contributions from George Nelson, founder of the Southeast Lineman Training Center. (Note the SLTC influence on the design in the silhouetted lineman scaling the pole.)

Otherwise, IDA Chairman Nathan Wooten dedicated a great deal of the meeting to protesting The Dade Planet's Aug. 1 editorial piece about IDA and refuting (some of) its assertions. "It is not Dade IDA's purpose to turn Dade into a mill town," he said in a document he passed out with copies of the editorial. " is our purpose to achieve the objectives of any Industrial Authority--to create (and/or maintain) jobs within the industrial sector..."

The Planet's opinion piece had questioned the basic economic development premise of using public money to pay for-profit industries to come to town, illustrating the point with the millions of dollars paid by IDA, Georgia, Dade County and the city of Trenton to bring truck trailer manufacturer Vanguard to Trenton.

Wooten did not question The Planet's mention of IDA's $500,000 contribution to infrastructure for Vanguard. Nor did he dispute the $1 million cash Georgia paid Vanguard for showing up, the Georgia Department of Transportation's contributions of $204,000 and $200,000, or the Trenton City Commission's $57,986 in SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) and $42,014 in general fund money to make up an additional $100,000 city contribution announced in March 2016.

But in the case of the $134,450.56 to finish Vanguard Drive Dade in July 2016 had asked Trenton to split with the county, for which Trenton had accordingly approved $65,220.48 in SPLOST, Wooten said Dade "made no financial contribution to the Vanguard project but committed and executed 'in kind' work to the new public street." County boss Ted Rumley was present to say that the $100,000 cost of a water line to Vanguard, that former IDA director Peter Cervelli had reported to the IDA board (and The Planet had subsequently reported to the public) the county had picked up the tab for in December 2016, was also "in-kind" only.

Wooten said the city and county were committed to the Vanguard Drive paving--for which a long-awaited ARC grant will also be dedicated--"not for Vanguard, but because the railway continually blocks the roads on North and South Industrial, leaving Vanguard Drive the only entrance/exit for truck traffic."

All of the numbers used in the editorial were taken directly from earlier Planet articles reporting contemporaneously about various public meetings at which the figures were cited.

As to The Planet's pointing out that IDA not only granted tax abatement to corporations but in some cases held title to their buildings or even their equipment to protect them from the possibility of property taxes, Wooten asserted: "IDA's major function is NOT to keep industry from paying TAX. Our major function is to create jobs, and unfortunately to compete in the Economic Development world of today, tax abatements are part of the equation."

He said Vanguard now had filled 190 local jobs of the 400 it had promised Dade as its part of the deal, admitting: "Vanguard sometimes has difficulty, AS ALL OF US EMPLOYERS DO, finding people to do the job for which we have openings." He said Vanguard's "VERY STRICT safety and drug policy" could not be adhered to by many applicants.

As to any implication that IDA was scraping the bottom of the barrel: "Dade IDA does not 'turn somersaults to bring in just about anything we can,'" Wooten wrote. "In fact we just recently kept a chicken processing plant out of Dade by eliminating the ability of animal processing, waste management, paper mills or scrap relocation centers from being able to receive any tax considerations from Dade County."

In fact, the exclusion of the aforementioned industries from IDA incentives has often been discussed at IDA meetings. But since The Planet began reporting on IDA in 2016, no actual attempt by any actual chicken processing plant to locate here has ever been mentioned at an IDA meeting as anything other than an unfounded rumor--at least during the public part of the meetings.

Did you miss the editorial piece that was important enough for IDA to spend so much of the meeting refuting? Click on the smiling, Margarita-wielding mug above to go directly to it.

In other (non-Planet-related) business...

Chairman Wooten said the coming Jefferson's restaurant had taken longer to bring to Trenton than Vanguard had. Director William Back again talked about possibilities for development of the Highway 299 area. He said Chattanooga-area hotels were his focus because: "Those are the most likely people to expand here." Of the nearby Wildwood North Farm area, he said IDA would have to have an archeological study done if public funds were used to develop it. He touched briefly on the possibility of interesting residential homebuilders in the area but noted: "It doesn't return an awful lot to the county." He said he was "talking to Hammer's again." Hammer's LLC is a local department store/sporting goods chain.

Speaking of retail (and speaking of hammers), Nextsite 360, the marketing company IDA hired to bring retail operations into Dade, caught flak at the Aug. 27 meeting as it has at several preceding. Chairman Wooten spoke of "chastising" the company (somebody else's turn! observed The Planet) and said: "I think they did some good things for us but now it's time to put the hammer on them."

(Photo: Nextsite 360's Andy Camp enthralls county boss Ted Rumley at a November 2016 presentation.)

Director William Back spoke of the importance of IDA taking its own message directly to the people via social media "especially in light of the untrue statements in the so-called media." Asked if he would undertake to update an IDA Facebook page, he said: "We'd have to bring someone on board to do that." But he also opined: "The more transparent we can be, the better."

The other board members did not comment on Back's public relations plan except for a cryptic warning by retired ​​hardware maven Larry Case: "If you stir the pot a little bit, you can make it stink worse."

IDA meets at 3 p.m. the fourth Monday of the month in the county Administrative Building.

Now. For something completely different!

Alert Planet readers may have noticed the snazzy new headers (and in some cases, footers) that have been cropping up above the newspaper's regular columns and features in the last week or so, courtesy of The Planet's fabulous and talented Art Department. The AD designed one for the gardening column, others for the history and library columns, another for Viewpoints.

​​But two questions the Art Department asked while designing graphics for the Trenton Runaround itself made The Planet realize some periodic explanation-slash-reminder might be in order, for latecomers and for those with complex and interesting lives of their own, for whom The Planet is not the sole impetus for continued respiration.

The first question was: "What graphic should I use for the Runaround's header?" And the second was: "Why are those Tibetan monks always shown in the Runaround's sign-off?"

Both those questions hark back to the winter of 2016, when The Dade Planet as we know it was born. The hottest issue then in Dade County--this, Gentle Reader, was before the Great Lake Controversy--was the Georgia Department of Transportation's proposal to turn Trenton's problematic central intersection into a roundabout.

Considerable concern was expressed at that time that Dade motorists might not grasp how to use the roundabout but would circle eternally like captive planets rotating helplessly around the merciless sun. And in fact, at public meetings, county and city leaders could not seem to get even their tongues around the term, calling it a runaround.

That's how the Trenton Runaround got its name, so of course the answer to the Art Department's first question was that the graphic should depict the funky central Trenton intersection (which has since been straightened out a little) (but which was never in fact made into a roundabout.) Vot else?

The answer to the second question is a little weirder.

The Planet kicked off in February 2016. On April 1, 2016, The Planet proudly unnveiled its first April Fool's Day spoof edition. ​Its lead story ​was about the completed Trenton Roundabout (the story involved time travel and was set in the future, in the far-off year 2018, but let's not go there).

In the story, Tibetan monks had flocked to Trenton to worship the roundabout when they sensed a disturbance in the space-time continuum caused by the new feature, which had established itself as the dead center of the center of the universe.

Miss that one, too? It was called "High Time for Lo's" and you can get to it by clicking on the monk photo here. Anyway, the monk image became inextricably entwined with the roundabout, and that's how the holy men also became the emblem of the Trenton Runaround.

That's a long explanation, but when a newspaper's own lawfully wedded Art Department has to ask the question, The Planet cannot but think it's time for a refresher course.

​​Back in 2016 Dade did not seem quite so problematic to keep safe for democracy, to the point The Planet had time for not one but three April Fool's stories. Another one was about Dade declaring war on the United States to protect its gun rights from the federal government. (You can read that one by--guess what? Click the pic!) It was called Dade Secedes From USA. Again. (Or: Why I Moved Into The P.O.)​​ and the first line was: "Casualties continue heavy as the bloody firefight rages on between Dade County separatists and a wrathful federal government that has presented the county the stark choice of disarmament or death."

It was a lighthearted spoof but may have poked a little fun at certain elected officials who were spending their terms scrambling for federal grants after spending their campaigns promising to hold off the feds by force if necessary. (The Planet's light-hearted humor can be a little heavy-handed.)

But The Planet caught nowhere near as much hell for that one as it did last week for gently questioning the logic of spending millions of tax dollars to bring in an industry that does not pay tax and at which local citizens do not seem to want to work; of justifying all expenditures on the need to bring in jobs while simultaneously proclaiming that good help is impossible to find around here! Perhaps it was simply because of lower readership, but in any case The Planet was left unmolested at public meetings in those halcyon days of yore.

But molested or un-, The Planet continues its ceaseless rotation around the center of the universe on its eccentric elliptical orbit in search of snippets, gobbets, giblets and inklings; of news and features; of flashes of wisdom and eternal truths; all for the delight and delectation of its esteemed and honored readers in this and subsequent editions of ....

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