The regular November meeting of the Dade County Commission on Thursday evening was unusually brief, with not much on the agenda, but several of the commissioners spoke of great undertakings for the future.
District 3 Commissioner Robert Goff, notably, seemed to have his eye on ridding the county of the Tristate Treatment Center, the opioid addiction treatment clinic in Wildwood. "It's never gained any popularity up until this time and it probably never will," said Goff.
Goff pointed out that Georgia, discovering it now had more methadone clinics than Alabama and Tennessee combined, had declared a moratorium on licensing new ones. Goff wants Dade to do something similar at the local level. He bade the county attorney, Robin Rogers, to learn what he could from an Atlanta legislator about putting together an anti-methadone-clinic ordinance. "We need to get ahead of the game," said Goff.
If the attorney was thinking something along the been-there-done-that line, he said nothing to indicate such; but in fact Rogers did draft an ordinance against methadone clinics five years ago as Dade battled to keep Tristate from opening at its Highway 299 location in the north end of the county.
(Here's a link to an archived Chattanoogan.com story about that ordinance: http://www.chattanoogan.com/2011/3/10/196424/Dade-Passes-Ordinance-Against-Methadone.aspx )
The county commission duly passed the ordinance, only to withdraw it quietly a short time thereafter after it ran afoul not only of legal counsel for the clinic operators, who protested it violated the Americans with Disability Act, but of local anti-zoning elements, who decried it as another attempt to tell landowners what they could and could not do with their property. Meanwhile, Tristate opened without incident in 2012 and has been operating ever since.
Will Dade once again devote time and money to a fight against Tristate and other potential addiction treatment centers? And is this current anti-methadone push doomed to the same fate as the first? Dade County Executive Chairman Ted "the Boss" Rumley, questioned after the meeting, said that with feeling mounting against the clinics in Atlanta, and new legislation reflecting that sentiment due out in January, maybe not. "There's a way to go about it," he said. "You can make the stipulations and rules legally so hard that there's no way."
The Planet will faithfully report if and when anything substantial develops on this venerable issue.
In his monthly report, District 1 Commissioner Mitchell Smith announced that Wright Brothers Construction, the company selected to replace the I-24 bridge at Highway 299, was starting initial work this week. Smith also reminded residents that Hacksaw Ridge, the new movie about Rising Fawn's own World War II hero, Desmond Doss, was opening on Friday in Chattanooga theaters.
Rumley in his own report elaborated at some length on the 299 bridge topic. The new bridge is to be built in stages in the median, said Rumley, then Wright Brothers Construction is to demolish the old bridge and put the new one into place all in one weekend, in the 56 hours between 9 p.m. Friday and 5 a.m. Monday. "I don't see how they're going to do that," said Rumley (consciously or unconsciously echoing skepticism about the work of an earlier set of Wright brothers, who were told, "It'll never get off the ground.")
Rumley said the 299 bridge is to be substantially finished by June 18, 2017, with landscaping work to be mopped up by following Dec. 15, and that the brothers Wright face stiff monetary penalties if deadlines are not met--up to $7400 an hour should the projected 56-hour weekend operation not run to schedule.
But timetables have already been complicated by the discovery that certain migratory birds--barn swallows, cliff swallows and eastern phoebes--as well as three varieties of bats--Indiana, northern long-eared and gray--have taken up residence under the bridge and may not be disturbed. "The bridge cannot be demolished between April and August for sure, because that's when they're in and out," said the Boss.
How that proscription bodes for a June completion date is unclear. Again, The Planet will continue to follow developments.
Rumley also reported that discussions continued about fixing the dam over Lookout Lake, which has long been an issue between Dade and the state Safe Dams Program. "We're hoping between now and the next meeting we'll make that trip to Atlanta and we'll be able to report back to you where the county stands as far as repairing that dam or bringing it back to a level 2," said Rumley.
District 2 Commissioner Scottie Pittman said in his report that early voting in the presidential election culminating on Tuesday had been heavy in Dade, which assured him that large numbers of citizens would have a chance to weigh in on the liquor-by-the-drink referendum included on the ballot. "This is exactly what we had in mind when we put it on the presidential ballot, a large turnout," said Pittman. "I think we handled the situation right."
Except to say that the voters should decide, the county commissioners have largely stayed out of the liquor-by-the-drink question. To all outward appearances, so has everybody else. There has been little public discussion of the issue, and in fact no indication of interest in it by anybody--until, at least,last Thursday, the day of the commission meeting.
On Thursday, signs like the one depicted at right suddenly began sprouting around the downtown Trenton area. The signs tell voters to vote no on the referendum, but do not say why or on whose authority.
District 4's Allan Bradford in his address announced that Dade's annual Veterans Day parade will be this Saturday, Nov. 12, at noon. Bradford also took the opportunity to brag about the Dade Sheriff's Department, which he said had done an excellent job protecting state dignitaries at a meeting earlier that day. State Sen. Jeff Mullis as well as the director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation had been in town for a special session on a locally-led initiative to tighten rules about sex offenders' access to schools.
Bradford also as usual gave his monthly "State of the Dump" update, commending the county transfer station on its dealings with such detritus as Dade discards."For a small county we have a lot of garbage," said Bradford.
Marshana Sharp, manager of the Dade Public Library, said over 1800 participants had been in and out of the library for Oct. 29's Trick or Treat Alley. (Speaking in his own turn later, Charlie Gray of the Dade Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the yearly event, said the number was closer to 4-to 5000, and Commissioner Rumley said the line for candy went from the square to the Hardee's on Highway 136. Taking all these data cumulatively, The Dade Planet can safely estimate the crowd at: A lot.)
Ms. Sharp also said the library had received a $6000 grant and was doing a "live history" of Dade County. Residents are invited to contribute anecdotes and photographs to be included in a book. For more informaiton on that, call the library at (706) 657-7857.
Charlie Gray invited entrepreneurs to sign up for the Chamber's "Small Business Expo," to be held on Dec. 10 in the Dade High School gymnasium between 8 a.m.-3 p.m. He also said the theme to this year's Christmas parade would be "Island of Misfit Toys."
Finally, Trenton Telephone/TVN's Audrey Clark (pictured above in a Planet file shot) announced that her company's long-heralded high-speed (1-gig) internet service was now available to customers in areas where the necessary prep work had been completed. She also said that TVN is working to extend that service currently on both mountains and would shortly have a list of areas it would address in 2017.
TVN had hinted during the summer that a formal announcement of the 1-gig rollout would come shortly, but that has not yet happened. Ms. Clark's terse statement to the commission-- "That has come to fruition"--was as close as the company has come to an announcement so far.
Otherwise, the commission's consent agenda consisted of approving funds for a utility cart, approving a couple of county vehicles to be designated surplus and sold at online auction, and approving an agreement with GDOT for the county's Meals on Wheels program.
The Dade County Commission meets at 6 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month in the county Administrative Building.