District 3 Robert Goff filled Ted Rumley's chair at the Dade County Commission meeting--but made no attempt to fill his shoes.
For only the second time since January 2009, Executive Chairman Ted Rumley did not preside over the regular September Dade County Commission meeting last Thursday. This time, it was because the county boss was recovering from unexpected open-heart triple bypass surgery on Aug. 26. The time before, Vice Chairman Robert Goff and The Planet (also regular attendees), decided after much memory-sifting, was due to something serious but not quite this serious--kidney stones, flu or alien abduction, possibly.
Goff led the meeting in Rumley’s absence, incidentally providing a progress report: the Boss was recovering well, said Goff, though he’d had a minor setback, an infection from a stent placed in his thigh to facilitate the surgery. Goff said Rumley’s doctors claimed to have added 30 years to his life; he might get kicked by a bull or run over by a truck but he wasn’t going to have a heart attack during that time. Be that as it may, Rumley was getting around better now and hoped to be back at the office on Monday.
(This in fact came to pass, reported his staff Monday, so that the head of Dade’s government was there to oversee the county’s preparations for tropical storm Irma, which did less damage in Dade than had earlier been feared.)
In any case, attendance was low at the Sept. 6 meeting and the agenda Goff took the commissioners—all present except for their leader--was also fairly light. The commission first heard a presentation from Dade County Public Library manager Marshana Sharp and Lecia Eubanks, director of the Cherokee Regional Public Library of which Dade’s is a branch. They explained that Georgia had awarded a $3.7 million grant to the state’s public library system for repair, renovation and repurposing. The Cherokee Regional Library’s cut of that was expected to be about $100,000 and of that the Dade branch stood to be allocated $60,000—for only a 10 percent matching grant in local fund.
“That’s unheard of,” Goff said later of the 10 percent. Most local matching requirements for state or federal grants are 50/50, 60/40, 80/20. He and the other commissioners agreed without much discussion to provide the matching $6000 in SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) required of Dade.
(Photo: Marshana Sharp (left) and Lecia Eubanks address commission. Also visible is County Attorney Robin Rogers.)
The library representatives said they planned to use the grant money to:
Install four new main-entry doors with handicap-friendly automation. If the existing automation can’t be used in the new doors, the library will donate it to the county.
Add an emergency generator to keep computers and communication equipment at the library functioning during a local disaster/power outage.
Repair or replace the vinyl flooring between the library’s public restrooms and circulation desk. Apparently there are subfloor issues there.
Convert part of the library’s hospitality room into a small recording studio
Create three additional parallel parking spaces on the east side of the library building and one or two in the back.
Purchase an outdoor digital sign to be deployed near the old courthouse on the square. “We would be working with you guys on placement,” said Ms. Eubanks.
Improve lighting in Story Hour Room, Local Authors and Magazines and Juvenile areas.
The commission also granted a little over $21,000 in SPLOST to the Dade Sheriff’s Department to replace a wrecked Ford Explorer and approved a $15,000 request from the volunteer fire departments to buy turnout gear for firefighters. This is Dade’s portion of a larger sum to be shared between the county and the city of Trenton. “You really need two sets because it takes time to wash them,” explained Alex Case, Dade’s emergency services director as well as the mayor of Trenton.
Case said sweating in the fire gear caused it to emit noxious chemicals that seep into the skin. It must be kept clean, and the firefighters own a special washing machine designed especially for the purpose.
Case as 911 boss and Chris Bradford of the Dade County Tax Assessors both addressed the commission in favor of signing a letter of intent to participate in a Georgia Mountains Regional Commission project to obtain digital orthophotography and LIDAR—aerial photography--of the region. Dade’s portion of the cost would be $32,421, plus a $15,000 grant obligation, for a total of 4$47,400.
Case explained that this kind of technology was vital in emergency services. “We use it every day when we dispatch in fire in EMS,” he said. “It helps us find folks quicker.”
And Bradford said that the technology is also used in mapping for tax purposes. “That’s the data set that all the other data sets are derived from,” he said.
Case explained that the 911 and tax offices back up to each other and that he and the tax crew often exchange information and help each other.
No cash needed to be approved Thursday to participate in the project but, as County Clerk Don Townsend said: “They need something a little firmer than a maybe from us.” The commission agreed to sign the letter of intent.
Additionally, the commission approved, on the recommendation of the county attorney, Robin Rogers, an agreement with Penn Credit Corp. to collect fines and fees for Dade Probate Court. Goff spoke briefly about expected changes to probate procedures—Georgia law may shortly require counties to provide public defenders for defendants in probate matters such as traffic tickets, said Goff.
Ball fought the law and the law…well, we’ll see.
Coincidentally, the one Dade citizen who stood up to address the commission during the public might well have made use of such legal representation. Gary Ball, who in the past has commandeered local podia to crusade for Dade’s perceived homeless or against perceived sunshine law violations of the local tax board, this time is taking on no less an opponent the Dade County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s never easy to stand up to government,” opined Ball in opening. “Everything is stacked against you.”
Ball’s latest stand began with a speeding ticket written by a sheriff’s deputy to his grandson’s Covenant College student girlfriend near Maggie Bluff on Lookout. Ball said he’d observed the deputy write tickets on other cars with out-of-state plates. “I figure he’s probably preying on Covenant students,” said Ball, accusing the county of using the young people as a “revenue stream.” He said he’d also heard the deputy had a competition with another lawman as to who could write most tickets.
Ball contended that all the tickets the deputy wrote in this particular area were anyway invalid because it was illegal to use radar on roads with over a 7 percent grade. He’d tried to take it up with Sheriff Ray Cross but the sheriff didn’t call him back. “Once he gets elected, he’s not accountable to me, you or anybody,” said Ball.
Ball vowed to continue fighting the issue in Dade Superior Court.
Back to regular business: District 2 Commissioner Scottie Pittman pointed out in his monthly address to the public that the Four Fields athletic complex is now buzzing with activity. A total of 649 sports participants are now using the fields, he said. “That’s a lot of kids that spend the majority of their time down at the Four Fields,” he said. “If you don’t have anything to do you can always go down there and watch some sport.”
District 4 Commissioner Allan Bradford urged residents to go see what the county hath wrought on New Home Loop on Sand Mountain, now finally back open for travel. “Until you see it, you don’t understand it,” he said.
Cora McCoy, 14, walks on 136 from Dade High to Fred's Dollar Store each day, deeply engrossed in her cellphone. Trenton has long talked about putting sidewalks along this stretch. Now Mayor Alex Case says TSPLOST would help with the financing.
District 1’s Mitchell Smith was taciturn this month, but Goff pointed in his capacity as District 3 commissioner that early voting starts in October for Dade’s countywide referendum on the new 1-cent local option transportation special purpose sales tax (TSPLOST). “We can’t push it as a commission,” said Goff, but he said it was a fair tax for everybody and could help Dade with badly-needed road and bridge work.
Speaking as the mayor of Trenton, Alex Case also spoke in favor of the TSPLOST, which he said would help out with a long-discussed city project to provide sidewalks along Highway 136 East to the high school.
The Dade County Commission meets at 6 p.m. on the first Monday of each month in the Dade Administrative Building.