Funky No More? An Around Our Town Roundup of Intersections, IDA, Halloween and More!

November 2, 2017


That’s it.


After the months—years!—of waiting for the Georgia Department of Transportation to fix Trenton’s eccentric central intersection, the junction of highways 11 and 136 in front of Ingle’s, residents may have expected something with a bit more oomph. But Dade County Executive Ted Rumley says GDOT has now finished what it set out to do.


“What you see is the way it’s going to stay, “ said the county boss. “At least for a year or two.”


GDOT will monitor traffic at the intersection and consider additional changes if the situation seems to warrant them, added Rumley. “The roundabout is still not totally out of the question,” he said.


The idea of changing “Funky Junction” into a roundabout had been batted around about a year and a half ago, providing fodder for interesting county commission discussions and exciting various local reactions from enthusiasm to derision (and incidentally inspiring The Planet’s April Fool’s Day piece in 2016, "A High Time for Lo's." Miss it? Here's a link:


Instead of the roundabout, GDOT settled on repainting the lane markers last spring and scheduling the work residents have seen in the past few weeks as part of a summer intersection revamp project in several towns throughout the region. Now Rumley says GDOT has done what it’s going to do and is pretty confident the changes it’s made to the intersection should take care of most of the problems there.


​​What are those? A GDOT spokesman earlier this month defined them as “pouring sidewalk, setting strain poles and stringing lights” for the ultimate goal of “modernizing the traffic equipment.” Workmen questioned last week at the site said they were only running power to the new traffic signals.


Changing out stoplights may not sound like a big deal, but Chairman Rumley says those modernized stoplights actually will help the traffic flow more smoothly. “It’s not like the old days, just wires under the pavement,” he said. The new lights have sensors “smart” enough to keep the lights green in one direction as long as no traffic is waiting in the other, he said. “It’s almost like having a human directing traffic,” he said.


But what about 18-wheelers making their terrifying wide left turns from 136 onto Highway 11 North, while drivers in the left lane on 11 made peace with their maker and wait to be crushed like insects? Hadn’t there been talk of widening the intersection to address that? “The way it is will take care of about 90 percent of that,” said Rumley. No, there’s been no widening, but the poles for the traffic signals have been moved, sidewalks redone and “stop” lines moved to give drivers more room to turn safely.  “Now you’re stopping way back from where you used to,” said the Boss.


 And he agreed with The Planet that the intersection has been far less problematic since the lanes were repainted to give southbound Highway 11 drivers a better idea of the balletic pirouettes required of them as they doglegged toward Rising Fawn.  


(The Planet solicited but was unable to obtain input from GDOT on this segment.)


On the subject of 18-wheelers rampaging through the town, this Monday’s Dade Industrial Development Authority (IDA) meeting addressed the ongoing need for signs to guide supply trucks to the recently-built Vanguard plant north of Trenton in the new section of industrial park built to accommodate it. The area is too new to register on global positioning systems, and IDA chairman Nathan Wooten said he sometimes find drivers alone and palely loitering on Sunset Drive.


“Some of these drivers are going follow GPS no matter if you’re sitting in the cab with them,” he said.


IDA executive director Peter Cervelli said he’d ordered signs but they’d been rejected by the city and county, and getting more had proved problematic. “I was asked to use a specific vendor by the city,” he said. “I’m not happy.”


Cervelli discussed findings of NextSite 360, the marketing firm hired to help IDA attract retail businesses to Dade. The firm had found Trenton suitable for “discount junior box” stores, he said. What kind of animal is that? Chairman Wooten Googled it and found: Tractor Supply, Ross’s and Staples are junior boxes. Cervelli pointed out that the former Fred’s and CVS locations—both stores have now relocated to other Trenton sites—are both roughly big enough for junior boxes.


He announced NextSite representative Andy Camp had agreed to present the company’s findings to the Greater Dade Business Owners’ Association at a dinner on Nov. 14 at Southeastern Lineman Training Center.  And he said the marketing firm had discouraged his requests for periodic progress reports with the explanation that most developers had already made their financial decisions for the 2017-18 period and: “Nothing will be very different every month.”


On the bright side, said Cervelli, he’d been talking with several housing developers recently. So far not much had come of it, and one builder was interested in putting up tiny houses, when what Dade seems to need most is apartments to house its workforce. Another had been interested in a particular project on a particular piece of property and had so far not gotten back with him. Still, said Cervelli, interest was interest. “The positive thing is at least we’re talking to somebody,” he said.


​​Cervelli said he’d inquired from legal counsel whether IDA could incentivize builders with tax breaks the way it does with industries and had learned that yes, that was kosher. He will pursue that possibility and is also investigating getting “Free Trade Zone” status for the area, which would exempt it from certain excise taxes imposed on goods at the wholesale level.         


Of the industries that IDA does incentivize at varying levels, Cervelli had a fairly rosy report this month: Lake Region now has 320 employees—“which is fabulous,” noted Cervelli—and is about to change its name to Integer as a result of some industry merger or acquisition. “This is the third name since I’ve been here,” said Cervelli. (The company was earlier known as Accellent.) In any case, said the ED: “They’re doing very well.”


So is Vanguard, which Cervelli said was on track with its hiring commitment. IDA is still waiting for an ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission) grant to finish paving the road there, he said.



Cervelli said PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) checks should be coming in shortly when tax bills began being paid, and that meanwhile the financial situation was in any case stable. “We’re not spending a lot of money right now.”


IDA went into executive, or closed-door, session, for about 20 minutes to discuss personnel and real estate, but had nothing to announce upon returning.


A yard in Canyon Park Estate went all the way for Halloween, with a front yard cemetery, ghost rising from a grave--even a "haunted canoe" in a stream, a phantasm which had unfortunately faded into the mists before The Planet could snap it for posterity.


Halloween community events in Dade centered around the weekend, when Mother Nature did not smile on the county's enterprises. Rain stopped in time to allow the annual Halloween Alley, staged jointly by the Dade library and chamber of commerce, to proceed as planned, but a damp cold permeated Saturday evening’s festivities and persisted to chill riders at the Trenton Police Department’s benefit ​​motorcycle event on Sunday.


But on Tuesday, the actual All Hallow’s Eve itself, the weather was kinder and trick-or-treaters thronged Trenton streets. They also thronged JB’s Variety Store--Costume Central in Dade, carrying dress-up items, wigs and makeup year-round--for last-minute fixes to this year's costume, and the store was popping at the seams when The Planet dropped by for a Groucho Marx nose and mustache (don't ask). At right, Asia Clabough and her little princess, Grace Houts, pause outside JB's before proceeding to trick and to treat.


​​The Dade County Sheriff’s Office reported Wednesday no news that was good news—this year’s was a safe and quiet Halloween night, with no incidents caused by the costumed candy hunters.


The Planet wraps up this Around Our Town article with a rotation around the north end of town. The Bank of Dade (left) has smartened up its crib considerably. So has Dade County Chiropractic (blow, right) just across the street. Note gleaming new façades on both buildings. The Bank of Dade even has a fresh new surface on its parking lot. 


 But it's a different story just next door at Gross Shopping Center, where the abandoned site of the old Fred's store makes the place look sad and empty. Construction workers working there recently told The Planet they were fixing it up with an eye toward attracting a new tenant, but that none was in the offing immediately as far as they knew.


Whaddaya think, Gentle Readers? What kind of  “junior box” would you like to fill this slot? Staples? Ross Dress For Less? The Planet also Googled "junior box stores" and came up with a list that included Trader Joe's.


Hell may freeze over first, and Trenton get its fabled roundabout...but a Planet can dream! 

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