Besides the second placement of TSPLOST (transportation special purpose local option sales tax) on a referendum ballot and a request for variance from the county’s liquor ordinance (see previous articles), the Dade County Commission dealt with a number of other matters—routine and otherwise—at its February meeting last week.
Major Tommy Bradford (end of table), head of the patrol division of the Dade County Sheriff’s Department, asked the commission for SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) funds for two new patrol cars. These will be Ford Explorers which with all the trimmings—radios, lights and other police accoutrements—will run to $47,405 and $49,700, respectively (Bradford explained that a K-9-ready vehicle will cost a little more).
Bradford said the sheriff’s office needed the new cars to replace ones that were nearing the end of their useful life. “By the end of the year, they’ll be pushing 200,000 miles,” he said.
The commission approved the request. “We can’t leave them on the road,” said County Executive Chairman Rumley of the older vehicles. Anything over 150,000, he said: “You’re just asking for trouble.”
What the commission granted approval of, specifically, was the sheriff’s office’s request to ask for proposals from a Ford dealership for the cars. The final expenditure will be presented for approval for next month’s allocation.
The commission also said yes to Rodney Ross of the New Salem volunteer Fire Department for his request of $80,750.92 in SPLOST funds for four sets of turnout gear.
Alex Case, Dade’s emergency services director and incidentally the mayor of Trenton, appeared before the commission as he often does to request SPLOST funds for new technology, in this case $27,205.13 as the county’s share of a new police ticket-writing system to be shared between the Trenton Police Department and the Dade Sheriff’s Department. The Trenton City Commission had already approved its own share of the purchase, he explained.
Case explained that as it stands officers have to handwrite each violation on a separate ticket, and that they might feel a reluctance to write any at all “because their handwriting’s sloppy.”
“Can they not make the ticket larger?” inquired Rumley, but in the end the commission acceded to Case’s request.
“It’s another tool to keep the guys out in the community,” said Case.
Case said the Trenton PD imposes a $22 processing charge for each traffic citation and suggested the county pass an ordinance authorizing a similar fee for the county to pay for the new technology. No action was taken at the Feb. 1 meeting to pass such an ordinance; if any is at a subsequent meeting The Planet will duly report such.
Case also asked for, and was granted, $16,929.45 in SPLOST for five new laptops for county police vehicles. “We’ve broken a lot,” he said. “These vehicles take a beating.” He said four of the computers the patrol officers are using are held together with Gorilla tape.
What is Gorilla tape? The Planet consulted its resident sticking-things-together/pulling-things-apart (duct tape/WD-40) expert and learned that Gorilla tape is “like duct tape, only more expensive.”
An update on what the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority (JDA) is currently doing for Dade County was provided by JDA’s Keith Barclift. Barclift (end of table, below) told the commissioners his group had switched from print advertising to direct marketing and named conferences it had attended and projects it had pursued on Dade’s behalf. County boss Rumley asked him to come back more often and report to the commission quarterly.
After the meeting Rumley explained that he had qualms about the population-based cost of JDA membership—$25,950 a year for Dade, calculated at $1.50 per resident—and would drop it if it weren’t worth it “in a heartbeat.” However, said the Boss: “We look at what we’d lose if we did drop it.” Without the state and the JDA behind it, said Rumley, Dade would not be able to attract industries with the big cash and tax incentives they have come to expect. “I’ve questioned it for years, but when it comes down to reality, [without JDA] we wouldn’t have Vanguard,” said Rumley.
County Clerk Don Townsend reported that the Dade/Trenton Joint Historic Preservation Commission, under construction for several months now, is almost but not quite ready for primetime, and asked it be tabled yet another month before it comes before the commission.
Townsend also got approval to apply for Dade’s LMIG (local maintenance and inprovement grant) roadwork allocation from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT)—$902,437.32 this year, with a 30 percent local match for a total of $1,173,168.
In other business, the commission OKed its yearly lease of land to Head Start for its location near the Four Fields athletic complex and approved a memorandum of understanding with the Family Crisis Center, which provides Dade and the surrounding counties with family services including a crisis hotline, emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence and legal advocacy for such victims. Also, as it did in January, the commission approved formalizing its accommodation tax. Clerk Townsend had explained last month that though the commission passed the tax in 2017, it had missed the drop-dead date for the Georgia Legislature and had to begin again this year.
The commission named Jeff Forester to serve out Dora Crisp's unexpired term on the Dade Board of Tax Assessors. It had previously tentatively extended the appointment to Ron Weeks, who does not live in the district of the empty seat, but passed over him in favor of Forester, who does.
During their monthly addresses to the public, both Chairman Rumley and District 2 Commissioner Scottie Pittman were pleased to announce a culmination devoutly to be wished: work had begun on the long-awaited walking track at Sand Mountain’s Davis School.
Boss Rumley described the long delays as the county government tried and failed to coordinate with the board of education to make the Sand Mountain track a reality. “Every time we’d get close to it, we would change superintendents,” he said. “They just didn’t want to work with us.” Why? He didn’t know, said the Boss. The track is expected to benefit both students and the larger community. In any case, the story had a happy ending now as the current superintendent, Dr. Jan Harris, had met several times with Rumley in the interest of getting R done. Rumley said the Davis track will complete Dade’s collection of a walking track in each end of the county.
Commissioner Pittman said Georgia Power was looking into putting more lights around the quarter-mile track, which is routed around the area Davis has always called its “Bowl.” He reminded the commissioners of a male beauty contest they’d participated in perhaps 12 years ago to fundraise for the track. “The money’s still there,” he said. He discussed plans to use the $7000 or so to add benches or fencing to the track.
District 1 Commissioner Mitchell Smith, who is leaving the commission after this year, had little to say this month.
District 3’s Robert Goff said sales tax revenues were up this month over last month but down from last year. He said he’d pursued the county’s ongoing quest to learn how many SPLOST dollars Dade is channeling to the state versus how many are coming back—Georgia collects all sales taxes and disburses them back to the counties—and had learned the figures were unavailable because of the state’s outdated account system. “We send them an awful lot of money for them not to know where it’s coming from,” he said.
(Photo: Outgoing Dist. 1 Commissioner Mitchell Smith (right) chats with Patrick Hickey, who aspires to the seat.)
Goff, who monitors the Georgia Legislature for the county, spent some of his address complaining as he often does about unfunded mandates. He used as an example one that had been touched on earlier, computer upgrades Georgia now requires for the county tax office, which Dade’s tax commissioner is so far unsure if the state will pay for. Residents should tackle John Deffenbaugh and Jeff Mullis, their representative and state senator, respectively, about such matters, said Goff. “Just ask them about those kinds of things, the mandates that are being handed down,” he said.
District 4 Commissioner Allan Bradford thanked all who contributed for helping American Legion Post 106 deal with its mortgage difficulties—generous donations from the community helped the post avoid selling its meeting hall by decimating its mortgage debt. Bradford also said he was meeting with GDOT shortly about bad holes on Highway 189. “It could pull you off the highway,” he said.
In his monthly State of the Dump report, Bradford said the county transfer station had gotten a nice compliment from a lady he’d talked to: “She said it was the cleanest transfer station she’d ever been to,” he said. He said this month 462 tons of garbage had been processed, and pointed out that jail trusties are usually on hand to help the trash-dumping public. “I believe in using them as much as we can,” said Bradford.
Speaking of trash, in his own address county boss Rumley also had much to report in that area. “We’ve got some pretty severe issues in the county with people dumping their garbage,” he said. “That’s fixing to be addressed.”
Certain parts of Sand Mountain, said the Boss, have recently been attracting attention from the state Environmental Protection Division, whose minions had been visiting Dade increasingly. A particular sore point is discarded tires, said Rumley. EPD was changing the maximum number of tires on a property from 99 to 25, and these must be kept free of standing water so as not to breed mosquitoes.
Boss Rumley also touched on Dade’s planned public storm shelters, which he said he hoped the county could start work on by this summer. “When we finish it, there shouldn’t be a person or a community in the county that won’t have access to it,” he said. People might have to drive a little to get to one of the planned three shelters, he said, but those who live in trailers or houses without basements will shortly have a safe place to ride out tornadoes.
Rumley said he’d met with a landowner at the north end of county who is dealing directly with a mystery industry considering building in Dade. “As far as we know, that deal is still in the works,” he said. The company is also looking at other possible sites, he said, but Dade is still in the running and if the deal does come through it will be a boon for local employment as average wages are in the high teens per hour.
3 State 3 Mountain Bites Dust
Another interesting snippet from the Boss’s address is that the annual 3 State 3 Mountain cycling event is no more. The event brought hundreds of cyclists pedaling up Burkhalter Gap the first weekend of every May for decades, welcomed by the volunteer fire departments to which organizers donated heavily but riling some West Brow motorists. Not anymore.
A notice on the website of the Chattanooga Bicycle Club, which sponsored the event, confirmed its demise. “The majority of the board felt that there was not enough interest and involvement from the CBC members and that the competition was strong enough to keep it from being feasible to continue with the event,” read the notice.
(File shot of a 3 Mountain/3 State of yore.)
Rumley said a smaller bicycle event, with some 200 bikes, is planned to go through Dade in October. But bikers will stick to state roads and off Burkhalter Gap.
Rumley also addressed the problem of sketchy internet access in parts of the county. He has spoken often about the issue of modern schoolwork requiring fast internet service which many Dade students do not have at home, and lately, he said, he’d had calls from adult residents frustrated because local internet service was not good enough for them to work from home.
This was becoming a big issue with other northwest Georgia counties, said Rumley, and some were addressing it successfully with wireless internet. “They’re pretty much saying the local providers need to step up and reach out,” he said. Internet was increasingly seen as a life necessity like water or electricity, and local governments were having to address it as such.
“Change is coming down the road,” said the Boss. “There’s some big things happening.”
Finally, Rumley addressed what residents may have noticed for themselves is becoming a new problem in Dade: truck traffic. The big semis that used to stick to the interstate are now routinely seen laboring up and down Lookout Mountain on Highway 136 East. Rumley said the problem is only expected to worsen with the opening of the new “Inland Port” in Chatsworth, Ga., and that the hope was that GDOT would resuscitate plans for an “East-West Corridor” to relieve traffic. That corridor would likely touch Dade at some point, he said.
Mayor/EMS director Alex Case, said he’d spoken with truckers himself on two occasions when their new route up the mountain had ended up necessitating emergency services. “Every one that we’ve had that’s either run off the road or wrecked or had issues at the curve … they are told to come this way from Nashville or Birmingham,” said Case. He said the truckers’ problems arose from going up the mountain in too high a gear.
If Case’s advice to the truckers is to downshift, his advice to Dade citizens is to sign up for severe weather alerts. “Storms are coming,” he warned. “As soon as we get done with winter weather, we’re right back into spring storms.” Readers, he reminded, may sign up for text and cellphone weather alerts at either the county or the new city website: dadecounty-ga.gov or trentonga.gov.
Marshana Sharp, manager of the Dade County Public Library, underscored Rumley’s message about the need for better internet service in the county. “We have seen a huge, huge increase in our wi-fi,” she said. Families hang around outside the library when it’s closed while their children finish their homework using the library’s wireless access. Also, she said many college students do their coursework at the library online and seldom go to their actual campuses.
Otherwise, Ms. Sharp reported that the library had set a date—March 24—for its popular Read to Lead event, when community leaders read aloud to area children. She said the library’s free Computer 101 class in January had been jam-packed with a waiting list, generating repeat performances. “We are doing one a month and we may have to switch to two a month,” she said. The next one is on Feb. 27, with classes at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. both filling up fast so if you want to come, please call and reserve your place—(706) 657-7856.
The library’s family movie this month is on Feb. 15—call for the title— and the library has Valentine’s and anti-Valentine’s Day activities planned as well. “We’ve got something going on pretty much every day this month,” said Ms. Sharp. Check the calendar on the library’s website for details: chrl.org/dade-county-public-library.
County Agent Katie Hammond reported that the 4-H shotgun team will not fire up until March because of the weather but that the Dade/Walker Cattle Show is upcoming this month. She herself will be teaching a home orchard class on Feb. 13. For more details, call (706) 657-4116.
Cheryl Painter of the Dade Chamber of Commerce announced the group’s annual banquet is at 6 p.m. on March 17. Tickets are $20 and the theme is “A Night at the Movies,” with prizes given for the best-dressed actor and actress. Call her for more information at (706) 657-4488.
The Dade County Commission meets the first Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. in the Dade Administrative Building.