The Dade County Chamber of Commerce with its visitor-greeting function is targeted by the Dade and Trenton city governments as a prime tenant for the historic Dade courthouse—when and if the renovation of the old building is completed.
But at the Trenton City Commission meeting on Monday evening, the C of C made it clear it's not willing to wait that long.
“It’s so far away, I don’t see it happening,” said Cheryl Painter (pictured at left in a file shot), executive director of the Dade Chamber.
Ms. Painter had appeared before the city commission to ask that Trenton pay $750 a month to rent the C of C office space in another prominent building on the Trenton town square, the venerable white frame building at the northwest corner recently vacated by Ann-Other Flowers.
The former Ann-Other building is arguably almost as historic as the 1926 courthouse. It is certainly one of the oldest structures on the square, as attested by this historical photo, provided courtesy of the Dade County Public Library, which shows it standing solitary, unflanked by near neighbors.
Ms. Painter argued it was in any case in a better location than the courthouse, close to the square's restaurants and parking, including the new lot behind the square purchased by the city in 2016 from Case Hardware. She said more tourists would come to the visitor center “if they can see it and they can walk to it, it’s visible, it’s there.”
The city commission turned down the Chamber's request pretty squarely. "You're not getting kicked out of where you're at," pointed out Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten.
The Chamber is currently housed in the old Trenton train depot building--also a historic building, but not a traffic hub in the decades since train tourism to the town died out. Ms. Painter explained it was a county building but that the C of C had to pay its own utilities. “That’s what’s killing us right now,” she said.
But Mayor Alex Case said the Chamber could do what it liked with its own money; Trenton was sticking with the courthouse plan.
In a separate discussion, though, Case could offer little hope as to when the Chamber, or anyone else, could move into a shining, refurbished courthouse. “We’re not setting a date," he said. "We’re doing the best we can with the funds available.”
The mayor (below) explained that though the courthouse was an approved SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) project, it constantly got bumped off the to-do list by higher-priority needs, including paying off debt on bonded projects, which is to say those the commission borrowed money to complete. “We’re doing everything we can, a little at a time," he said.
He gave a brief progress report: The courthouse's elevator had been installed, its windows had been replaced, and the next project was getting doors to match.
The mayor and commission also approved the designation of Audrey Clark and Cindy Hill Richie as Trenton's representatives on the joint city/county joint historic preservation committee that Dade and Trenton have been coordinating on establishing tp facilitate the courthouse renovation. Such a joint committee is a requisite for applying for certain grants that would be helpful in restoring the old courthouse.
Also on the subject of elderly edifices, Mayor Case sought and gained authorization to act on the city's behalf in the matter of the old Scout Building in Jenkins Park. He went over the history. It had been built by American Legion Post 106 in 1972 to be used as a meeting place for Boy- and Girl Scouts, spearheaded by Joe Atchley who had been disturbed when a local scout troop got ousted from its meeting place in favor of an adult civic group.
Now, said Case, the building was decaying and the city needed to get clear ownership of it in order to begin needed renovations. "Legally, it needs to be in our books as our property," he said, adding that the American Legion post would not object, only wishing to ensure it would always be used for Scouts. It would be, assured Case.
“As long as there’s a Scout troop in Trenton, it belongs to them,” said Case.
Currently, it seems, both the Legion Post and city are listed as owners of the building.
Case said no renovations had been made to the Scout Building since he had been a boy there himself and that the current Scout troop leaving the heat on to avoid burst pipes during this cold winter had cost the city $451 one month and $519 the next, with only $600 in the budget for the whole year.
The mayor said the first step was getting the deed in Trenton's name. “Then we’re going to have to be looking at some upgrades,” he said.
In other business, the city commission approved $8716 in SPLOST funds for a submersible pump for the Trenton sewage plant. “We don’t have a spare setting ready to go,” said Case. “We’ve been close a few times [to needing one].”
Parks and Recreation Commissioner Terry Powell had gotten a $5319.70 bid for sound reduction panels for the Trenton Civic Center. The commission decided to obtain two more bids and choose the lowest, not to exceed the one Powell had already received.
The commission decided to meet at 6 p.m. at City Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 27, to discuss its employee handbook prior to taking action on it at the next regular meeting on March 12.
Mayor Case announced a new project: Slope improvement at the creek that runs through the city and the creation of a wetland, all to be paid for through a grant from NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service). He said paving in the area--including the planned paving of the city's new parking lot--exacerbated the runoff problem, and this project would mitigate it. A local match is required but: “It’s all in kind," said the mayor. "There’s no money out of us.”
The project involves making a wetland area after the second bridge. “It will be something that’s easy to maintain," said Case. "It’s not using rock, it’s using vegetation.” The work will all be permitted through the state Environmental Protection Division, he said, and he would see about getting prison trusties to help with the labor.
The commission also approved the intergovernmental agreement the city had drafted with the county for a proposed transportation special purpose local option sales tax (TSPLOST), which will be put before the voters this May. If passed, proceeds of the tax would be divided 75/25 between county and city, to take effect Oct. 1 of this year. “Our share over the five years would be $1.9 million," said Case.
Case said Trenton would use its share of the money to build sidewalks on Highway 136 East and West and to buy its own striper to paint the city’s lane stripes, work which he said was expensive to contract out. He stressed the importance of the TSPLOST funds in a time when regular local option sales taxes were steadily declining and the city never knew how much to expect. “We’re kind of shooting in the dark,” he said.
Police Commissioner Sandra Gray said total police fines collected in January--and thus year to date as well--amounted to $18,455,56. Parks & Rec's Terry Powell said the civic center had been rented out for 44 hours in January. And he particularly thanked animal welfare activist Ann Brown for helping adopt out all the animals at the city pound. “We have no animals," said Powell. "The last one was adopted Tuesday or Wednesday of this week."
The annual humane society benefit banquet this year is, incidentally, upcoming: Feb. 24 at the civics center. Tickets are $21. For more information you may call (423) 505-1714.
Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten said her department had built new shelving to house Trenton's Christmas decorations. “From year to year we’re suffering a lot of damage,” she said. This should help, she added.
Fire/Utility Commissioner Jerry Henegar was unable to attend this month's meeting due to his work schedule.
Mayor Case reported the city was working on the new public parking lot behind the square. “We are going to raise it up a little bit,” he said, and considering changing the landscape. “We are going to look at a less intrusive tree,” he said, then quickly assured Tree City's Eloise Gass that none would be cut down.
Ms. Gass announced that Tree City's Arbor Day observance and tree planting would be at 10 a.m. this Friday, Feb. 16, at the lot between Bank of Dade and its drive-through facility. All are invited/
Marshana Sharp, manager of the Dade County Library, reminded all of movie night on Feb. 15--call for the title at (706) 657-7857. Also call if you want to attend beginning computer classes, now available once a month. She said the library's popular Read to Lead is scheduled for March 24 and that in April the library will host its annual health fair and GLOW night run.
Cheryl Painter again addressed the commission, this time to remind all of the Chamber of Commerce banquet on March 17 at 6 pm. This year's event will be a roast of citizen John Bradford.
At the last minute, the mayor added that the city park would now be a tobacco-free zone. Signs will shortly be put up, he said.
The Trenton City Commission meets each month at 6 p.m. at City Hall.