(Photo) From left, City Clerk Lucretia Houts, Mayor Alex Case and Police Commissioner Sandra Gray.)
Workers’ compensation claims appear to be a burgeoning problem for the Trenton city government. At the Trenton City Commission’s Monday night meeting, Mayor Alex Case reported having discussed, during the commission’s executive, or closed-door, session following the regular meeting, two pending injury claims by city workers plus one new one that had just been submitted .
And during his monthly report to the public and the commissioners, the mayor said in reference to the proposed TSPLOST—transportation special purpose local option sales tax, which if passed May 22 would raise the local sales tax from 7 to 8 cents on the dollar—that it would allow Trenton to buy new equipment which might prevent city workers from injuring themselves so often.
The mayor did not elaborate on the nature or seriousness of the workers’ comp injuries, and more information is not readily available elsewhere: Workers’ comp claims are treated more confidentially than other court matters, to protect the worker.
There is, however, no gag order on TSPLOST, and with the new tax up for referendum next Tuesday, the subject came up more than once at the May 14 meeting, not so much front and center as here and there at the sidelines.
Case explained that LMIG—local maintenance and improvement grant—money from the feds was never enough to fix all of Trenton’s myriad road problems. “We’re patching,” he said. “That’s all we can do.”
Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten agreed: “It’s almost like we’re held together with a string and a Band-aid.”
From left, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Terry Powell, Fire/Utility Commissioner Jerry Henegar and Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten.
The mayor discussed many of the streets that desperately need work in the city limits, the Streetscapes downtown beautification project and the construction of sidewalks to the schools—all projects that TSPLOST could help with—and the city’s efforts to procure state or federal funds for them or simply do them itself. “We’ve been working on the state for several years,” he said in reference to the sidewalks project. He warned that even when grants can be found they usually require local matching funds.
And he seemed stung by anti-TSPLOST criticism he’d seen of the city’s attempts to highlight the potential benefits of the penny tax. It was the Lyndhurst Foundation that had furnished free of change an artist’s rendering (below) of a "Streetscaped" Trenton that the town shared on its Facebook page, said Case. “We didn’t spend a dime of taxpayer money,” said the mayor.
Commissioner Wooten spoke of the importance of investing in city beautification projects. She’d recently traveled through 30 or 40 small towns, she said, and had found that the ones that prettied themselves up were the ones that attracted tourists like herself. “It makes you want to be there,” she said. “You get out of your car.”
The mayor said if TSPLOST does not pass next week, the city would continue muddling through the best it can. Alternatively: “If it is to pass, you won’t see your first money until December or January,” he said.
On the subject of flak caught by Mayor Case, he said he’d taken some recently over a sewer problem. After days of heavy rain, said Case, a man had observed “some stuff coming out of a manhole.”
He explained—and so did sewer employee Dewayne Moore—that some of Trenton’s sewer infrastructure was getting long in the tooth, including aging pump stations and old concrete pipes, and that an influx of groundwater apparently could cause “stuff” to happen. “It’s time to do something about it,” said Case.
The mayor said not knowing whom to call for help had exacerbated the situation. He said that the sewer department was always on call, that the city wanted to fix and was required by the state environmental department to fix “stuff” like that, and that he would work on getting a nighttime-and-weekend communication system going for emergency situations. “It’s a thing that’s opened our eyes to look at some alternatives,” he said. Until then, he said, he is reachable through City Hall or through county emergency services when the "stuff" hits the fan.
In other business, Police Chief Christy Smith asked for regular SPLOST funds for seven new body cameras for city officers. She took the commission through the math: $200 credit through the vendor for the old microphones—the new body cams have audio built in—plus $400 reimbursement per cam from the Dade Sheriff’s Department because it had agreed to buy the used ones. She said that would leave old cams for a spare and for herself when she went out on calls.
So why not replace all nine? asked Fire/Utility Commissioner Jerry Henegar. “If we’re upgrading, let’s upgrade,” he said.
All right, said Police Commissioner Sandra Gray, we’ll take ‘em: “Let’s just do 10,” she said, then corrected herself. “I mean eight.”
Henegar continued pulling for nine but Chief Smith insisted eight would do fine and the matter was settled. With the credits and the sale to the Dade County Sheriff’s Office, the total net cost will come to $8865 or $8465, depending on how many of the old units the DCSO will pop for.
The commissioners also okayed $1700 for a dirt packer.
Mayor Case announced it was time to solicit bids for a new garbage pickup provider for the city. The old contractor had sold his business, said Case. He said the request for bids will be posted on the city website as well as in print, and bids opened at the June 11 city meeting.
“Now that we’re talking about garbage—” said Commissioner Wooten.
The commissioner, who runs a flooring store, made a case for extending garbage pickup to small businesses as well as homeowners. “As a business owner, I pay more taxes than a homeowner but I don’t get my garbage picked up,” she said. “What do I get extra?” Other small businesspeople had come to her with the same question, she said.
The commissioners discussed the pros and cons—if they extended the service to one business, wouldn’t it be only fair to offer it others, such as fast food restaurants that would generate unmanageable amounts of trash? And what about industries?
Maybe it could be stipulated only offices could have the service, said Commissioner Wooten. On the other hand: “If I’m not going to get any support there’s no point pursuing it,” she said.
Mayor Case said that wasn’t necessarily so, but it was a radical new idea that required deeper thought. “We need to dedicate a workshop just for that,” he said.
Police commissioner Sandra Gray reported the PD had collected $23,393.86 in fines for April and $71,387.08 year to date. She announced the department had an officer about to graduate the police academy in Rome and invited the other commissioners to attend the ceremony.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner Terry Powell said the city pool is undergoing seasonal maintenance and will soon open, and that the Trenton civics center had been rented for 90 hours in April. For the same period, he said, Animal Control had had 18 calls and one catfight.
Jerry Henegar of Fire/Utilities said the city still has plenty of smoke detectors to give away and that if city residents want one they should call City Hall at (706) 657-4167 to have it installed.
For Streets, Monda Wooten said the city had finished up a little more work on the new public parking lot behind Lalito’s, mowed sidewalks, dug up and patched Sells Lane and worked on the interstate ramps.
Tree City President Eloise Gass reported on Arbor Day observations and said more recently her group had cleared out six public flowerbeds, with one left to go. The Planet was present for five of those and offers this photographic memorialization of the event. Byron Gentry and Daniel Laney were the trusties.
Manager Marshana Sharp reported for the Dade Public Library that it would offer on Tuesday, May 22, one of its popular "Computers 101" classes, with sessions at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The class is free but please reserve your seat by calling (706) 657-7857.
Ms. Sharp also detailed a plethora of pleasurable pursuits planned for the library's Summer Reading program, which she explained is funded by local businesses--despite the fact that Summer Reading is one of the library's most popular and enduring programs, Ms. Sharp said the library had no budget for it. In any case, among the revelries on tap at the library this summer are a scavenger hunt, a talent show, magicians, jugglers and more. The library will also have teen and adult programs. (Watch the Upcoming Events column on The Planet's homepage for those.)
The Trenton City Commission meets at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at City Hall.