After last month's singularly blah county commission meeting--no tax protestors, significant action, beer or dancing girls--the agenda for the June meeting this Thursday looks pretty lively. Not only is an appearance scheduled for Dade's voice in the state senate, Sen. Jeff Mullis, but there are proposed ordinances to prohibit public drunkenness and disorderly conduct as well as to impose an accommodation tax and amend the international plumbing code.
The accommodation tax evokes a wave of deja vu--didn't we already do that?--while the plumbing ordinance makes a body scratch its head and say, "Dade County is amending the international plumbing code?" The two drunk-and-disorderly ordinances, though, have a distinctly happenin', saloon-and-six-shooter kind of vibe, as if the commission is fixin' to clean up Dodge.
But call to Don Townsend, Dade's ever-knowledgable county clerk, sufficed to clarify confusion and quash excitement. "What we used to do is have a 'cleanup ordinance.' Now we deal with them separately," he said.
A 'cleanup ordinance' was a blanket ordinance that dealt with errors, typos and small changes on sundry county ordinances that had to be corrected or updated to match federal or state changes. But lumping them all together in one legal instrument made them hard to track, so now the commission amends them one by one. That's the story on the "international plumbing code" ordinance--Dade simply has to change the wording on its plumbing ordinance to make it comply with state and federal--or international, apparently--rules.
And as for the accommodation, or hotel-motel tax, said Townsend, yes, that's the same one the commission passed in 2017. "It was out of order," he said. The correct procedure was to request local legislation from the state, then pass an ordinance. Dade passed the ordinance, then requested the legislation. State Rep. John Deffenbaugh did get the legislation passed in the state house, but now it is incumbent on the county to pass the ordinance again in the right order.
Townsend said the accommodation tax will become effective in 60 or 90 days—he’ll have to look it up—and that though Dade has no hotels, the tax will apply to several county residents who do short-term cabin or bed-and-breakfast rentals. “We’ve already had three or four people approach us and say, please let us know when this goes into effect,” said the clerk.
(Dade does, technically, contain one hotel, but it is inside the Trenton city limits and subject to Trenton’s accommodation tax. The county did not choose to double-tax establishments already covered by the city ordinance.)
As for the drunk and disorderly ordinances, they are a little more interesting, but still were not inspired by any recent fistfights in any saloons (which are not noticeably thick on the ground in Dade County in any case). It’s all about changing the jurisdiction for these offenses from the Lookout Mountain District Attorney’s office to the Dade Magistrate Court, explained Townsend.
“The DA deals with rape and murder,” said Townsend. “The chances of prosecuting drunk and disorderly are probably very few.”
And it’s not just a matter of moving the lesser offenses to the lower court, said Clerk Townsend, but of establishing a sensible appeals process. If a person is convicted in magistrate court of drunk and disorderly, he can appeal to Dade Superior. As it stands, if he is convicted in Dade Superior of the same offense he would have to appeal to the state appeals court. “Robin [Rogers, the county attorney] suggested changing this months ago,” said Townsend.
Finally, Townsend said the commission had invited Sen. Mullis to the meeting to bid his adieux to Peter Cervelli, the longtime Dade Industrial Development Authority (IDA) director who is retiring this month. The two have worked together for years on such projects as bringing Vanguard to Dade, and the thinking was that Mullis would like to put in an appearance here at the end, said the clerk. But the senator was invited last month and hadn’t found space in his schedule, and Townsend couldn’t guarantee he’d make it Thursday, either.
The June meeting is at 6 p.m. Thursday in the county Administrative Building. Members of the public are welcome and encouraged to attend (as long, presumably, as they are sober, and behave themselves).