Photo: From left, the three county commissioners who will retain their seats into the new year are Executive Chairman Ted Rumley, Dist. 3's Robert Goff and Dist. 4's Allan Bradford.
Tonight the Dade County Commission as shaped by the 2018 election meets for the first time at 6 p.m. in the Administrative Building. Mitchell Smith and Scottie Pittman of Districts 1 and 2, respectively, are out, to be replaced by Lamar Lowery and Phillip Hartline.
On tonight's agenda is one contentious item left over from last year: the reorganization of the board of directors for the Dade Water and Sewer Authority Board. The water board, which usually meets quietly outside the public's radar range, caught the eye of press and public in 2018 because of the water company's innate involvement with the commission's controversial proposed reservoir on Lookout Creek. In November, the water board agreed to pay $400,000 of the half-million-dollar asking price of a 61-acre tract on Lookout Creek. The water board had obtained a loan for the project, but said that a coming, hitherto-unannounced rate increase for water customers had nothing to do with its obligation to repay the loan.
Critics had cried foul about the fact that Ted Rumley, who as elected county commission executive chairman had advocated for the reservoir project from its announcement in June 2017, also chairs the water board that ultimately agreed to pony up for the land. In December, the matter of separating leadership of the county commission and water board by local legislation arose, but the sitting board decided to postpone it until this month, when the new commissioners would take their seats.
Ironically, the water board was placed under Rumley's chairmanship after a 2010-11 mishap similarly brought that body into the public eye: The water company manager, Doug Anderton, and the then-board of directors had agreed to partner with Canyon Ridge developer Randy Baker to build a sewage plant there. When the development went belly-up, Dade Water found itself the owner of a wastewater facility that served a defunct luxury home subdivision mostly in another county. Anderton and Rumley have since denied the plant loses much money, but the debacle seemed to indicate then that the water board would benefit by more county supervision.
Another issue that may make a reappearance at tonight's meeting is the massive-scale logging on Lookout Mountain that brought a flood of protestors to a commission meeting last fall. The logging--and by extension the protests--had seemed to abate as 2018 came to a close, but at a radio appearance this morning Ted Rumley said the loggers would be back soon, and with a vengeance. The protests had made the absentee landowner angry, said Rumley, and: "She informed her logger that she didn't want a toothpick left on the side of the mountain."
Otherwise, tonight's agenda looks routine except possibly for an application by Windstream Services "to amend a state franchise." Windstream Services provides, among other services, high-speed internet. Expanding rural access to fast internet is a subject that recurs at local government meetings about as often as the weather; but like the weather, nobody usually does anything much about it. Still, Windstream is on the agenda.
The meeting is at 6 p.m. in the meeting room of the Dade County Administrative Building. The public is encouraged to attend.