Barbara Havlin speaks to the Dade County Commission about the need for an animal shelter in the county.
At its regular February meeting on Thursday, the Dade County Commission gave a sympathetic ear if nothing else to proponents of a county animal shelter. Animal rescuers Barbara Havlin, Jennifer Galyean and Misty Stone introduced themselves to the commissioners, told them they were gathering signatures on a petition in support of building a shelter, and answered the commissioners' questions.
Which were legion. How much would the shelter cost? asked the commissioners. Who would staff it? SPLOST (special purpose local option sales) could be used to build the shelter, but operating it would have to come out of the general fund, said newly-elected District 1 Commissioner Lamar Lowery; so how many employees must be paid? Would it be a no-kill shelter or, er, the other kind? "At what point would you quit spending money on an injured dog?" asked newly elected District 2 Commissioner Phillip Hartline.
The rescuers fielded the questions as best they could--details as follows--and told the commissioners they'd have a more formal presentation prepared by next month's meeting.
Dade voters long ago--it's been talked about since 1992, said County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley--approved a county shelter as a SPLOST project, but historically, every time anybody brings up the idea of actually breaking ground on one, the notion is quickly euthanized amid fears about cost. The city of Trenton operates a tiny, overextended pound, and the county coordinates with the city on its own stray animal problem--"We get calls weekly," said Rumley--but in absence of a county shelter relies heavily on volunteers to make the problem, or anyway the individual animal, go away case by case.
Barbara Havlin, speaking first, said she'd had it with that status quo. She's been taking in strays to foster and adopt until she burned out, she said, on trying to save Dade dogdom all by herself. "There's going to be a shelter built before I meet my maker," she vowed.
Ms. Havlin said most animal rescuers like herself were "lone wolves" but now the modern communication breakthrough of the internet has allowed them to connect and they are determined to work together to make the shelter a reality. (If readers would like to join them, the volunteers have a Facebook page, Friends Of The Future Dade County Animal Shelter.) Now a core group of these volunteers are visiting nearby shelters, looking up regulations on shelter construction, and of course garnering support. "We're doing our research," said Ms. Havlin.
In answer to the kill v. no-kill question, Ms. Havlin and Ms. Galyean agreed that as a practical matter, no-kill really doesn't exist. "There's no such thing as a zero-kill shelter," said Ms. Galyean. Ms. Havlin said shelters that tried for no-kill found themselves warehousing vicious or sick animals indefinitely. "That's no life for a dog," she said. As for how much to spend on a sick animal, Ms. Galyean said the shelter like any other institution would have a budget and strive to stay within it.
And as for staffing the prospective shelter, Ms. Havlin, Ms. Galyean and Ms. Stone said probably some employees would be needed--nearby shelter usually had about three, they reported--but said all animal shelters were a huge volunteer opportunity and also relied heavily on donations.
Jail trusties could be used in the Dade shelter, they suggested. Dade's "men in yellow" already keep the county running, landscaping, cleaning, decorating, setting up and staffing county special events and assisting with local elections; maybe the animal shelter could afford female trusties a chance to get out of their cells a little, too. High school students might also be grateful for the opportunity to get volunteer hours in, they said. "We're willing to look at anything and everybody," said Ms. Havlin.
(Photo: Jail trusties help Tree City's Eloise Gass clear flowerbeds.)
The activists also spoke of the importance of spay-and-neuter programs in taking care of the stray animal problem at its root, and of their reliance on animal transport rescue groups that took strays to the Northeastern states, where stricter spay-neuter laws had already alleviated much of the problem, so that it was easier to find adoptive homes for unwanted animals from down here.
Ms. Havlin said she was looking for grant money but warned that some grants could only be accessed once a physical shelter was built. Site-wise, she and the other volunteers had no objection to county land available near the transfer station, and building-wise they wouldn't be fussy except for certain objections Ms. Havlin posed to a pure cinderblock building, which she explained presented certain cleaning and sanitary challenges. "We don't want to build a jail for dogs," she said.
The commission heard her out. "We're not against this," said District 4 Commissioner Allan Bradford. Lowery thanked the speakers for being "sensible," and Hartline said, "I'm going to want numbers." None of the commissioners shot the petitioners down but neither did any step forward to champion them.
In any case, Ms. Havlin said she and the others would be back in March to discuss "how we can help you help us."
Jamey Blevins and his Boy Scouts led the Pledge of Allegiance at the Feb. 7 meeting.
In other business...
In more routine proceedings, Dade County Clerk Don Townsend said he'd received no bids for a new roof on the North Dade Fire Department building. "Do you know a roofer?" he solicited. Interested parties may call (706) 657-4625 or check out "Bid Opportunities" on the county website, dadecounty-ga.gov.
North Dade will get its new roof as soon as anyone steps up to put one on, but the fire department's request for $60,000 in SPLOST (special project local option sales tax) funds for a used ladder truck got an answer of Try Again Later. The FD's Chris Lowrance made the case that not having one negatively impacted the area's ISO number, the insurance industry rating that determines how much locals will pay in homeowners' insurance premiums.
But Chairman Rumley said the Trenton FD had a ladder truck North Dade could use in a pinch. "That's a tremendous amount of money to spend," he said, and other commissioners pointed out that North Dade planned to spend $20,000 to expand its building, didn't know how much a roof was going to cost yet and wouldn't have a place to put the truck until it got its building sorted out anyway. So come back another time, they said, and meanwhile Rumley asked Lowrance (left) to provide a copy of any ISO reference to a ladder truck.
The commission okayed the Dade/Trenton Historic Preservation Committee to apply for a $15,000 grant to do a historical survey of Dade's historical buildings which Clerk Townsend explained was the first step of the committee's quest for other preservation grants. There is an $8,000 local match for that grant which will be shared by Dade and Trenton, he said.
Also approved by the commission was the county's application for $3 million in LMIG (local maintenance and improvement grants) from the Georgia Department of Transportation to pave county roads. "We won't get that," said Rumley. The county applies for funds to fix all its roads that need fixing, but what Dade will really receive in LMIG is closer to $345,000, he predicted. Or, as newly-elected District 1 Commissioner Lamar Lowery put it: "We're going to get about 10 percent of what we need." He lamented that TSPLOST, a proposed extra penny of sales tax to be used for transportation, had not passed a referendum last year
Travis McDaniel (right) was approved to replace Charles Breedlove on the governing board of the Dade County Water Authority. The commission also accepted the resignation of George Nelson from the Dade Industrial Development Authority and announced it was looking for a replacement. Call the county commission office if interested--(706) 657-4625. Nelson, the founder and CEO of the Southeast Lineman Training Center, has remarried and moved with his bride out of the county, Rumley explained later.
Three interesting-looking resolutions on the agenda--"non-retaliation county policy?" "possession of weapons?" "workplace violence?"--turned out to be county employee handbook passages the county attorney was working on, and as he hadn't finished with them they were tabled until next month. Similarly, a resolution on solid waste fee increases had to be put off because a representative from the contractor, Republic Services, had not shown up at the Feb. 7 meeting.
But the commission did approve resolutions agreeing to an intergovernmental agreement to hold Trenton's special election March 19 for a new police commissioner; renew its contract with TAG (Transportation Alliance Group), a subcontractor for the Department of Human Services, to administer a $49,338 grant that pays for seniors to ride public transit; apply for a supplemental $50,000 LMIG grant that will pay for road striping and guardrails; and renew its memorandum of understanding with the UGA Cooperative Extension, which provides Dade its county agent.
Clerk Townsend also introduced the commissioners to the idea of applying for a grant from GDOT's "TAP"--Transportation Alternatives Program." GDOT, he explained, was pushing rural counties to invest in facilitating "nontraditional" modes of transportation such as walking paths and bicycle lanes. The county could partner with the city of Trenton or the Industrial Development Authority in applying for such a grant, said Townsend.
Besides the shocking and revolutionary concept of human feet as a mode of transportation, another downside of these TAP grants is that they require matching funds from the local government, and Townsend said the minimum amount a government could apply for was $1 million. "I don't like the 50/50," said Rumley.
So no action was taken, but Townsend urged the commissioners to give it some thought. "GDOT is trying to give rural communities money," he said. "Read the information. Don't get scared by the numbers."
The commission then heard exhaustively from William Back, director of IDA, which had been unable to form a quorum for its last meeting. Back covered the usual: his yearning to bring a hotel to the Highway 299 area and a work program IDA had instituted in coordination with Dade High School that allows at-risk students to work in local industries, designed to help keep young people from leaving Dade after graduation as well as to supply local employers with badly-needed bodies. One of IDA's key missions is to bring more jobs to Dade, but Back explained at the Feb. 7 meeting there aren't enough workers available to fill the ones Dade has. "One of our biggest challenges is the workforce," he said.
In his monthly address to the public, District 1's Lamar Lowery expressed satisfaction that county meetings were now live-streamed on Facebook. "A lot of people, that was their big complaint, that they weren't getting enough information," he said.
District 2's Phillip Hartline reported a consummation devoutly to be wished: With ball games and practice now starting back up at the Four Fields athletic complex, the new pavilions there at long last now have picnic tables. Hartline also said he was exploring recruiting tournaments to the park to bring in revenue.
District 3's Robert Goff announced that county SPLOST collections had been over $200,000 for the sixth straight month, another consummation the county had wished fairly devoutly for during the several years SPLOST sagged miserably. He then read at some length analytics from Facebook for the county's FB page. In reaction to complaints that the county government did not communicate well with its constituents, the county in 2018 hired a full-time communication director who updates the county page faithfully (left).
District 4's Allan Bradford, in addition to his monthly State of the Dump report--500 tons of garbage were processed at the county transfer station in January, he said--also reported on the long-awaited Tire Amnesty Day last month, which he described as a wild success. Except for one nasty confrontation with an illegal would-be
dumper--"You can always count on Alabama," said Bradford--the free-tire-disposal day went smoothly despite long lines of participants, said the commissioner. He thanked jail trusties for their ceaseless hours of labor, without which the event would not have been possible, and promised another amnesty day as soon as could be arranged, though: "We've to finish the paperwork for this one before we start another one."
County boss Rumley in his own report said he'd met with Colton Moore, Dade's newly-elected voice in the Georgia House of Representatives, and that Moore was duly taking Dade's request to reshape its water authority board of directors before the Legislature. He also said the county's long, long vigil to make its dam at Lookout Lake right with the state government looked closer to a conclusion, though he owned that that conclusion had eluded the county some 15 years. He also opined about the aforementioned historical survey of the county: "It sound like small news now but it'll be big news when it happens."
Alex Case reported in his capacity as mayor of Trenton that GDOT's revamping of the city's I-59 exit lighting was "pretty well on schedule" but that commuters might start noticing some lane closures this week. In his capacity as the county's emergency services director he reported that the new federally-funded emergency alert towers (locally known as sireens) were now installed at Davis School and the Four Fields. Rumley asked him about the tornado shelters the county is also awaiting. "It's in FEMA's hands," said Case.
Reporting for the Dade County Public Library, Donna Street stressed that the library was still recruiting families for its Prime Time program that began last week. This free Tuesday-night program is aimed at helping children 6 to 10 improve their academic performance but includes supper and activities for the entire family. Call the library (706-657-7857) to register; it's not too late. Ms. Street also invited library patrons to read 140 free magazines online using the library's GALILEO system. "Please take advantage of these free things your government pays for," she said.
County Agent Sarah Flowers reported for 4-H: There will be a career fair for middle schoolers on Feb. 20, a fruit tree field day on Feb. 27 and a free chainsaw safety class on Feb. 28. For more information call her office at (706) 657-4116.
Returning to the podium to speak for the Dade County Historical Society, Donna Street reminded all to come to this Saturday's hike to the historical Cole City coke ovens--sign up at the library--and also reminded the audience that historical Dade 2019 calendars can still be had at the library for $10.
The Dade County Commission meets at 6 p.m. the first Thursday of each month in the county Administrative Building. Then next meeting is on March 7.