The Planet's takeaway from Monday's regular February meeting of the Trenton City Commission is: Stop flushing weird stuff down the toilet, folks! After a way-too-graphic discussion of the city sewer's ongoing problems with materials that should never have swirled down city pipes in the first place, The Planet is torn between bringing the message stern to Trentonians versus curling up with its hands over its ears whimpering, "TMI! TIMI!"
(Photo: Dewayne Moore, Trenton's intrepid sewer boss, describes the horror of a "wet well" clog.)
But it is journalism's sacred burden to keep the public informed and thus The Planet will try to pull itself together to warn local flushers of the grim consequences of their evil ways. Both Trenton's sewer boss, Dewayne Moore, and mayor, Alex Case, described recent emergencies and everyday problems with the city wastewater treatment plant, once the city's modern pride, now pushing 30 and in frequent need of pipe replacements or part revamps.
But the biggest problem with the sewer these days is not so much the age of the works as the newfangled products that people are flushing into them, according to the officials. Cotton products, specifically, have their place in the world but are just not as flushable as their packaging makes out, intimated the mayor and the sewer super, who had both recently been knee-deep in the stuff. "We got close to a small dump-truck load of this debris," said Moore.
Wet wipes, baby wipes and feminine sanitary products (Mayor Alex Case had a hard time making himself say those words) clog the works and are burning out the pumps, said Moore and Case. "It's been an ongoing battle," said Moore.
Mayor Case described how he'd been called in to help at the sewer during a pinch. The problem with the cotton materials, he said, is that they form a grotesque black blanket that smothers everything in its path. "To see it is unbelievable," he said. "You'd think people were flushing sheets and quilts." But after its sojourn among more natural flushables, said the mayor: "It's like black slime."
Fire/Utilities Commissioner Jerry Henegar, who said the sewer department had been working with Ladd Engineering on identifying its needs and planning its future, agreed: "It's amazing what comes through that plant."
Henegar stressed that the sewer--with its concomitant problems--is only going to grow as Trenton grows and as homeowners increasingly ask to tie onto the city line.
The mayor, sewer boss and commissioner did not specifically implore the public to stop flushing unflushables; but they did rather emphatically make the point that the problem had gotten so overwhelming that the materials could not be removed by a company hired to suck them out of the "wet well" but had had to be removed by hand.
(Photo: Mayor Case and Russanna Jenkins, the new city clerk.)
"I shoveled a lot of stuff," said Mayor Case. "It's what we do for our city."
In other business...
Not much was on the formal agenda for the Feb. 11 meeting. Mayor Case described computer problems: The server that handles much of the city's business was going out and needed replacing pretty chop-chop. The commissioners approved SPLOST (special purchase local option sales tax) funds not to exceed $13,120 to replace the server including licensing and installation. They also okayed $6900 for a new lawnmower for the Streets Department.
The local school system had also recently had to replace servers in an emergency situation, at some expense; and that coincidence finally impelled The Planet to ask the question: What, precisely, is a server, anyway? Here is the answer supplied by Google: A server is a computer that serves information to other computers. These computers, called clients, can connect to a server through either a local area network (LAN) or a wide area network (WAN), such as the Internet. (Again, The Planet takes seriously its duty to keep the public informed.)
The city commissioners looked over specs for the Streetscape town beautification initiative eventually to be financed by the federal government through the Georgia Department of Transportation and discussed adding parking places and greenery to the downtown area. "That would be so much better," said Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten. But the project seems to linger in the unnamed future and no action was taken at the Feb. 11 meeting.
The mayor and two commissioners--Parks and Recreation Commissioner Terry Powell was in Atlanta for medical purposes, said the mayor--did approve the Dade/Trenton Historical Preservation Committee's request to apply for a grant for a historical survey of the Trenton area. The survey is the first step of a process to apply for more grants to, among other projects, revamp the historic county courthouse that sits abandoned in the dead center of town. The survey grant requires an $8000 local match, explained the mayor, of which the county will pay $5000 and the city $3000. "It could be another year and a half or so before it happens," said Mayor Case.
Mayor Case announced the schedule for the upcoming special election for a city police commissioner. Early voting starts Feb. 25 and lasts for three weeks, and Election Day is March 19. The last day to register to vote is Feb. 19. Reminder: City Hall has gotten out of the election business, so all city voting is now to be done at the Dade County Board of Elections in the county Administrative Building. Polls are open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. for early voting, except on Fridays when the building closes at 2 pm.; and on Election Day city residents may from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
In the absence of a sitting police commissioner--incumbent Sandra Gray left in September to marry and move out of the city limits--Trenton Police Chief Christy Smith gave the monthly police report and also made an impassioned plea for Trenton residents to turn out and vote for the candidate they feel would best lead the TPD.
(Photo: Chief Christy Smith shows the handheld scanner that has modernized police ticketing, allowing officers to scan in ticketees' driver's licenses and print out citations.)
"It's so important that we keep going forward," she said. "We're not the same department that we were two years ago."
She went over the department's accomplishments, including modernizing its equipment and ticketing procedures, upgrading its police cruisers and weapons, ministering to the city's elder population and establishing an on-site children's advocacy center. "The world's changing," she said. "Law enforcement is also changing."
Three candidates filed qualifying papers for the police commissioner slot. But as usual in a city where turnout of around 200 is about normal, none of the candidates have politicked much, only two announced their candidacy in the local press, and only one, Kirk Forshee (right), showed up at the Feb. 11 city commission meeting--though such appearances are, ahem, a free and easy way for candidates to get their faces into the local newspapers
Chief Smith also reported that collected police fines for the month of January had been $17,518.50.
Eddie Cantrell, not yet the city's representative on the Dade Water Authority's board of directors, he stressed, but its future voice there, once the board is reshaped by local legislation, reported that board members are shortly to begin sifting through candidates who have applied to replace outgoing water company manager Doug Anderton, who is resigning in June.
And speaking of resignations, Monday marked the last city commission meeting for Lucretia Houts, Trenton's duly elected city clerk for almost three decades. She spoke emotionally, saying that she had served Trenton for 29 years and two months and: "I have loved almost every minute that I've been here," said Ms. Houts.
It being, remember, the journalist's sacred duty to inform, The Planet will mention here the minute she probably didn't love: the one in November 2016 when the mayor and city commissioners quietly slipped onto its consent agenda after secret closed-door "executive" sessions, a resolution to have the city clerk's job changed to an appointed one under their control. That change was effected by the Georgia Legislature and no public announcement was made of it other than to have the clerk job removed from the ballot for the 2017 city election. (Click photo for The Planet's contemporaneous opinion piece.)
Eloise Gass of Tree City invited all to a Georgia Arbor Day observance at 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 15--that's tomorrow, folks--at the American Legion Post 106 on North Main.
Trenton Public Library Manager Marshana Sharp announced one of the "Parents' Cafe" it cosponsors with Dade First from 6-8 p.m. on Feb. 25, and reminded all of this Saturday's Dade Historical Society's hike to the Cole City coke oven ruins on Sand Mountain. Call the library to sign up at (706) 657-7857.
And Mayor Case reminded anyone looking for a job that the U.S. Census is hiring. Jobs pay from $12 to $27.50 an hour and you can apply online at 2020census.gov/jobs.
The Trenton City Commission meets at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of each Month at City Hall on North Main. The next meeting is March 11.