"They didn't even ask us": Trenton City Commission Don't Get No Respect From County

March 13, 2019

 

Approval of civic-minded citizens to sit on civic boards tends to be fairly cut and dried: The county commission ropes in, er, locates a likely prospect and induces him or her to say yes; then the county and city commissions vote to approve the appointment before the victim, er, candidate can get away. 

 

This time is turning out a bit different.

 

(Photo: File shot of Trenton City Clerk Russanna Jenkins and Mayor Alex Case) 

 

The Dade County Commission at its Thursday night meeting approved citizen Evan Stone to serve out the unexpired term on the Dade Industrial Development Authority (IDA) of lineman school magnate George Nelson, who recently left not just IDA but the county and state. But the appointment also required the approval of the Trenton City Commission, which Mayor Alex Case asked for as a routine matter at Monday night's meeting of that body. 

 

He didn't get it.

 

Instead, he got a small but intractable wave of resentment by the smaller government for the larger. "They didn't even ask us," said Fire/Utility Commissioner Jerry Henegar.

 

Here, said Henegar, was a prime example of the county's failure to communicate. The county commission had just assumed the city would rubber-stamp its decision and barreled full-steam ahead, complained Henegar, when actually: "My personal opinion is, I think it's a bad appointment."

 

Stone, pointed out Henegar, owns the local radio and TV station. Meanwhile, industries potentially interested in relocating to Dade keep their identities secret and IDA discusses those companies and the incentive deals it will offer them behind closed doors.  "IDA does everything pretty much hush-hush," said Henegar. How, he asked, would it be fair to allow Stone access to the inside dope while the other media outlets were shut out? "You've got to look at conflict of interest," he said.

 

Henegar suggested asking the Dade County Commission to find somebody else.

 

Parks and Recreation Commissioner Terry Powell expressed trust in Stone's character and good intentions, and came out in favor of the appointment. "I like Evan," he said.

 

All the commissioners were quick to avow they liked Evan, too, but in the end did not approve the appointment. Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten started out neutral--"Does it really matter?"--but was won over by Henegar's arguments and finally declared: "We're taken for granted." 

 

Mayor Case said he was torn. "It's got my mind moving," he said.

 

In the end, Case and the commissioners decided to table the appointment pending further discussion with the county.  

 

Chamber of Commerce pronounced dead

​​Another matter Case and crew decided to take up with the county was: what on earth to do about the Dade County Chamber of Commerce. "We have this money going out and we really don't know what's going on," said Commissioner Wooten (right). 

 

The city pays the chamber with its hotel/motel tax revenues to maintain a visitor's center. Historically, the Chamber's director has reported to both city and county commissions. But that stopped months ago and now, said Commissioner Wooten, she'd learned the director had quit and the chamber had moved to another location. She reminded the others she'd said

the C of C was on life support when she first brought the matter up in 2018. "I think it's dead now," she said.

 

Commissioner Wooten acknowledged that the chamber was composed of volunteers. "I know they're struggling," she said. She reminded all that Dade had other chamber-of-commerce-like groups now, including the Greater Dade Business Owners  Association. "I just wish we could figure out some way to bring these groups together," she said. "We need a chamber. There's just a built-in credibility to a chamber of commerce."

 

Mayor Case agreed, adding the interesting if tangential datum that longtime Trenton hardware purveyors the Cases had sold their hardware store to Elder Hardware, a small regional chain. "We want the businesses to survive, and the Chamber needs to be helping us," he said. But he as well as Commissioner Wooten stressed the need for accountability at the chamber. Details of how the city's money was spent would be needed for a coming audit, he said. 

 

The commission resolved it would talk to the county government about the problem. "We can't just be sitting here writing checks," said Commissioner Wooten.

 

Sitting here writing checks...

But that is exactly what the city commission decided to do about one of the chamber-like groups that made a presentation at the March 11 meeting. Jamison Griffin, the former Dade Middle School principal whom Superintendent Jan Harris replaced with Dr. Sandra Spivey in 2017, now beginning life anew as president of "Scenic Dade Development," which sprang into being the same year, asked the commission for $10,000. Mayor Case proposed sending him home with $15,000.

 

But first, the presentation: Griffin (right) said Scenic Dade would be happy to work alongside the Chamber but: "We are really specific in what we are about." 

 

And what's that? Tourism, said Griffin, after some general remarks about conservation and the environment. Specifically, Scenic Dade had hired consultant Randall Gross to do a tourism study and write a report, and Common Ground Design, an urban planning designer, to illustrate it. This was costing the group $40,000, of which $25,000 had been ponied up by "an anonymous donor"; could Trenton part with $10,000 of the remainder?

 

Why, sure, said the mayor, but if $15,000 was needed, why not take the whole amount from Trenton's hotel/motel tax revenues? In the end, though, Case was persuaded by Commissioner Henegar to give Scenic Dade only the $10K it was asking for, and hang onto the other $5000 until the $40,000 report was completed, in what Griffin called the "May-June arena." Barring atomization by a chance meteorite The Planet should still be in the arena, too, then, and will duly report any developments.

 

This place is gonna look like Atlanta...

Trenton Police Chief Christy Smith said this is the last week for early voting for a new Dade police commissioner, and that Election Day for that special polling is March 19. City voters should vote at the Dade Administration Building, not City Hall. Mayor Case added that turnout so far had been miserable. So was attendance at the commission meeting by the three competing to sit on it--not one of the police commissioner candidates showed up at this last meeting before the election. 

 

Chief Smith (left, in a file shot) also reported a city police cruiser had been damaged in a rear-ender and presented insurance estimates, to be reimbursed by the rear-ender's carrier. They were approved. She said police fines for February had been $31,292.36 for a year-to-date toal of $48,810.86.

 

Commissioner Powell reported the Trenton Civic Center had been rented for 60 hours in February and promised that the bathrooms in Jenkins Park would be opening within the next few days.

 

Commissioner Wooten said the new Trenton I-59 exit lights will be up and running by the end of May or beginning of June and the contractor had told her, "This place is going to look like Atlanta."

 

Commissioner Henegar said that after decades of service Jerry Kyzer, longtime Trenton fire chief/building inspector, was trading places with his assistant, Ansel Smith. The chief has gone part-time and Smith has been bumped up to full-time. Henegar also tossed in the newsy tidbit that the city had completed a building inspection on the old Bethune's building on Sand Mountain, which is well on its way to opening as a wedding venue. 

 

Tree City President Eloise Gass said the group had duly honored Feb. 15 as Georgia Arbor Day and reminded all who missed the ceremony that April 26 is National Arbor Day, and there will be another one then.  

 

​​Marshana Sharp, manager of the Dade County Public Library, invited all to a special computer class at the library at 5:30 p.m. on March 26. The free course will be conducted by the Bank of Dade and the topic ​​will be frauds and computer threats. She also reminded all that the library's popular Read to Lead event is upcoming on March 23, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Among other festivities, Mayor Case as well as other city, county and school officials will read to children. The ​​mayor commented that he liked to arrive early and "pre-read" before his turn in the spotlight. "[School principals] Tracy Blevins and Josh Ingle, they really up the game," he said.

 

Ms. Sharp noted that the Dade Historic Society's twice-postponed coke ovens hike is the same day but that it wouldn't begin until 1 p.m., so it was possible to attend both. In any case, the hike's past two dates have been rained out; if that trend continues so will be the potential conflict.   

 

Eddie Cantrell, member of the governing board for the Dade Water Authority, said he'd called Colton Moore, Dade's new representative in the Georgia statehouse, about the status of Dade's proposed restructuring of the water board, but had been unable to get an answer. Moore had in February announced the possibility that the reshuffle would require a public referendum rather than a simple act of local legislation formalizing the unanimous resolution of city, state and water board.

 

Cantrell said the board had narrowed its search for a replacement for Doug Anderton, the water company's manager for 47 years, but had no name to announce yet, though he added that the board's regular meeting was at 8 a.m. this Friday, March 15. 

 

He asked Ansel Smith, who had met with county fire chiefs, to describe progress on the city's nonfunctional fire hydrant problem. Smith said one hydrant at the north end of town had been repaired but that discussion where best to locate two at the south end were still ongoing. 

 

The Trenton City Commission meets at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of each month. The next meeting is scheduled for April 8.

 

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