From left, City Clerk Russanna Jenkins, Mayor Alex Case and Commissioners Terry Powell and Kirk Forshee
Monday night’s regular April meeting of the Trenton City Commission was a short and not particularly productive one, with two of the four city commissioners out and not much on the agenda. Still, there were a few points of interest:
Ansel Smith, city building inspector and assistant fire chief, presented a new set of city inspection fees which the commission duly approved. He explained that the inspection fee for single-family dwellings is now based on the cost of the home, but the new rate will be based on square footage. The example he gave is a 2000-square-foot house that had cost $200,000. The new inspection fee would be 30 cents a square foot, or $600. Previously it would have been 02.40 times the $200,000, or $480.
That’s a pretty big jump--$120—but Smith said the amount of increase varies with cost v. size factors, and anyway Mayor Alex Smith said the city had been comparing its fees with those of neighboring municipalities. “We have really found that our costs are extremely low for this,” he said.
Other fees will also be affected. Smith said the new electrical inspection fee will be a flat $85 for residential and .006 times price for commercial installations, with a minimum of $85. Also to be added was a $25 fee for certificate of occupancy and a 50 percent penalty for those who try to avoid paying the fees.
Mayor Case said Trenton was trying to rewrite and regularize its codes and ordinances these days to make them more fair and consistent. He said the city was now dealing with ordinance books that included handwritten information. He also said Fire/Utility Commissioner Jerry Henegar, absent tonight because of his day job as a firefighter out of town, had approved the changes.
While he had the city’s ear, Smith also brought up the possibility of code specifications for tiny homes. As the trend for building these mini-dwellings takes off, many cities are making rules for minimum requirements, he said, such as just how little they can be and how permanent. “This is something to think about,” said Smith.
“This is starting to be a big thing,” agreed the mayor. He brought up the matter of zoning, whether tiny homes could go in R-1, or single-family, areas or R-2, which includes apartments, or whether they should be treated like trailers. “No offense to what we see next door here” –plastic storage building are sold from a lot adjacent to City Hall—"but people are taking them and living them,” said the mayor.
City residents lived inside Trenton city limits because they wanted neighborhoods to look a certain way, said Mayor Case, and builders who wanted to build a tiny home in town should “make it look presentable, like a home.” But nothing was formalized about tiny homes at the April 8 meeting. “Let’s do some thinking,” said the mayor.
Mayor Case announced that the first of the long-discussed pan-Dade governmental meetings, which will include the city and county commissions as well as the board of education and governing board for the Dade Water Authority, will be at 6 p.m. on Sept. 26 in the county Administrative building. Going forward, these mega-meetings are to take place twice a year on the last Thursday in March and the last Thursday in September, at 6 p.m. in the Administrative Building unless announced otherwise.
Mayor Case said the meetings would give the separate governing bodies a chance to put their heads together for the mutual good. “One of the things that we’re all going to have to work on together, especially the city and county, is our next SPLOST, probably upcoming in the March 2020 primary,” said the mayor.
SPLOST is the special local option penny sales tax that the city and county use to pay for everything from fire trucks to road repair to government buildings. Another penny of tax, the ESPLOST, does the same for the school board. These taxes must be reapproved by the voters every five years. Dade voters have historically been generous about approving SPLOST—but they recently decisively and repeatedly rejected another penny of sales tax to be used for transportation projects, the TSPLOST. What they will do in 2020 with a SPLOST renewal remains to be seen.
Eddie Cantrell, current water board member and the one slated to represent the city on that board when it is reshuffled by pending legislation, gave an informal informational presentation of the board’s doings: It had hired a new general manager for the water company, Jeff Pendergrass. Pendergrass, currently working for the city of Scottsboro, Ala., will start May 1, and Cantrell said the board would host a meet-and-greet for him.
Cantrell also updated the board about the pension plan the board had approved for the old manager, Doug Anderton: $40K a year for 10 years, financed through an insurance policy the board bought for him 15 years ago.
Finally, Cantrell said that sooner or later the water board and city must talk about extending the city sewer into the unincorporated county. “We do have some people out there who want and probably need sewer,” said Cantrell. “It seems like no one’s responsible and no one makes money on it, but people need sewer.”
It was the first regular city commission meeting for its newest member, Trenton Police Commissioner Kirk Forshee, who won his post in the special March 19 election. He reported that collected police fines for March had been $14,721.72, for a year-to-date total of $63,532.58 so far. Then he turned the floor over to Police Chief Christy Smith,
Police Chief Christy Smith reports while the water board's Eddie Cantrell listens avidly.
who said a Trenton cop wounded on the job is mending satisfactorily. She reminded all to attend the upcoming "Glow Run" child abuse awareness event on April 26—gates open at 8 p.m. at Dade High. She said the Trenton PD will host its popular Touch-a-Truck children’s gala again this summer.
Speaking of galas this summer, organizer Nathan Wooten had dropped off information with Parks and Recreation Commissioner Terry Powell about his second annual July 4 blowout celebration. . “It was a big success last year…and they’re hoping to make it bigger this year,” said Powell.
Planning for the 2019 fete includes water activities for kids, horseshoes, cornhole, old-fashioned baseball and an antique car show. The city has been asked to provide more facilities, such as plug-ins for vendors. Powell said the Trenton Civic Center will be used in this year’s activities and the city pool will be open. The TPD will close off streets to help with traffic control.
Otherwise, Powell said the civic center had been rented out 97 hours in March and that maintenance on the swimming pool, which opens May 25.
Trenton Tree City President Eloise Gass reminded the commission that April 26 is National Arbor Day. “We need to plant some trees that are visible to people going down Highway 11,” she said. She asked for location suggestions, and Mayor Case said she and the city could work with private homeowners and businesses willing to let them maintain a tree—if not, they would have to go through the state, which could be nightmarish.
New and mainstay Trenton Tree City members, respectively, Jennifer Blair (left) and Eloise Gass.
New Trenton Tree City member Jennifer Blair introduced the idea of using trees and landscaping as a way of improving life in Trenton. In researching it, she said: “I found that a lot of cities and communities are actually breaking up asphalt and planting trees.” Breaking up asphalt expanses not only provides shade and lowers temperatures, she said, it reduces flooding and stormwater risk, lowers crime rate and noise pollution, and improves the quality of existing water supply.
With that in mind, Ms. Blair presented a petition asking Ingle’s Market and Fred’s—Fred’s had just built its new store without one tree in the parking lot, she pointed out—to modify their parking lots to include landscaping. “Just a little bit of shade in a parking lot can make a huge difference,” she said.
Dade Public Library manager Marshana Sharp reminded everyone of this Saturday’s Festival of Life on the square and of the library’s accompanying health fair from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. The mayor added that the Trenton Ministry Center had arranged for a “helicopter egg drop” on Saturday as well. The Planet has no frame of reference for such a phenomenon, which seems patently at odds with the concept of a gravitational acceleration of 32 feet per second per second; and can only speculate whether the eggs will boiled before dropping; and whether that would make things better or worse. Watch this space for developments.
The mayor pointed out that no one was reporting for the Dade Chamber of Commerce but noted that the institution had recently moved to a new office on the Trenton Square, where it would be more visible to visitors. “People are getting excited again about things,” he said.
With that in mind, said the mayor, the city had paid the C of C its cut of Trenton’s hotel/motel tax for maintaining the regional visitors’ center. “We cut them a check for the past six months and we’re going to start doing that monthly,” he said.
The Trenton City Commission meets at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of the month at City Hall. The public is always most welcome.