Canyon Quick Stop owner Pam Holt (speaking) asked the Dade County Commission's help in stopping a Dollar General owner from opening across the road from her old-fashioned country store. So did neighbor Jane Horton.
Citizens from the New Salem neighborhood atop Lookout came before the Dade County Commission at its regular June meeting Thursday night to ask for help in blocking the opening of a Dollar General Store on Highway 136 East atop Lookout Mountain.
"It’s the mountain," said Pam Holt, owner of the Canyon Quick Stop at 12166 Highway 136. "Nobody wants to go camping if they look up and see a Dollar General.”
She said her own store would lose 30 to 50 percent of its business if the national discount chain store opened an outlet across from her. The Canyon Quick Stop is an old-fashioned country store with gas pumps out front and a restaurant in back that serves a lineup of short orders including biscuits, barbecue and a cheeseburger that dogs the dreams of Dade denizens on diets. It caters to Cloudland Canyon tourists with camping supplies and bait, but it also draws the resident population with basic groceries, local produce in season, beer and wine (to say nothing of the cheeseburgers). Some New Salem residents refer to it as simply "The Store."
But, insisted Ms. Holt, “I’m not against just because I own the store.” She said it was also a matter of maintaining the flavor of the neighborhood. “We want to stay rural,” she said.
Two of her neighbors had come along to add their voices to Ms. Holt's. One, Jane Horton, pointed out there were already General Dollars within a few minutes' driving distance down in Trenton. “The New Salem community is a treasure,” she said. “We don’t mind driving off the mountain for those conveniences for what we have up there.”
"It’ll just be an eyesore,” said Ms. Holt. She also pled traffic complications, and said over 2000 people were willing to sign a petition against a Dollar General. “Everybody I talked to said they would not set foot there,” she said.
She brought her case for stopping the chain store from moving in before the commission, she said, because “I just need some ideas how to go about it.”
Dade County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley initially referred the matter to Robin Rogers, the county attorney, whose remarks began: “We don’t have zoning …”
Which more or less summed up the subsequent discussion. Rumley said the Dade County Health Department was currently working through a permit process with the retail chain, and he offered to help Ms. Holt get in touch with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to check out the possibility of protecting the land as a wetland, and to help with her desire to talk to state Sen. Jeff Mullis.
But absent land-use regulations, as Robin Rogers pointed out in conclusion: "As far as the board of commissioners, there’s not a whole lot you can do.”
The Planet was unable on Friday to verify that Dollar General had started a permitting process with the health department, and a phone call to the Dollar General corporate office as to its intentions languished unreturned. In any case, the land parcels across from the Quick Stop on Highway 136 so far remain in the hands of their original owners according to the Dade tax rolls. The Planet will continue sticking its beak into this matter as it develops (and into the Quick Stop's cheeseburgers as conscience permits).
New Communications Employee
In other business, Rumley announced that Carey Fauscett Anderson had been named Dade County's new deputy clerk for public information. Ms. Anderson, who formerly held a job with Dade 4-H, "brings with her nearly 20 years of experience in client relations, business analysis and project management," according to the official announcement.
Ms. Anderson told The Planet she had just begun work on Monday and expected to be informed shortly what focus the county wished her to take, but that in general her mission was to make county government transparent and accessible. She may be reached at (423) 290-6655 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The commissioners approved SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) in the amount of $11,324.87 for hardware for a new virtual court program that will allow jail inmates to go before judges via video. “We may be the first or second county to do that,” said County Clerk Don Townsend. Chairman Rumley explained the money won’t actually be paid out until the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit officially approves the program. And he said that allowing for virtual court instead of transporting offenders, some of them violent offenders, over long distances not only should save money but enhance safety as well.
On a similar theme, the commission approved a memorandum of understanding with the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit to participate in its new accountability courts. Accountability courts include drug court and family court, legal constructs for these often nonviolent classes of offenses. County Attorney Robin Rogers said the idea was to keep as many people as possible out of jail. “It’s a cheaper way in the long run,” he said. He said LMJC had been operating the courts in the other counties under its jurisdiction but that so far few if any Dade residents had participated.
Dade County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Matt Cole asked for and was granted SPLOST funds for two new Ford Explorers with all the bells, whistles, lights and technology that now constitute standard police cruiser gear. Emergency Services Director and, incidentally, Trenton Mayor Alex Case stood up briefly to attest that he always bought new specialized car computers with new policecars these days. The grand total for both the cars and the equipment was $91,210.16, even allowing for an $8000 break Cole said he got for allowing one car to be showed off at a trade show.
A request by the Davis Fire Department for SPLOST for new radios was tabled pending further investigation as to brands.
We poor lads, 'tis our turn now
To hear such tales as killed the cow...
Some Dade Countians may have tired by now of the seemingly eternal debate about what cows on a piece of land bought by the county for a proposed reservoir, but leased back to the farmer who sold it, will be fed in the near future. Will Jack Sells be allowed to grow corn for the cud crew, or will the bovines have to stick to hay as per the lease contract? This matter has been chewed over extensively at the last couple of meetings of the commission and the county water board. But it had not lost its flavor for District 1 Commissioner Lamar Lowery, who coughed it back up at the June 6 meeting.
Lowery said he had talked to "two Dade county attorneys" who agreed that the cows could have their corn but had warned him about allowing subletting of the land and of the need to make sure the farmer carried insurance as required by the contract. “The enforcement of this contract is on our chairman," he concluded, at length.
Said chairman, Ted Rumley, referred the matter to the other Dade County attorney--OK, there may be more than three, but not that many more-- Robin Rogers, who in any case is the county attorney. Rogers said no, it was a three-way contract and the water board would have a say, too. It was generally agreed that the matter would be less confusing after July 2, when Rumley, who as it stands chairs both water board and commission, is removed as chairman of the water board in favor of one elected by that body as reshuffled by recent legislation.
But back to the cow-comestible issue: Lowery proposed amending the lease agreement with Sells. "I assume it’s the word 'hay' that’s what’s causing people concern," postulated Attorney Rogers.
District 2 Commissioner Phillip Hartline noted that he would stay strictly out of the discussion because of his brother's involvement. The Planet regrets to inform its readership it has not yet had an opportunity to pursue this interesting line of inquiry. In any case, for the time being, no action was taken on the amendment.
But speaking of the water board, Rumley announced as mentioned above the board would hold an organizational meeting on July 2, at which point it would elect officers including a new chairman. He said it might well decide to change its meeting time--currently 8 a.m. on the third Friday of the month--in order to allow more public participation. Darrell Pardue, purveyor of Rising Fawn Hardware, was named to take Eddie Cantrell's place as District 3 representative.Cantrell has been approved as representative of the city of Trenton. The other current members will remain in place, and a schedule was approved setting their terms so that one is up for reappointment each year.
No action was taken on Philip Hartline's suggestion to redo the county bid process to allow the county to pass up lowest bid in favor of best bid. A discussion ensued of change orders and discretionary spending limits. The county attorney was asked to look into what was legal in that case. He was also asked to investigate the matter of which county vehicles could be used by which county personnel for which purposes, and no action was taken there, either.
In other business...
U.S. Census employee Taylor Wilkes asked the commission's help in forming a local committee that will smooth the way for the 2020 national headcount due to begin next year. “This census is unique,” he said; it will be the first one in which participants can submit their responses online.
Wilkes said residents will get several chances to
respond online or otherwise before anybody actually knocks on their doors. He stressed that responses are kept strictly confidential and that the information gathered affects planning for the next 10 years. Roughly $1300 comes down from Uncle Sam per person based on U.S. Census data, he said, so Dade doesn't want to miss counting any heads.
In his committee report, Phillip Hartline said the county' first softball tournament at the Four Fields sports complex, which took place over the Memorial Day holiday, had gone well, raising about $1100 even after expenses. Another $500 had been raised from renting space to yardsalers during Antique Alley. These funds can help the park buy the things it needs without hitting the county up for SPLOST, he said. More tournaments are on the way, said Hartline. “Most of the teams said give us two weeks’ notice and we’ll come back any time," he reported.
District 3 Commissioner Robert Goff said SPLOST collections continue to be above $200,000 monthly. On a personal note, he said the worst part of his motorcycle accident Monday had been seeing his name under District 4 Commissioner Allan Bradford's photo in a news story about the incident that made the rounds of Facebook this week. “I thought I had died and come back as Allan Bradford,” said Goff, still visibly shaken.
(Photo: Chattanooga news outlets, take note, Robert Goff is in foreground, Allan Bradford behind. At extreme rear is Mitchell Smith, who has since stepped down, so you're in no danger there)
In one of her first jobs as public information clerk, Carey Anderson explained to The Planet that the mistake had been made by one of the Chattanooga television news channels that picked up the motorcycle accident story. The Planet will take this opportunity to point out that it is one of the perks of local newspapers such as, ahem, The Planet that they would never mistake one county commissioner for another, or misspell their names (at least since the guy with the funny Italian moniker got whipped in the 2012 primaries).
District 4' s Allan Bradford expressed similar gratitude at not being Goff. He also thanked eco-activist Jennifer Blair for Dade's first green-consciousness event a couple of weeks earlier, a library program on compost. He said the county produced 500 to 600 tons a month of garbage which it paid to have hauled away and he would be grateful for any suggestions on how to reduce that. In subsequent discussion, it emerged that newsprint is now the most profitable material the county recycles, and that it losing money on transporting other recyclables to recycling hubs.
County agent Sarah Flowers gave the monthly Dade 4-H report, along with the interesting announcement that henceforth she will be called Sarah Dyer--she has married the son of the late Ted Dyer, who was Dade's longtime county agent before his untimely death in 2012 left the county agentless for a long and unhappy stretch.
Dade County Public Library Manager Marshana Sharp announced that the Bank of Dade is now sponsoring a free family movie at the library every Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. And she warned that with the library's wildly popular Summer Reading program for children having kicked off that day, patrons who go to the libe for peace and quiet might wish to avoid the place on Thursdays until after lunchtime.
Speaking of lunch, though, she noted that, as usual, the library is distributing free children's lunches Tuesday-Friday for the federal school lunch program.
The Dade Historical Society's Donna Street also spoke, inviting those with farms that have been in their families for over 100 years to ask her about having them certified as Heritage Farms. Her email address is email@example.com.
In closing, here are a couple of important meeting announcements: The Dade County Commission's usual first-Thursday meeting date must be changed in July in deference to the July 4 holiday. Therefore, the commission will meet at 6 p.m. on July 11 instead.
Thursday, June 13, at 4:30 p.m., there will be a public hearing about adding broadband-readiness into tthe Trenton/Dade joint comprehensive plan. At 5 p.m. the same day, there will be a public hearing to discuss the proposed fiscal year 2020 Dade County budget. Then, on June 20, also at 5 p.m., there will be a special called meeting of the county commission for the purpose of adopting the budget.
All those meetings will take place in the county Administrative Building as usual.