Last Thursday, June 13, the Dade County Commission had not one, not two but three separate events, all rolled into one (sparsely attended) assemblage in the Administrative Building.
The action—such as it was—started at 4:30 p.m. with a public hearing on amending the Trenton/Dade joint comprehensive plan to include broadband readiness. Dade County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley read a declaration that Trenton and Dade had both identified areas that were underserved in the internet department, which means now that they have download speeds of less than 25 mbps (megabits per second). This, said the document, means that Dade kids can't do their homework and Dade adults are prevented from working at home. Under new legislation, said the county boss, money will become available to help spur broadband internet expansion into those underserved pockets.
Trenton Telephone/TVN employee Adam Austin was at the hearing to speak for his company, which is the chief internet provider for most of Dade. He said the internet coverage map provided with the county document was out of date. “We’re currently at 55 percent coverage with 100 mgs-plus service throughout our service area,” said Austin He explained that that doesn’t mean all of Dade--the north end of the county had always been AT&T’s territory north of Pope Creek, though TVN does offer fiber service in Wildwood south of Pope Creek.
Austin said TVN is about to roll out a new satellite-assisted product that will deliver eligible customers 25 to 50-mg service. “We actually finalized that yesterday,” he said. Packages will start at about $69.95 a month for the slower speed, $99.95 for the faster, he said.
TVN, said Austin, is working to expand fiber optic coverage in the county at about 15 miles a year. “There’s no grants available to us through the federal or state government currently,” he said.
“I think that’s going to change,” said Rumley. “There’s a lot of stuff happening quick.” He said the feds were as anxious to expand broadband now as they were to bring electricity to the country in the last century, and that he understood local providers like TVN would be given first dibs but that there would be no territorial boundaries for expansion.
There were none now for internet, said Austin. “Anybody can build over us,” he said.
Austin said an up-to-date map for local internet availability can be viewed at TVN’s website, tvn.net.
Next was a second public hearing for Dade County’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget. It totals $10,715,000, and Rumley thanked all department heads, staff, the county attorney and especially the sheriff--“That’s where the big money’s at, that and the jail,” said the Boss—for helping keep costs down.
Dade Sheriff Ray Cross, attending the meeting, took the opportunity to speechify a little, not about the budget but about law enforcement, drugs and the upcoming Bonnaroo weekend. “This Bonnaroo thing is not designed for drugs,” said the sheriff, evidently referring to local law enforcement’s annual harvest of illegal drug-laden vehicles bound for the music blowout in Tennessee. “Every year there’s one or two they find dead.”
(Sheriff Cross, shown in this file shot with Chief Christy Smith, Trenton's pulchritudinous police pontiff)
If his department can get some of those dangerous drugs off the street, said Cross, “I don’t care what it takes.” And while he was on the subject, he clarified that he stood by the regional sheriffs’ statement against marijuana. “This drug epidemic is just terrible,” he said. Marijuana was fine for treating children with seizures, but “We’re not for the recreational use of marijuana,” said Cross. “If people don’t like it that’s too bad.”
Back to the budget: It is expected to be finalized at another special called meeting at 5 p.m. this Thursday, June 20.
Finally, the commission convened formally at 5:30 p.m. for a special called meeting to hear a SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) from the Davis Volunteer Fire Department for some new radios and pagers. Chief Mark Gibson made the request
armed with quotes, proposals and price breakdowns, for a total of $26,952. After 40 minutes of questioning every detail--how many radios, how many pagers, who should carry them and what brand should be used--the commission gave the chief precisely what he had asked for in the first place.
Again, the commission meets again this Thursday, the 20th, to approve the budget, and then on July 11 for its next regular monthly meeting.