Scott Niesen (left) and Terry Reynolds of Ragan-Smith exhibit Streetscape plans for Trenton.
The Trenton City Commission heard a presentation about Streetscapes, the long-delayed town beautification project, at its regular November meeting on Tuesday. But with construction cots soaring upward and grant money plummeting in the other direction, it doesn't look as if Trenton will be beautified any time soon.
Terry Reynolds, late of Arcadis, the architectural firm that built the new Dade courts facility 10 years ago, now with another company, Ragan-Smith, took the city through the history: The project actually began in 2005, with the premise it would be paid for 80 percent by the Georgia Department of Transportation with a 20 percent match by the city. The grant by GDOT was going to be $250,000 originally, but Dade County had been awarded a $38,000 grant it elected to walk away from rather than come up with the matching funds, and the city managed to add that to its pot. So Trenton would be eligible for $288,000 in all.
The process inched along slowly, the city paid for required permits and preliminary engineering and environmental studies--and then came the tornadoes of 2011, which wiped out the south end of town, and the project got put on indefinite hold. Now, said Reynolds, resuming the project was complicated by the fact permits had expired and construction costs had soared. It was now estimated to be about a $900,000 project, with state and federal grants paying up to $650,000 but the city on the hook for up to $250,000.
Furthermore, the city would have to pony up for most of even the covered expenses, then apply for reimbursement from GDOT, which could take time. "To strap our city for that is a hard decision to make," said Trenton Mayor Alex Case.
He probably won't have to, as it turns out. The city seemed poised to "just say no," but agreed to wait until a further conference call with GDOT the next day. Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten reported on Friday that the news from that call had been discouraging: The commission had learned that even the original $250,000 grant had dried up. She said she'd consulted State Sen. Jeff Mullis, however, and remained hopeful that something could still be worked out.
The Streetscapes project would have, among other beautifications, reworked the south end of the courthouse/town square area, making it more inviting and pedestrian-friendly.
The commission will, however, shortly beautify Trenton in a more modest fashion--hanging up the city Christmas decorations, and Commissioner Wooten did get approval for $6,037 in SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) to change the lights on the decorations to LED. Besides the energy savings, she said the city spent hundreds of dollars each season replacing lightbulbs and this should fix that.
The city commissioners also okayed $24,993 in SPLOST for a new monitoring system for the sewage system. Sewer boss Dewayne Moore said he now drives out to check all pump stations in person each day; the new system will do that electronically and will also make it easier to detect and fix problems throughout the system as they occur. A monitoring system already in place covers only 10 percent of the system, it was explained.
The commission began the bid process for two new police cars and a tag reader, also to be paid for with SPLOST.
The other big news from the Nov. 12 meeting was that--as expected--the city will raise its base sewer monthly charges by 15 percent come Jan. 1. Trenton's sewer is 60s-era and decaying rapidly, its wastewater plant is pushing 30 and in need of modernization and fire/utilities Commissioner Jerry Henegar had presented the commission a laundry list of needed upgrades several months ago.
Reese Fauscett of the library board of directors reported for the Dade Public Library that it had received a $39,000 grant to expand the "Next Chapter" library/jail project started by library manager Marshana Sharp and jailer Joseph Chambers. The project helps inmates catch up on their reading and digital skills, get their GED, improve their basic life coping mechanisms and with any luck stay out of jail next time. "We're not just doing books and stuff, we're reaching out to people who are marginalized and behind in the society and really working to help them," he said.
Fauscett enumerated the library's other local projects, from its Halloween program to summer lunch distribution, and stressed it did all it did as a part-time library. "We're $12,000 short of being able to be a full-time library."
The Dade County Board of Education, though it reaps 65 percent of the typical property tax bill, pays only 12 percent of the library's funding, according to Fauscett's report, leaving the city and state to take up the slack. He said the city pays 23 percent.
Police Commissioner Kirk Forshee reported that police fines collected for October had been $18,150.23 for a year-to-date total of $186,986.19
Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten reported routine maintenance on the city's roads but took the opportunity to brag on Trenton's greatly improved animal control department. She showed before-and-after shots of a dog rescued from a trailer where he had been abandoned to starve and was found eating the siding off the walls. Now the animal had been lovingly nursed back to health and volunteer Ann Brown had found a place for him on a rescue transport. "We've got some heroes here," said Ms. Wooten. Besides Ann Brown, she also commended city employees Kevin Bethune and Ronnie Page.
The commission held an executive session to discuss the status of several workers' compensation suits against the city.
The Trenton City Commission meets at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at City Hall. (This month it was Tuesday because of the Veterans Day holiday.) The next meeting is Dec. 9.