At its regular monthly meeting on Jan. 2 , the Dade County Commission approved $139,739.44 for three sheriff's department vehicles and $21,789 for a new metal detector/security station for the county courts facility.
County Jailer Joseph Chambers, who presented these requests, also made the case for a new section of fencing behind the Justice Building. "The dynamics of our building have changed over the years," he said. Where there was once a courtroom is now the jail kitchen, and right behind the parking lot for that is Dade Elementary School, which keeps roughly the same working hours. Chambers said the occasional incident had jarred law officers' nerves from time to time. One way or the other, he felt a fence was in order and the commission okayed up to $5631 in SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) for it.
SPLOST will also pay for the security checkpoint and two of the sheriff's cars, but it was clarified that a part of the cost of the third vehicle will be covered by insurance payout for a wrecked K-9 vehicle. The K-9 housing unit, said Chambers, will be installed on one of the existing cruisers because it won't fit on the new models.
Speaking of SPLOST, a resolution to "reimpose, levy and collect SPLOST--Ballot Question" was discussed briefly but tabled for another day. Dade's one-cent SPLOST will expire in 2021 year unless voters vote to renew it this year. County Clerk Don Townsend explained later that the wording of the SPLOST ballot question--as well as the moving of the SPLOST vote from March to May--was included in an intergovernmental agreement with the Trenton City Commission already approved. What's left is the formality of calling for the referendum, which authorizes the Dade Board of Elections to notify the Georgia Secretary of State and so forth. That, he said, will happen at the February meeting.
As far as public meetings seeking input from citizens on what projects they'd like in the SPLOST, and explaining to them the benefits of voting to renew the tax, the commissioners mentioned nothing of the kind at the Jan. 2 meeting though Townsend later said he believed they did still intend to take the matter before the community.
The SPLOST referendum is now scheduled for May 19, on the general primary ballot.
In other business, Alicia Juhl of the Chattanooga accounting firm Henderson, Hutcherson & McCullough presented the annual county financial report and announced that Dade had received a clean audit this year. She congratulated the county for an increase of $614,000 in its general fund. County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley took the opportunity to point out how hard the commission had worked to get the fund balance up. “A lot of counties don’t even have fund balances,” he said.
“Ted’s done a really good job of leading us financially,” said District 1 Commissioner Lamar Lowery. Rumley in turn thanked all the departments for their thrift, “especially the jail and sheriff.”
The commission approved as routine business its grant application with the Transit Alliance Group, the contractor that administers the federal money that underpins Dade's public transportation service, and a memorandum of understanding with the Family Crisis Center, which provides crisis services for Dade and its neighboring counties. “You really wouldn’t believe how much of this is out there,” said Rumley.
Another agenda item was formal approval of 2020 election fees. The majority of county elected offices are up for grabs this year, and those wishing to grab them must first ante up a qualifying fee of 3 percent of the position's starting salary. That requirement and those fees are set at the state level but are available for view on the Dade County website. A schedule of them is at right.
Boss Rumley spoke about the Georgia Department's project--starting next week--of raising county bridges over the interstate. Beginning Jan. 13, Deer Head Cove Road, also called Puddin' Ridge Road, will be down to one lane of traffic while the Rising Fawn bridge over _-59 is raised. Portable traffic lights will be put in place to help traffic flow. For questions or problems with the traffic light please call the Dade County Sheriff’s Office at (706) 657-3233.
Rumley said the interstate improvement is to facilitate not as he previously thought the trucking industry but the U.S. military, which would commandeer the interstates in the case of war. Some military equipment, apparently, will not fit under bridges at their present height. He said interstates are kept straight even in mountainous areas so that military airplanes can land on them.
Rumley said two county road bridges in Rising Fawn are also shortly to be revamped 100 percent at federal cost, the ones on Old Cloverdale Road and on Deerhead Cove Road where it crosses Allison Creek.
(File shot of the Lookout Lake Dam. It's an old-fashioned earthwork not approved by modern Safe Dams expert, though Rumley swears it will endure until a' the seas gang dry. The plan is to lower water levels to make it comply with state rules.)
District 4 Commissioner Tommy Bradford added that Fawn Dawn Drive in New Salem will shortly be closed for up to 90 days as work finally begins on the long-discussed Lookout Lake Dam project. The water level of the lake is to be lowered to make the dam compliant with Georgia standards. But, as has often been the case, delays are possible, especially if it rains.
Bradford in his monthly State of the Dump report said the county transfer station had processed 687 tons of garbage in December.
In his monthly address, District's 1 Lamar Lowery read county emergency services statistics including 38,436 calls for whole year--that's 105 calls a day on the average, he said--and mentioned the importance of SPLOST in buying police cars and 911 equipment.
Lowery also brought up the matter of a proposed amendment to the county's liquor ordinance, tabled since November. He'd talked to the owners of Oak Leaf Cottage about their requested changes. “They’re not wanting to sell it, they’re just wanting to have a bartender there as an extra measure of security,” he said. County Attorney Robin Rogers agreed that it might not be necessary to amend the ordinance to allow for bartenders.
The other proposed change, Commissioner Hartline's request to make the rules for where distilled spirits may be sold the same as those for fermented beverages, was not mentioned this month. It had been approved by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board but pretty much shot down by the county commissioners at their November meeting though no vote was taken then.
District 3 Commissioner Robert Goff said SPLOST collections for December were down a little but still over $200,000. He said if citizens were worried their names had been among those deleted from the rolls in Georgia's massive voter purge, they may call the local board of elections. That's (706) 657-8170.
Dade County workers and a "man in yellow," one of the jail trusties without whose cheerful labor the county might well grind to a halt, plant a willow oak at the Four Fields on Wednesday.
District 2's Phillip Hartline, whose committee assignment is the Four Fields, said the staff there is doing some purging of their own, taking out all the Bradford pear trees and replacing them with willow oaks. Bradford pears, whose fluffy white flowers are the regional harbingers of spring, have lost popularity in recent years. Dade institutions have been participating enthusiastically in the national pogrom since the county courthouse was denuded of the trees some 15 years ago.
The monthly county commission meeting may be developing a new monthly tradition: the State of the Dollar General report. Rumley reported that the Dollar General store going up in Rising Fawn was behind schedule while Commissioner Bradford said a foundation had been poured for the one in New Salem.
Spencer Hogg of the Joint Development Authority spoke to the commission briefly about what JDA does for Dade. He said it was cheaper to market regionally than county by county, for one thing, and that for another participating counties can offer prospective industries a $500-per-employee jobs credit. He also said JDA was Dade’s link to show biz in that it liaises with the Georgia Film Commission. And he offered to write letters of recommendation for any grants the county applied for.
The commission tabled discussion on its proposed zoning ordinance until after a Jan. 7 meeting (article on that meeting to follow), and set a public hearing on the proposed ordinance for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 30, in the Administrative Building.
Manager Marshana Sharp announced the Dade County Public Library's "Winter Reading Challenge" for kids and adults to read 500 minutes in January. Go to chrl.org to sign up. The library is participating in a regional contest and if it wins, it will get $500 for new books.
(Photo of Ms. Sharp's festive footwear courtesy Carey Anderson)
Ms. Sharp said the library would be running its acclaimed Next Chapter program for jail inmates January through March. The library has already received tax forms for 2019, she said, plus: “We have a lot of things that people don’t know we have.”
These include a photo center where patrons can print pictures up to banner size, digitize old slides, scan old photos or print house plans. "We charge for paper and ink but it's very low-cost," she said.
The Dade County Commission meets at 6 p.m. the first Thursday of every month in the Administrative Building. The next meeting is Feb. 6--though again, a public meeting on the county's proposed zoning ordinance will happen before that, at 6 p.m. on Jan. 30.