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Lou Pape of the Chattanooga Bicycle Club speaks to the Dade County Commission about the 3-State 3-Mountain cycling event his club sponsors in May. The ride culminates in a final pedal up the precipitous slopes of Burkhalter Gap, where it has caused friction in years past with West Brow residents. Last year there were fewer problems on Burkhalter though two cyclists were hit by a car on Sand Mountain.

By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter


February’s regular monthly meeting was mostly routine business for the Dade County Commission, but Chairman Ted Rumley predicted great things on the way for the county.

First, Rumley warns residents not to hold their breath but he hopes soon to announce a solution to Dade’s “driver’s license desert” problem. “We’ve tentatively come up with, hopefully, a solution,” Rumley said during his regular monthly report.

The Georgia legislature was in session, he said, and he had met with Jeff Mullis, the Georgia state senator, and John Deffenbaugh, the Dade resident elected last year to the Georgia House of Representatives. The upshot is that things now look good for the state issuing licenses from a Dade office two days a month, said Rumley. “To me, that’s big,” he said.

He said the plan is for the state to maintain permanent equipment here as opposed to sending out a satellite contingent as was done in the past. The effort now is to locate a suitable site, said Rumley. “We’ve got two or three places that we’re looking at to show them next week,” he said.

Currently, many Dade citizens spend unhappy birthdays driving across Lookout Mountain to the state facility in Rock Spring, where they stand in line for hours. On top of that, new documentation requirements mean that some are sent home for more papers and must return for a second helping.    

A more exciting, if a bit less immediate, development Rumley discussed at the Feb. 7 meeting was the possibility of Dade becoming the conduit for water from the Tennessee River flowing southward into the thirsty mouth of the Atlanta metro area. 

Rumley read to the audience part of an email from Eugene Holmes, a longtime proponent of tapping the Tennessee at the northwest corner of Georgia, thus reclaiming what some consider Georgia’s just rights to the river which were lost due to a surveying error 150 years ago.

“They’re working on a tradeoff,” said Rumley, explaining that Holmes had written to announce that the Georgia House had just unanimously passed a resolution in favor of tapping. “This is just a real positive step right here in that direction,” he said.

The plan, first conceived after an Atlanta Journal-Constitution piece by Dade surveyor and history buff Barton Crattie some years ago, has resurfaced periodically from 2005 onward, but Rumley thinks it’s an idea whose time has come. “They’ve got to stop talking sometime and do something,” said Rumley. “They can’t make it rain.”

Rumley said Dade could profit – for once – from its peculiar geographical situation if the idea does come to fruition. “It could really drastically affect our tax base,” he said.

District 2 Commissioner Scottie Pittman had glad tidings as well: Davis Community’s dream of having its own community center seems finally on the brink of realization. Davis, which is the only district in the county that does not have such a center, should have both a community building and walking track by summer, said Pittman. 

Donna Street, the county’s unofficial grant writer, was tracking down money for the project, said Pittman, and he reminded citizens that community centers could be used not just for official business but any event – birthday parties, family unions, block parties. 

But Pittman said he could use a little cooperation getting it done. “Anybody that’s interested in being a part of this, give me a call,” he said. 

Pittman’s telephone number is (423) 413-6572.

District 3 Commissioner Robert Goff warned about the state’s new vehicle ad valorem tax procedure set to take effect in about six weeks. “It’s going to catch a lot of people by surprise because it’s new,” said Goff.  “All across the state, tax commissioners are dreading March.” 

Under the new rules, car buyers pay ad valorem on vehicles when they purchase them, whether new or new-to-them, but they do no pay ad valorem in subsequent years.

District 4 Commissioner Allan Bradford, new to the commission this year, had as his first committee assignment a certain problem “dumped,” as it were, in his lap. As the commissioner now in charge of the county transfer station, Bradford inherits responsibility for the monthly “State of the Dump” address and must explain to taxpayers why the county has continued to represent itself as recycling glass when it has been putting their carefully sorted bottles and jar into the landfill (see accompanying article).

Mitchell Smith of District 1 in his monthly address reminded the commissioners that the Chattanooga Bicycle Club’s annul 3-State 3-Mountain bike ride is upcoming in early May. He said his big worry about the race is Highway 299, where trucks leave I-59 for the truck stations there, and where thousands of riders will turn onto Highway 11. “That intersection can be deadly,” he said.

But Lou Pape, addressing the commission on behalf of CBC, said last year the cycling club had had a rest station at the BP at 299 and had experienced no trouble there. He said event organizers were happy to station police officers anywhere Dade officials thought them needed. “We’re open to suggestions,” he said.

He said Burkhalter Gap Road, the last leg of the annual ride, should not be congested by bike traffic for as long this year. The race is organized into shorter and longer rides – 100 miles, 80 miles and downward – and Pape said last year organizers observed that some participants were doing the longer ride who shouldn’t have been. This year stragglers would be weeded out, he said.

Chairman Rumley said safety for the biking event as it passes through Dade would be in the hands of Dade’s new sheriff, Ray Cross. He said meetings would begin this week to coordinate between CBC and Dade officialdom.

Katie Hammond, Dade’s agricultural extension agent since August, addressed the governing body briefly. She said 4–H was going strong and reported on various 4–H programs including shotgun instruction, poultry judging and the new robotics project, in which participants had made a marshmallow catapult. She said she and coworker Rich LaValla would love it if volunteers stepped up to share their skills and talents and expand the project base. 

The 4-H number is (706) 657-4116.

In other business, the commission accepted a bid to replace scoreboards at the county athletic fields; resolved to reapply as it does every year for its federal grant for transportation for the senior center; declared Feb. 15 Arbor Day; reappointed Eddie Cantrell to the Dade Water Authority’s board of directors; approved a refinance of its energy conservation program with Chevron to take advantage of today’s lower interest rate; and voted to adopt a final budget resolution for fiscal year 2012 at the advice of the county’s auditors. 

Speaking of whom, Ladell McCullough and Jason Martin of the Chattanooga accounting firm Henderson Hutcherson McCullough gave the county its annual finance report. They reported Dade was doing as well as could be expected in bookkeeping with such a small staff, though it had deficiencies that could only be corrected with greater monitoring. They reported no major problems.

Also on the financial front, chief appraiser Paula Duvall of the Dade County Tax Appraiser’s office gave her own yearly report on the county’s sales ratio, the relationship between tax values and market values.  She reported that the task of keeping that number in touch with reality was complicated by new state rules requiring her office to take as fair market value bank sales after foreclosures as well as other special situations.

She reminded the audience that her office was required to review each property on the county’s tax rolls every three years and that a visit from her staff by no means automatically means a tax increase. “It’s just data collecting,” she said.

Library manager Marshana Sharp announced the library and its nonprofit Friends Group would host a dinner on March 22 for local leaders to brainstorm together on how to save the library. As it stands the library is funded only through June.

The commission held a rare and rather lengthy executive session but returned with nothing to report from it. 

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