By ROBIN FORD WALLACE
No snow fell on the Dade County Commission’s final meeting of the year last Thursday, but still there seemed a certain muffled quiet about it after the raucous goings-on of the November session, when a former county executive and the sitting schools superintendent squared off over a tax break for wealthy seniors.
All commissioners were present for the Dec. 5 meeting, but they did not revisit the controversy surrounding the so-called 65/5 tax exemption; nor they did not take up, as Executive Chairman Ted had predicted they might, ongoing financial crises at Hutcheson Medical Center, the public hospital Dade shares with Walker and Catoosa counties.
Rather, the body began the December meeting with board appointments: Dade’s 911 boss, Alex Case, was reappointed to the regional Emergency Medical Services Council, and Dennis Kelley of Puckett EMS was appointed to replace Tommy Lawson on the same panel. Aubrey Black was reappointed to the Dade County Board of Tax Assessors and Dorayne Stephens to the Alcoholic Beverage Control, or so-called beer board.
The commissioners voted to allow pre-approved SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) funds by the West Brow volunteer fire department including $1,556 for Motorola equipment and $4,539.75 for light boxes and smoke machines. They provisionally approved a similar request by the Davis volunteer FD for $4,648.80, on the condition Davis obtain another quote for the goods as required by county protocol.
The commission declared as surplus a treadmill that the county had cleared out of the Justice Building and donated to the county senior center, where Chairman Rumley said it was getting good use. He explained that declaring the item surplus was a necessary formality to make the transfer legal.
Also declared surplus were two vans used at the senior center that the county was replacing under a federal grant. “It’s a good deal for us and a good deal for the seniors,” said Rumley.
The vans, supplied with federal dollars, are replaced when they get to a certain mileage and sent to the state for auction, but Rumley said they are in excellent condition and recommended the auction to any church or similar group looking for reliable wheels. “If you get one of those vans, you’re going to get a good deal,” he said.
Revisions to the county employee handbook had been slated for tonight but County Clerk Don Townsend said the county had decided to table the matter until it was seen how the soon-to-be-implemented Affordable Care Act impacted health insurance. “We weren’t 100 percent sure so we want to wait,” said Townsend.
The commission voted as it does every year to renew Dade’s agreement with the regional public defender’s office headed by attorney David Dunn, which serves Dade as well as Walker, Catoosa and Chattooga counties. Dunn did not attend as he usually does to make his case but renewal was not a hard sell, apparently, and the motion passed without discussion.
In other matters legal, the commissioners dealt with three resolutions all meant to finalize details on a long-agreed land swap between the county and the Georgia Forestry Commission. The county two years ago agreed to give GFC a spot near the county athletic fields on Highway 11 South in return for the lot in downtown Trenton where its earlier office was destroyed by the tornados of 2011. GFC has long since built its new office, but now, as County Attorney Robin Rogers explained, more paper had to be pushed to make the legal descriptions on the deeds match as they concerned Robert A. Ryan Senior Road, a small byway near the new GFC office.
Rumley said afterward that concluding the legal maneuvering would free the old GFC site for use by Dade, or for sale.
District 1 Commissioner Mitchell Smith reported he had been unable to attend the informational meeting held Dec. 3 about coming construction on the Highway 299 bridge in his district (see related article), but that Wildwood resident Rex Harrison had stood in for him. In any case, said Smith, the work was not scheduled until 2015. “It’s a ways off and you could get tired of hearing about it between now and then,” he said.
Harrison stood up later to give a synopsis in Smith’s stead. He said that though the Georgia Department of Transportation assured the old bridge would be demolished and the new one slid into place between a Friday night and the ensuing Monday morning, the replacement bridge still had to be assembled at a site alongside the highway. “You’re probably looking at six or eight months of construction,” said Harrison. “It’ll be a headache to us, somewhat, for more than that one weekend.”
Harrison said the public meeting had been interesting, and urged Dade residents who’d missed it to attend if GDOT gives another one.
County Clerk Townsend had given an exhaustive report of Dade’s financials – sales taxes are still down, he said – and Robert Goff of District 3 furnished a brief recap, urging county residents to shop at home.
Goff besides serving on the commission’s financial committee is its liaison with the Georgia legislature, and he also urged residents to pay attention to bills their lawmakers have in the works before it’s too late. The Dade tax office had just alerted him of a proposed bill that would require tractor-trailer owners to pay their vehicular taxes in the capital. “Atlanta’s going to be holding money that ought to be in Dade County,” said Goff.
Legislation may be previewed at the county commissioners’ advocacy group website, accg.com, reminded Goff. “Give Mr. Deffenbaugh and Mr. Mullis a call and tell them to think about Dade County when they make their votes,” he said, referring to Dade’s representatives in the Georgia House and Senate.
Allan Bradford of District 4 had little to say but thanked the employees of the county transfer station, his committee assignment, for doing a good job. Scottie Pittman of District 2 said of his committee area, the county athletic complex, that he had little to report because football, baseball and soccer were all over by now.
But Ted Rumley in his own monthly report said the county was now moving to keep its promises at the athletic complex, looking for grants to improve the soccer fields among other projects. He said the county should be able to install new playground equipment there by spring and replace cracked bleachers “as soon as the weather breaks.”
Rumley also said he would attend a closing scheduled for today, Dec. 11, on a sale of Preserve at Rising Fawn land (see related article). “We should receive Dade County taxes and school taxes that day,” he said.
Marshana Sharp, manager of the Dade County Library, reminded all of the annual Dade Christmas parade this Saturday. The parade is at 5 p.m. but the library will open an hour earlier, from 4-8 p.m., to participate in the Christmas on the Square event and to hold fundraising events including craft and book sales and a silent auction sponsored by the library’s nonprofit Friends group.
Ms. Sharp also invited the county to a free Christmas movie at the library next Tuesday, Dec. 17, at 5 p.m.; and she announced that the library would shortly unveil 15 new Chromeboxes it had acquired through a state grant. Chromeboxes connect users directly to the Internet, where they can access their “cloud” accounts, without the expense and potential trouble of a full PC. “We’re hoping to go live on the 19th,,” said Ms. Sharp.
Tom Black of the regional mental health board announced he would attend a meeting on Thursday in Ballground to identify gaps in area mental health services.
Cody Doyle reported for area 4-H.
Chris Musser of the Dade Chamber of Commerce announced the C of C had formed an internship arrangement with his alma mater, Covenant College. “You’re probably going to see a bunch of starry-eyed college students coming down here starting in January,” said Musser.
The next Dade County Commission meeting is scheduled for Jan. 2.