By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
At its regular October meeting last Thursday, the Dade County Commission decided to hedge its bets on an energy excise tax the state is phasing out and that counties and cities must decide by the end of the year if they wish to collect on their own.
Earlier, Dade County Executive and Commission Chairman Ted Rumley had seemed inclined to dismiss the tax, which is levied on industries not individuals, as bringing in so little it was a toss-up whether to keep it or eliminate it in the cause of encouraging business.
At the Oct. 4 meeting he seemed less sure. “There’s no way we know what we’re going to lose,” he said. He recommended that commissioners renew the tax for at least a year while they investigate just how much is at stake. “If it’s in the hundreds of thousands, we need to talk about it,” said Rumley.
He said neighboring Walker County had opted to renew the tax.
District 1 Commissioner Mitchell Smith asked if there wasn’t a formula for estimating the revenue, but District 4’s Peter Cervelli, usually the commission’s numbers man, had none to offer. “Whether they can break it out or not, I don’t know,” he said.
The commissioners agreed to keep the levy – “It’s not a new tax. It’s just a continuation of an existing tax,” said Cervelli – but County Attorney Robin Rogers advised them to wait until next month to formalize the move, giving him time to nail down details.
Citizen Gary Ball had reserved a slot on the commissioners’ work session agenda to address them concerning the plight of Dade County’s homeless population. Recent reports said Dade did not technically have a homeless population, said Ball. “That’s just not true,” he said.
He detailed his efforts to help a family down on its luck, encountering resistance from the social agencies and callousness from the Dade County Sentinel, which was only interested in collecting dirt on people, said Ball. “The only way to be an advocate for people is to push against the system,” he said.
He said trailers were not acceptable homes for homeless people because they cost too much to heat, and that he wanted to work with others to tap into sources for transitional housing funds. “I’m not here saying the county needs to set up a department,” he said.
He said one problem with the social agencies is they ask homeless people for their addresses, which homeless people don’t have. “My only issue in all this was that everybody did not understand that having an address was of no consequence,” said Ball.
A Head Start representative rose to say Ball had it wrong on several points. “We’re glad to assist with anything,” she said.
Commissioner Cervelli said that local churches worked with homeless people, and that the regional commission office might have an initiative as well. He said he’d check into it and be in touch.
In committee reports during the business part of the meeting, Commissioner Smith said the county would keep putting its new paver through its paces as long as the weather held. Roads to be worked on include Dennis, Old Stage, Bishop, Chambers, Old Hooker, Hooker Cemetery and Windy Hill, said Smith.
Robert Goff of District 3 commented that the paver had allowed Dade to stretch its road dollars. “It has been a very profitable thing for the county to be able to do,” he said.
Goff spoke of legislative changes coming from the state and how they might affect Dade, including an overhaul of the juvenile court system. “They all say it has a potential to be very costly to counties,” he said.
And he addressed the change to automobile tag taxes coming this spring, saying it should save money in the long run for people who hold on to their cars until they succumb to the ravages of time, as he does, since ad valorem will be paid only once; but that in casual sales, the ad valorem may come as a shock since it is assessed on blue book value as opposed to sales price.
In his report, Cervelli of District 4 paid homage to Dade’s longtime and revered county agent, Ted Dyer, whose recent death at 52 generated shockwaves locally.
In financials, Cervelli said tax revenues were down a little from last year though up a little from last month, but that with any luck things should look up by the end of the year. “We’re in the dry spell right now,” he said.
County Clerk Don Townsend, expanding on the theme, said the payroll fund had dwindled to 20-odd dollars at one point, but: “We made it. Praise the Lord.”
In his own monthly report, Chairman Rumley phrased it: “This is a real fidgety time of the year.”
Otherwise, Rumley had much to say that was upbeat: The Southeast Lineman Training Center was expanding its enrollment to 160-170, bringing more revenues into the county, he said, and the police academy in Dalton slated shortly to close will stay open at least for now. “Had we known it wasn’t going to close, it would have saved us a lot of money,” he said: Recent deputy candidates had been sent to Forsyth instead.
He congratulated Dade Water Authority’s Doug Anderton on having been named president of the National Rural Water Association (the Sentinel will run an article on this in the fullness of time) and Trenton Telephone’s Audrey Clark on the launch of TVN’s new television service, TVNtv. Ms. Clark, who staged a drawing for a Tennessee Titans game ticket in conjunction with the expanded services, specified: “We’re not all over Dade County yet.”
In other business, the commission reappointed Evan Stone to the public hospital board and named John Gothard to fill the unexpired term of the late Doug Miller on the Alcoholic Beverage Control or so-called beer board. It approved a routine agreement with Georgia Association of Conservation District Supervisors and a memorandum of understanding with the Family Crisis Center.
The commission also passed resolutions proclaiming Oct. 7-13 Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 1-31 National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Oct. 23-31 Red Ribbon Week, an anti-substance-abuse-and-violence initiative.
Executive Director Debbie Tinker of the Dade County Chamber of Commerce reminded the commission of upcoming activities: Trick-or-treating on the Courthouse Square on Oct. 27; the monthly C of C luncheon on the 19th at Randy’s Restaurant; the annual Christmas parade and Christmas in the Park on Dec. 8; and don’t forget that this very weekend is the New Salem Mountain Festival.
The next regularly scheduled Dade County Commission meeting is planned for Nov. 1.