By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
Not much was on the agenda Thursday night for the regular November meeting of the Dade County Commission, and the evening might have been a serious snoozer had it not been for a tide-like infusion of youth and beauty as the Lady Wolverines swept in en masse to receive the accolades of an adoring Dade.
In honor of the softball team’s surprise victory at the 2012 state championship, the county commission had in fact declared Nov. 11-17 “The Lady Wolverine Fast Pitch Softball Team Week,” and Dade County Executive and Commission Chairman Ted Rumley presented each team member with a certificate honoring the team’s achievement.
“You’re a bunch of winners,” Rumley told the young athletes, beaming with avuncular pride. He urged them to go out into the world and continue ascending athletically and scholastically – but ultimately to return to Dade. “That’s our job, to make sure you have a place to come back and work,” he told them, reminding them solemnly if not originally: “There’s no place like home.”
Specifically, Rumley bade the pulchritudinous daughters of Dade to return to the commission for a repeat participation in democracy, an invitation the rest of the Nov. 1 meeting was unlikely to reinforce as the commission moved on to matters more routine.
The commission held the first reading of an ordinance discussed previously that will allow the county to collect on its own an excise tax on energy usage by industry now collected by the state, which is phasing it out.
The commissioners had earlier discussed waiving the opportunity to collect the tax but in the end balked because it was unclear how much revenue it would mean giving up. “We’ll review it in a year and we’ll do the math on it,” said Rumley. He said if the county wished in the future to waive the tax to attract business, it could always do so via a 30-day process.
District 3 Commissioner Robert Goff noted that other counties nearby had also decided to keep the tax for now. “They did agree to pass it and that’s the only way you’re ever going to know,” he said.
Approval of an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Trenton concerning collection of the tax was also on the agenda, but County Attorney Robin Rogers told the commission it must wait as he’d given the agreement to Trenton’s city attorney for review. In any case, said Rogers, the IGA required only one reading, which could be done next month.
Rumley also asked for and received approval to put five county vehicles up for public auction. Anyone interested may contact the commission office at (706) 657-4625 for more information, but Rumley’s descriptions were not such as to whip up frenzies of shopping fervor: “Seems like every time they drive it they have to work on it,” he said of one, and of another: “Every time you drive it you have to do 2- or $300 of work on it.” “It’s been sitting there for months and the sheriff has no use for it,” was perhaps Rumley’s strongest recommendation.
During the business portion of the meeting, Commissioner Goff in his capacity as recreation committeeman reminded the public that the county ballfields are meant for county ballgames. “They’re not driving ranges,” he said. “They’re not places to try out four-wheelers.”
Chairman Rumley interjected the explanation that golf balls had been found on the fields, causing concern that ballplayers could slip on them and go rolling.
Goff also reminded the audience that the Georgia legislature is due to reconvene in two months, complete with new members. “The talk is already beginning,” he said. He pointed out the presence at the meeting of John Deffenbaugh, the Republican candidate for the open Georgia House of Representatives seat. “That’s what they’re there for, is to represent the people,” he said.
Deffenbaugh also spoke briefly.
In their monthly reports, Scottie Pittman of District 2 reminded the public to vote in Tuesday’s general election, while District 1’s Mitchell Smith told District 4’s outgoing commissioner, Peter Cervelli, it had been a pleasure to serve with him. Cervelli replied he wasn’t going anywhere yet, thank you, but had another month to serve.
In his own report, Cervelli, a native New Yorker, urged Dade residents to remember the victims of last week’s Hurricane Sandy in the nation’s Northeast with their prayers and their pockets. Many he had spoken to were out of power and suffering from the cold, said Cervelli.
In his report on the county’s financials, Cervelli said sales tax collections were down. “The trends are not positive. They’ve actually been negative for a long time,” he said. “The byword for the commission and the departments is to be very cautious.”
But in his own more detailed financials, County Clerk Don Townsend said real estate tax collections, anyway, were up. “October was the highest month for tax collections in the history of the commissioner’s office,” he said.
On the subject of real estate taxes, County Attorney Rogers reported no change in the TAS Properties bankruptcy proceedings that have frustrated Dade in its attempts to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes at failed development the Preserve at Rising Fawn.
But he said Sheriff Patrick Cannon had brighter prospects for collecting back bail bond forfeitures (see accompanying article). “He and his staff are working very hard on that,” said Rogers.
In his monthly address, Commissioner Rumley welcomed new grocer Food Outlet to Dade. “We’re just proud to have them here,” he said.
He pointed out that Erlanger at Hutcheson, the county’s official public hospital, had recently shown a small profit as opposed to losing money each month, an encouraging sign, and reminded the audience of the county’s new jail kitchen, which opened this summer. “It’s saving us about $125,000, $150,000 a year,” he said.
He gave an update on the county’s ongoing problems with Norfolk-Southern, whose rails divide Dade north to south. “We’re having some issues north of Trenton,” he said. There, said Rumley, there had been a recent long blockage.
The chairman also commented on the derailment in the same area that workmen are still clearing up. “That was a scary thing,” he said.
Rumley told the commissioners of his struggles to help a bedridden elderly Dade woman who had been denied heating assistance from Northwest Georgia Community because she had no photo ID. “Just bear with us and hopefully we can resolve this by next week,” he said.
Marshana Sharp, manager of the Dade County Library, thanked all who had helped make the joint library/Dade Chamber of Commerce Halloween event on the square a success. “We’ve heard nothing but the children loved it,” she said.
And she announced the library would hold a lunch-and-learn finance class at 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 6. United Way is sponsoring the free event, which will cover credit card fraud among other topics.
The Chamber’s Debbie Tinker also thanked businesses for helping with Halloween but also took the opportunity to remind them of the Dec. 8 Christmas parade and town square event. The library will again be partnering but Ms. Tinker hopes for more corporate sponsors, she said.
The Commission passed resolutions proclaiming November both National Home Care and Family Literacy Month, and Nov. 15 National Smokeout Day.