By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
Dade County Executive and Commission Chairman Ted Rumley said last week he’d gotten one elderly Dade Countian untangled from a snarl of red tape resulting from stringent state requirements for identification, but that for now, anyway, each new casualty must be cut loose individually.
“I got it straightened out with that older lady. The whole picture’s not straightened out,” said the county boss.
Rumley had told the county commission at its November meeting of the plight of a bedridden resident in her 80s whom Northwest Georgia Community Action had denied access to its winter heating assistance program for the elderly because she had no picture ID. The agency instructed the woman to go to the driver’s license facility in Rock Spring to obtain one, said Rumley, though she was clearly too ill to do so and in fact never left her house at all.
“She’d been getting the assistance for several years, so it wasn’t a big deal, like she was some kind of new customer, but they said, well, can’t do it this year because you don’t have an ID,” said Rumley.
Rumley asked that the woman not be named, as many elderly residents do not wish it generally known they require assistance. In this case, he said, he had been able to take a picture of the lady and issue her an identification from the commission office certifying her as a resident of the county. “It wouldn’t be an ID you could get a passport on, I don’t think,” he said.
But Rumley hoped it would be official enough to pass muster for assistance purposes, and he says if other residents have the same problem, they can call his office (706/657-4625) and he’ll see what he can do case by case. “I’m not set up to do that if 150 people come in a day,” he said.
Rumley said he’s investigating setting up a way to have official IDs issued routinely by the county. He’s checked with the board of elections, which responded that it is authorized to issue identification for certain voters but not for others, he said.
But Rumley said he’d keep working on the problem. “If you’ve got elderly people that can’t even get out of the house that’s never had a driver’s license, and there are still older people in Dade County that never had a driver’s license, never had a need for one, and you tell them they’ve got to go to Rock Spring, – I mean, there’s got to be other ways,” he said.
Rumley also reported that the sheriff’s department and county attorney were still working on another pending issue, the repayment by bail bondsmen of bond forfeitures that appear to have been allowed to remain uncollected by the county year after year. “No one’s told me an exact amount on it yet,” said Rumley.
He said he understood the sheriff’s department and county attorney planned to meet this week with the bail bond companies involved, Gary’s Bail Bonds and Dade County Bail Bonding. A third company listed by the sheriff’s department as qualified to make bonds in the county, Trenton Bail Bond, did not appear to have outstanding obligations nor even to be in active business in Dade, said Rumley.
Rumley said that Sheriff-elect Ray Cross, who won last week’s general election and will take over from current Sheriff Patrick Cannon in the new year, had asked to be brought up to date on the bail bond issue as he met with Rumley and the county attorney concerning the legalities of assuming leadership. “He’s leaving Sunday on his training, which is a month,” said Rumley.
Rumley said freshly-elected sheriffs across Georgia would start this week on their mandatory four weeks of “Sheriff 101,” instruction designed to prepare them for their new role as top lawman in their individual patches. There’s a huge divide, said Rumley, between being a police officer who can call in and ask what’s to be done and being the one who takes the call.
“You don’t have that person, you’re the person. You’re the man. You’re the sheriff,” said Rumley. “So there’s a lot of difference when you step across that line at midnight on Dec. 31. There’s a lot to it, a lot of responsibility. If the county gets sued, your name is on the suit, too, personally, nine times out of 10.”
Finally, the county boss reported he’d had a disappointing trip to Lake Winnepesaukah. He’d had a hot tip the amusement park was selling off playground equipment cheap and had rushed to the scene, checkbook in hand, only to find some other county had gotten in first and bought up every speck.
“We’re needing to buy some playground equipment for the park,” said Rumley, referring to the county recreational area by the athletic fields on Highway 11 South. “We pulled all that up because it’s out of compliance with the safe standards for children.”
He explained that after a routine insurance inspection a year or so ago, the county had been warned to get rid of its older playground equipment or risk exposure to litigation. “Now everything’s got to be coated, plastic-coated,” said Rumley.
So the county is currently in the market for safety-approved slides and seesaws for smaller children, said Rumley, and still in shock at what such things cost. He complained that nearby Fort Payne houses one of the world’s most prominent playground equipment companies but that that doesn’t cut any ice as far as pricing goes. “They don’t give local governments or anybody any discount whatsoever,” said Rumley. “You can’t even buy it from there. The closest dealer is in Florida.”
So the county hopes to find some other governmental or private entity selling the fixtures used, said Rumley. Meanwhile, the county has no requirement to furnish playground equipment, he said, though it always has and the kids seem to enjoy it. In any case, his only deadline for buying is: “When I find a deal.”