By REBECCA HAZEN
City of Trenton Board of Commissioners showed concern after finding out that the meeting room at City Hall has been outfitted with cameras that are continuously recording, during the commission’s Monday, May 10 meeting.
Commissioner Monda Wooten requested from Mayor Alex Case an expense report of CARES Act funds. The city of Trenton received $112,599.38 in CARES Act funds. One of the items that the city had purchased was an Access Control system, which included cameras for the safety of the employees.
Case explained that there were cameras installed, including in the meeting room, that are continuously recording.
Wooten was concerned because, up until that evening, she had not known that she was being recorded.
Wooten asked if executive sessions were being recorded. Case responded that there haven’t been any executive sessions recently since the cameras were installed.
“Nobody can get to [the recording]. You’d have to have access to it,” Case said.
Case noted that the only two people that have access to the recordings are himself and IT Manager Daniel Jones.
“I don’t have a problem with it being recorded, I just wish we would have known,” Wooten said.
“There is no business in here that is conducted in secrecy,” Case responded. “This is a public government building that is open to the public.”
Wooten said that she had heard of instances where a city employee and a citizen have met in the meeting room.
“If they are considering them private, I don’t think that’s right that you’re recording and you’re not even telling them,” Wooten said.
Case said that the Access Control system was discussed with the commissioners when it was bought, including that there would be recording devices.
Commissioners Kirk Forshee and Lucretia Houts both said that they were not aware that they were being recorded.
“I think there should be a sign,” Houts said.
“Maybe that was my fault, maybe I should have been more involved,” Wooten said.
“I am sorry that we did not get that passed on to you,” Case said to Wooten.
In other news, Jennifer Blair updated the board about the Town Creek Trail. She noted that original plans had the route on the northern side of Price Street, but it is more conducive to the southern side.
“The McBryars have graciously agreed to work with us and provide an easement on the corner of their property. It benefits them because it will mitigate some traffic concerns,” Blair said.
Commissioner Terry Powell reported that the community center is now open, and already had one event, the Alliance for Dade’s luncheon. There are price changes in the cost to rent the center. It is now $150 for half a day and $200 for a full day with a $150 deposit for cleaning. There were nine animal control complaints. Rec league softball is continuing at the park, and pool maintenance is ongoing. The pool will open on May 29.
Commissioner Wooten reported that there were 50 work orders for the Street Department. The department did hire a seasonal employee, however that person only stayed a week, so they are looking for another one. Wooten noted that the Street Department employees participated and helped in the recent Spring Fling event. There was also a volunteer clean up day held in April.
“We need to give Jennifer [Blair] most of the credit. She had a lot of volunteers there … people started showing up in droves. There were a lot of families there,” Wooten said.
A second clean up date was rained out, and Wooten said she wants to reschedule that soon.
Commissioner Kirk Forshee reported that the Trenton Police Department answered 450 calls for service for the month of April. There were 1,585 business checks, three animal complaints, six domestic calls, five trespassing calls, 30 suspicious activity calls, and 18 accidents. 225 traffic stops were made, resulting in 110 citations. Collected fines for April were $30,185.36. Total fines for 2021 are $78,279.71.
Commissioner Houts reported that there was one new construction, six remodels and two new additions. The fire department had 85 calls, and dispatched and canceled to 58 of those. Six were fire related. There were nine accidents, one medical and 11 on standby calls. The sewer department had 36 underground locates, five emergency locates, 12 sewer calls and two manhole repairs.
Case reported that he attended the Regional Commission meeting last month, where a lot of information was presented about the American Rescue Plan Act. Case encouraged the commissioners to look at the Georgia Municipal Association’s website, gacities.com, and read about the funding information.
Case also gave the financial report. The general fund balance ending April 30 was $757,107.85. The income revenue for April was $95,717.54. Total expenditures for the month were $160,545.64.
Jane Dixon with Alliance for Dade reported that they spent a lot of time in April planning for things that were happening in the month of May, and throughout the rest of the year.
“We have had a number of investors join, which helps inspire everyone to keep going and to do a great job,” Dixon said. “We will be planning many more things for the rest of the year.”
Recent events held by the Alliance include the blessing box installation on Lookout Mountain, the legislative update luncheon, and multiple ribbon cuttings for businesses. The Alliance has partnered with the 1945 Dade County Fair Committee to sponsor a band for the event, and planning is ongoing for the Business Expo in December.
Blair, representing Tree City USA, told the commissioners that Trenton’s chapter of Tree City USA turned 40 years old.
“We so appreciate the support of the city and this commission,” Blair said.
During citizens’ participation, Blair spoke about an ordinance that passed fall of 2019, which concerns landscaping for commercial zoning. The ordinance requires that vegetation is installed within parking lots.
According to Blair, the ordinance states, “Landscaping for any parking lot of 20 or more spaces shall provide interior landscaping according to the following standards …”
Blair believes this language provides a loophole.
“It is interpreted that it only implies to 20 spaces which are together. By together I mean arbitrarily painted together. You can have a developer come in, and they can pave an enormous surface area, and simply paint row upon row of 19 spaces … I bring this up because neither the spirit of this ordinance, nor the letter of this law, is actually being appropriately understood and implemented within our city’s perimeters.”
The next City Commission meeting will be June 14.