Commissioners Amend Events Ordinance

By REBECCA HAZEN
News Editor

The Dade County Commissioners approved an amendment to the Parades and Special Events Ordinance during the Thursday, July 1 meeting, but not before a long discussion about how the amendment could relate to an upcoming music festival.

“The existing ordinance dealt exclusively with parades on public roads. This would amend that ordinance to cover not only parades and public roads, but also events, that due to their size and location, would impact the use of those roads, or providing governmental services,” County Attorney Robin Rogers explained.

Commissioner Phillip Hartline asked Rogers if the amendment had anything to do with Valley Vibes Music & Arts Festival, which is set to take place in September at Bella Sera in Wildwood.

At last month’s meeting, the festival co-founders, Nate McDaniel and Adam Gann, appeared before the board to ask for an amendment to an Alcoholic Beverage Commission ordinance that would allow them to get a permit to sell alcoholic beverages.

“There are some meetings that are scheduled for next week to develop that,” Rogers replied. “We needed to amend this ordinance whether we do the alcohol thing or not.”

It was noted by both Rogers and County Executive Ted Rumley, that the amendment to the ordinance was irrelevant to them asking for a permit to sell alcohol.

“If we approve this tonight, will this keep them from having that,” Hartline asked. “In this, it talks about safety and roads. Could we possibly use this to stop them from having that event, if we choose as commissioners that it is unsafe for the public? The old ordinance, the way it was written, the only way they needed a permit is if it was on a public road. Now, this one will entail private property.”

“I’m personally not comfortable of the safety of where they want to do it, and I wasn’t even before this came up,” Commissioner Robert Goff said.

“When we start addressing private property, we’re overstepping our boundary on that situation,” Hartline said. “This should have been addressed a long time ago, but we’re addressing it within four weeks of them being here the last time. To me this gives us a way to stop them from doing what they’ve already put in motion.”

“These boys would be grandfathered in on their request,” Rumley said, to which Rogers agreed. “I just wanted to clear that up,” Rumley said.

“We’re in a no-win situation either way. Our number one job is public safety. This venue and festival that was brought up has opened the door to something that we haven’t been keeping up on,” Commissioner Lowery said. “A lot of it would depend on our sheriff, our emergency services to make sure that people are protected.”

Rogers explained that, once passed, when someone comes in to file a permit, then the county executive would send that application to the departments that would be effected.

“We’re going to rely on the Sheriff and EMS. If the Sheriff goes up there and he says that road is too narrow, then that’s enough right there to stop it. They could have their event, but as far as the traffic on that road, if someone gets killed, we’re going to be liable. I think [the amendment] is irrelevant because that is something that needed to be in here,” Rumley said.

The commissioners put the amendment to a called vote. Commissioners Lowery, Goff and Rumley voted yes. Hartline voted no.

Also during the meeting, Dr. Thomas Ford gave the annual report of the Lookout Mountain Community Services Board.

Lookout Mountain Community Services (LMCS) was established in 1965 as Northwest Georgia Mental Health Center. It was initially a state-run agency until 1994. It became a Community Service Board in 1994 where the state contracted with the agency to provide services.

LMCS contracts with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to receive free-for service funding for those without any kind of income.

LMCS provides mental health, substance abuse, and intellectual/developmental disability services to residents of Catoosa, Chattooga, Walker and Dade counties.

An eight member board over sees the agency. Board members are all appointed by county commissioners.

The agency’s strategic goals are: to increase whole health services; provide primary health screening to clients with comorbid health issues, then refer to primary health care providers while coordinating physical and mental health needs; improve access to residents by providing in-clinic or telehealth options for clients; move the agency to a Certified Community Behavioral Health Center standard which includes services to jails, schools, in addition to current clinics; and increase services during non-typical hours such as evenings and weekends.

Ford spoke about the possibility of getting funds from the county.

“We have a Department of Justice grant in process to do some case transition of individuals coming out of jail. If we don’t get funded for that grant, I know that the counties are getting COVID funds that can be used for mental health,” Ford said. “Those funds could be used to do case transitions, or co-responder work, which means to work with law enforcement, to try to divert them from going to jail.”

Ford also introduced the incoming CEO, Heather Roesner, noting that he was retiring soon.

“We appreciate you for the work that you do. A lot of people don’t even know that you exist,” Rumley said.

The board also approved the purchase of lockers to store firefighter’s gear for the West Brow Fire Department from SPLOST funds. The board accepted the bid from Municipal Emergency Services for $6,301.76.

The commissioners gave notice of three public hearings to discuss the proposed 2021 millage rate. These meetings will be held on Aug. 4 at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., and Aug. 12 at 6 p.m. A special called meeting to consider adoption of the 2021 millage rate will be Aug. 16 at 6:30 p.m.

Commissioner Lamar Lowery reported that there were 3,073 calls for the month of June. There were 208 EMS calls, 250 fire department calls, and 2,615 police department calls.

Commissioner Hartline reported that age 18 and over baseball is going on at the Dade County Sports Complex.

“We’re working on a couple of things that you’re probably going to see at the next month’s meeting,” Hartline said.

Commissioner Robert Goff reported that SPLOST’s amount for June (money coming in from April) was $257,380.

“June is historically the better month. It’s been a trend for three years,” Goff said.

Goff also reported that some laws in Georgia went into effect today, including the election bill.

“Georgia has not made it difficult to vote. It’s just as easy to vote as it’s ever been. That being said, there is an election coming up and qualifications … for the District 4 seat,” Goff said.

Commissioner Melissa C. Bradford was not present at the meeting.

Rumley reported on road work, including that rumble strips have been put in on Highway 11.

“We have $5,000 coming from the state … for County Road 6. We appreciate the state helping us on that. We’re going to try to get a little help with Morganville Ridge Road, because interstate traffic contributed to the slide,” Rumley said.

Rumley also noted that the Georgia Department of Transportation has a lot of upcoming planned construction projects in the county.

Marshana Sharp with the Dade County Public Library reported that the first month of summer reading has ended, and 260 people signed up have read over 2,000 hours. They have until July 18 to finish logging their books.

The library helped distribute lunches in the afternoon for the schools, for the month of June. They gave out 6,230 lunches.

Sarah Dyer, UGA Extension Agent, reported that the 4-H Cloverbuds Summer Day Camp was held on June 29-30.

“We had a huge turnout and they had a lot of fun. It is our first year doing that,” Dyer said.

The next D.A.D.E Grass Class will be Thursday, July 22 at 6:30 p.m.

The next meeting of the Tri-State Cattlemen’s Association will be July 20 at 7 p.m. at the Dade County Ag Center.

Audrey Clark reported on the Historic Preservation Commission and Historical Society.

“We are hoping to have the architect and Blevins (Blevins Construction Management) who did the structural work under the roof [at the historical courthouse], at our next meeting to coordinate all of those steps,” Clark said.

Clark also noted that they have moved forward with an application for a grant to help with heating, air, and electric work at the courthouse.

There are 15 windows left in the courthouse if anyone would like to sponsor that window, in which a plaque would be placed under the window inside the courthouse.

George Williams Chair of the Alliance for Dade, reported that there are 73 investors.

“We have had 53 visitors at the Welcome Center in June, which is up from 34. I think the signage we have put around the city has helped,” Williams said.

Don Townsend gave the financial report. The general fund revenue for the month of May was $2,437,146.60. The general fund balance for the month of May was $1,082,953.22. The monthly budget was $1,099,543.38.

During the citizen’s participation portion of the meeting, Clark noted that the theme for the Christmas parade, planned for Saturday, Dec. 4, (with a rain date of Dec. 11) will be “All I Want For Christmas.”

The next County Commission meeting will be Aug. 5.

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