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Citizens Speak Out At Commission Meeting

REBECCA HAZEN/Dade County Sentinel
Some citizens are concerned about the County wanting to purchase property, pictured, for a new Board of Elections Office. Jerry Henegar wanted to know why the original plans of using the old train depot have changed. The Commissioners told Henegar that they realized that the depot building was not big enough. Rumley noted that a decision has not been made yet.

News Editor

Multiple Dade County citizens spoke out about various concerns during the Dade County Commission meeting on Thursday, May 5.

Jerry Henegar told commissioners that he was against the Commissioners buying property behind the Bank of Dade, for a new Board of Elections building.

“From my understanding the train depot was fine with where the elections office was going to go, up until it burnt,” Henegar said. “I am trying to find out why it was fine then, but not fine now. With the sale of the property that we just did, the amount of money we have, we could tear down the depot, build your new building there.”

Henegar said that he didn’t understand why the County is wanting to buy three acres of real estate in the city, which takes it off the city’s tax roll.

“The train depot was too bad. It’s not even feasible. We’ve looked over the numbers” County Executive Ted Rumley said. “The other spot is a much better place to build it. It is more accessible; it is easier for people to get in and out. The depot is out of the way. Things have changed.”

Rumley noted that the purchase price of the three acres of property is about $100,000, and the plans are being drawn up for the building.

“The building will have the elections in it, and we will have probably three offices in it because we have some people here that need to be moved. It will be a good move,” Rumley said.

“I want to see the numbers because I don’t see how it would be more expensive to tear that down and build the building there, versus the $100,000,” Henegar said.

“That’s your opinion, and we appreciate you coming,” Rumley responded.

It was noted that other buildings need to be torn down on the property before building a new building, but Rumley noted that the work for that would not take long.

Henegar suggested other options for where to put a new building, including the Sports Complex.

“It needs to be centrally located,” Rumley responded.

“We have found out that what we were going to do down [at the depot] was not going to be big enough. They have to set up 15 voting stations here for Election Day. The fire wasn’t a good thing, but it made us stop and look at what we did have down there. Yes, the city does own property down there, it’s not off the table yet,” Commissioner Robert Goff said.

“I have only had one person call and talk to me about this situation. I would have never known that this was a problem or that people cared. Call and talk to your commissioners. That is what we are here for,” Commissioner Melissa C. Bradford said.

Bradford also noted that she personally did not want to see the depot be torn down, and she hopes that it can be restored.

Rumley said that the commission has not made up their mind about where the new building will go.

Carol Dixon spoke about an ongoing problem that she is having with her neighbors, Colton and Walter Moore, regarding a joint property line.

“I need to make public awareness with information that demonstrates Colton Moore’s personality and ethics as one who is running for political office,” Dixon said.

According to Dixon, approximately two years ago, Walter, Colton’s father, wanted to clear their pasture to bring in cows. They asked Dixon if they could share her present fencing, which was installed by herself when she moved in. She agreed, and they added some fencing to hers to complete a pasture.

Dixon noted that eventually the cows were pushing on and weakening Dixon’s fence, to try to get to the better-quality grass in her goat’s pasture. The cows eventually got out of the pasture.

“The following day, Walter asked me if I had intentionally let the cows out. That is something I would never do,” Dixon said. “Sometime later I told Colton that he would need to put up his own fences on his side of the property lines. He started questioning whether the fences were truly mine and threatened to cut them down.”

Dixon paid a surveyor to resurvey the property. The surveyor found that a span of 250 feet of fencing was on the Moore’s property by no more than three inches.

“We walked the property line together, and he said that it was now his fence, and he was going to cut it down. I told him I would move it. Later that evening I heard heavy equipment and realized that he and his father had cut the 250-foot span of fencing, pulled it and all the fence posts out of the ground, and piled them up on top of the white junk vehicle that was on the property line. My goats were in that pasture, and I had to quickly herd them into an area in front of the barn. Moore’s cows were supposedly moved to a neighbor’s pasture,” Dixon said.

Dixon noted that she has had to call the police three times because of their inappropriate behavior. She said that just in the past week, there were three pickup trucks with young men shooting guns for over two hours.

“The bottom line is that this is all retaliation because I haven’t given him his way. I feel like I have been bullied by them. Colton told me he was going to make my life so miserable that I would have to sell and move,” Dixon said.

Dixon asked the Commissioners if there was anything that can be done, considering there are no zoning laws in the county.

Each of the Commissioners in turn told Dixon that they were sorry that she was going through these problems, but unfortunately nothing could be done, unless she got a petition started with people who want zoning.

John Huffman voiced his concerns about the Commission and the Sentinel.

“I have been a Dade resident for 11 years. I am the military veteran of 24 years of service whose representation was removed by this commission three years ago,” Huffman said. “The only reason I am even in this room after three years, is that you have commissioners telling everyone that they represent all people. That can never be the case because of all the people in Dade County that commissioners have cut off. I have to say something, so they don’t do it to anyone else.”

“Citizens are the only ones that have to speak with a clock shoved in their face. Citizens are trying to cram as much as they can in their five minutes and then they wind up as headline news for talking too much and bombarding the commissioners,” Huffman said as he held up photocopied articles of the Sentinel, dated from 2019. “We can’t say anything negative or else that’s the headline.”

Huffman also voiced his opinion that the Sentinel is being paid by the County government.

“You will never see the newspaper write anything ill about county government. Instead, even though these are public meetings, and part of a democracy that is supposed to be about the people, the people will be who the headlines are about. Whatever issues those citizens brought up, will never be investigated, or researched or called out and will be ignored. In fact, the newspaper will write articles all about the citizens without ever interviewing them,” Huffman said.

Huffman continued, “Headlines like those that blast the citizens, those headlines don’t encourage anyone to speak up here”

“With one full-time commissioner, four part-time commissioners and one position that communicates for the commissioners, we have over $160,000 in commissioners sitting before us. That pay was even in the peak of COVID,” Huffman said. “What are we getting for our money from these individuals?”

Huffman also noted that the county pays the Sentinel to post free public notices, but then the public needs to pay the newspaper to read those notices. Huffman wanted to know why the County does not also put them on the county website, or elsewhere.

Editor’s note: The Sentinel is a privately owned business that is supported financially by advertising and subscriptions. The County is legally required to send advertisements of public notices to the legal organ of the county. Notices are also displayed by the front entrance of the Dade County Administrative Building.

Also, during the meeting Jamey Blevins with Blevins Construction Management gave an update about the historical courthouse project. They are looking into saving some HVAC related costs.

“On the units, there is something called a hot gas bypass. It takes some of the residual heat discharge and recirculates that back so you can dehumidify the space without over cooling it. Without that, the units will cycle on and off a lot and we won’t be able to control the humidity as well. This is the one big ticket item we were able to go find, and that’s a $13,000 deduct if you decide to not do that,” Blevins said.

Another way of saving some money is to reduce the efficiency of the units.

“If you do that and the hot gas bypass, that would be a savings of $28,000,” Blevins said. About $30,000 is nothing to not consider so I wanted to make sure you guys were aware and you can make the decisions. It is your call to make, but you do lose some control.”

There was a second reading of the second amendment Ordinance 05-05-22, which would prohibit the use of county resources to enforce gun restrictions or gun accessory laws in violation of state laws.

The Commissioners also approved proclamations designating Armed Forces Day as the third Saturday in May, and May as Foster Care Month.

The commissioners approved the sale of the Back Valley property on April 9, by Potts Brothers Auction Company. The commissioners noted that $252,345 was received in sales.

The Commissioners approved and authorized an intergovernmental agreement between the county and the Board of Education for the conveyance of the high school football stadium athletic property for North Dade School property, and approval of the deeds.

The commissioners also approved an adjustment of scale-house rates at the Transfer Station for disposal of solid waste.

Financial Officer Don Townsend presented the financial report. The general fund had a balance of $2,119,113 as of April 30. There is $428,474 available in SPLOST VI funds. The income balance for the month of March was $612,490.75 and $629,886.27 was budgeted. Expenses for the month of March were $940,972.90, and $971,704.81 was budgeted.

The next County Commission meeting will be June 2.

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