By LYDIA BERGLAR
The Nov. 3 County Board of Commissioners meeting discussed many topics, with several highlights being new aerial photography of the county, updating the E911 technology, and the halting of the Davis Elementary construction.
Mayor Alex Case requested the use of SPLOST funds to have new aerial photography of the county taken. The last aerial photography session was completed in January 2019, and Case noted changes such as the Cottages at Brow Wood on Lookout Mountain and other subdivisions and homes.
Case noted that while important for the tax assessors, updated photography would also aid the emergency response and police teams. The commissioners approved the total of $13,716.
Additionally, Case discussed the purchase of updated E911 technology. The current emergency response phone system, purchased in 2006, is nearly 17 years old. “We are on a system that is dying,” Case said.
An updated system would provide four lines, with the option to purchase a fifth. “We currently have three phones, and they’re always busy,” Case reported. “We have to get somebody off the phone to dispatch a call. When all three lines are being used, it rings and rings and we can’t pick it up.”
The initial expense range is from $171,469 to $193,808, with additional expenses for a fifth line and second-year support. While Case and the team continue considering options, he requested that the commissioners consider funds for this update.
Paula Duvall then reported on the 2021 sales ratio study. Due to an issue in the initial report, the county submitted an appeal to the Department of Audits. Duvall explained that the issue extends not from a mistake by either department, but from differences in how the two departments handle the reporting structure.
“I’m hoping the Department of Revenue will step up to take care of compliance which is not supposed to be under the Department of Audits,” said Duvall. “They use our current sales and pull our property records, but we’re using our previous year’s sales. That’s a huge difference in values.”
She explained that this is a state-wide issue, not unique to Dade County. “A year can make a huge difference, with the market the way it is. A lot of counties are losing money. It’s frustrating for us because we know we are doing our jobs and they’re doing their jobs.”
The Department of Revenue reviews each county every three years. Dade County will be put under a consent order until the 2024 review while they work to resolve the issue.
Commissioner Lamar Lowery gave the 911 activity report.
- EMS Monthly Totals: 656
- Fire Department Monthly Totals: 844
- Police Monthly Totals: 7,642
Commissioner Phillip Hartline then addressed the Davis Elementary School construction project.
“In 2019, in my district, the school board agreed to tear down part of Davis school. We have the end of the school blocked off with a tarp on it.” Hartline explained that they planned to rebuild the section.
“In March or April, it was confirmed that yes, they were going to go forward with [the construction]…Now, they are telling us they don’t have the funds and they are not going to build back the school…They’re saying the costs have gone up, but their ESPLOST has gone up, their property taxes have gone up…It’s not been talked about at the school board meetings, and I don’t think that it’s right.”
Hartline believes that if the school board had started the construction three years ago, it would already be completed and the rising costs wouldn’t be an issue now.
“They’re going to say that we don’t have enough kids, but when they tore the building down, we lost four Head Start classes,” Hartline reported. “[Davis] is at full capacity right now.” He said he will submit an open records request and will attend the next school board meeting on Nov. 14.
Later, during the citizens participation time, Bob Woods also addressed the Davis issue, noting that he served on the school board in 2019 when the original decision to tear down and rebuild was made. “I can’t speak in detail about what’s happened in the last two years, but I’d like to share with you why [the renovations are] still necessary.”
“I was on the roof, I saw the electricity, I saw the flooring,” he said, noting the need for renovations. He stressed that when they held meetings to discuss the decision, the residents of Davis showed up. “They showed up. The people came. They were interested. I think that carries weight.”
He continued, “The Dade County Board of Education collectively always wants to be a board of integrity…We gave our word to Davis. That’s the bottom line. We need to keep it.”
Woods noted current discussions about funding a general purpose building, saying “It would be nice to have, but it’s not necessary.”
In County Executive Ted Rumley’s report, he noted that there are 400 acres of federal property in our county. The land is on the northern end of Lookout Mountain where the Battle of Lookout Mountain took place.
The county will receive $100,000 from the federal government with payments of $50,000 this year and $50,000 next year. Rumley did not discuss how these funds would be used.
Additionally, the county is working with the Department of Driver Services to open the license office an additional Monday each month. Rumley noted that Southeast Lineman Training Center utilizes the licensing services quite a bit, and the school pays for half of the cost of the service.
The next county commissioners meeting will be December 1 at 6 p.m.