Low Unemployment Rate, Clean County Audit, and Miller Brings Concern Before County Commission
By LYDIA BERGLAR
The Feb. 2 Dade County commission meeting began with proclamations, noting American Heart Month, Arbor Day, and Future Farmers of America Week. County Executive Ted Rumley noted, “We’ve been doing these for many years.”
The commission also established two new moments of recognition: The first Thursday in February is now Trenton-Dade Optimist Day, and the first full week of February is now EMA Severe Weather Preparedness Week.
The commission then reviewed SPLOST requests, approving funds for updates to the Dade County Sheriff’s Office vehicles.
Representing the Industrial Development Authority, Evan Stone submitted a request for up to $350,000 from SPLOST to purchase land for “future industrial and commercial expansion and development.” No mention was made of the location of land that the IDA hopes to purchase.
Rumley noted that they would look at the request in light of other needs for SPLOST funding. Don Townsend, county clerk, noted that the SPLOST fund is doing well right now. The commission will be looking at this request over the next few months.
Stone explained that the IDA typically offers land to companies to incentivize them to bring a substantial amount of jobs to Dade County that pay at least $15.80 per hour. He noted, “There’s one company that’s been here on the ground, and they want this area. We’ve got to have land to be able to do that.”
Stone then gave an update on Project Highland and Project Hardwood. Regarding the former, “It’s going to be about a $10 million project. We hope to be able to share a lot more information and do a groundbreaking sometime early in March.”
Regarding the latter, “Two weeks ago, they were here on the ground…We showed them about five different sites. That would be about a $30 million investment and about 100 jobs.” Stone said that the potential jobs pay above the $15.80 rate.
Notably, Stone reported that the county’s unemployment rate is 2.4% with just under 200 people falling into the unemployed category. “There are a little more than 8,000 people in Dade County’s workforce. We’re tied with Catoosa for the lowest unemployment rate in all of north Georgia,” Stone said. He also reported that a new dentist is expected to come to Dade County soon.
Republic Services Inc., the company that hauls trash out of Dade County, requested a rate adjustment, which Rumley noted had been anticipated. Monica Moseley from Republic Services noted that the 4% increase would raise prices from $33.24 per ton to $34.57 per ton of waste. Dade County trash is hauled to a landfill in Collinsville, Ala.
Alicia Juhl, audit manager from Henderson Hutcherson & McCullough, reported that the county had a clean audit report with no issues identified through the audit process. She explained that the general fund balance sat at $3,623,820.00 on June 30, 2022, which means that the county could operate without any additional revenue for 3.27 months. This is within the recommended range.
The commission authorized the Historical Preservation Committee to apply for government grants. Representing the committee, Donna Street spoke about the need for a survey of historical sites, explaining that they cannot receive large grants until the entire county has been surveyed for historical sites.
Later, during citizen’s participation, Street also announced the formation of a cemetery association, saying, “The city of Atlanta has a cemetery association, so we’re going to do some training for us. We’re trying to figure out a way to help these little cemeteries get some care.”
This year, the Historical Preservation Committee will also be hosting tours of historic homes. Street said, “Instead of taking hikes this year, we’re going on tours of homes.” The public is invited to two upcoming home tours.
The commission agreed to begin the process of abandoning a county road on Sand Mountain called Owenby Filler Road. Steve Filler made this request due to vandalism and theft that has been occurring on the private property.
Rumley explained, “How it became a county road, I don’t know…They asked us to abandon it where we can close it off at the main road. They want to take over maintenance of it.” Rumley also encouraged residents to bring such issues to the county, saying, “It’s in the best interest of all of us and you.”
Phillip Hartline, commissioner for the area in question, confirmed, “[The Filler family] owns all the houses, and there’s not any other property affected [by the road].”
Harold Miller, a Dade County resident who is building along Dugan Loop off of Hales Gap Road, brought a concern regarding septic systems before the commission. He seemed to indicate that he wanted the commission to have representatives work to change state laws.
According to Miller, “We want to be able to do a compost or incinerator toilet that would give us permission to have power turned on…I’ve been told we have to have a civil engineering drawing…The estimate is $35,000 to $50,000 to put in the fill line and you gotta have a special license to do it…If you get two inches of rain, it’s not gonna hurt the property…You can’t get the water to stay on the ground here…What they’re telling us is not even true.”
Rumley explained that septic system standards are state-regulated, saying, “He’s got an issue up there where his soil is not suitable for a standard septic tank. We don’t have anything to do with that. I wanted the commission to hear what you had to say. You need to have a drawing. We’ll get the health department up here from Rome. They’re gonna have to look at it to make a decision.”
Hartline asked how far along the construction is currently. “Protocol matters. You get the perc test done, survey, everything before you start building a house. How far along were you with building this house before you decided to go get a perc test done? You’re trying to get your power cut on before the septic is in…Where you’re at is a rock pile. [A septic system] will fail.”
Lamar Lowery, commissioner for District 1, reported that the 911 calls for January totaled 3,831, with:
- EMS: 203
- Fire & Rescue: 261
- Law Enforcement: 3,367
Hartline and Rumley noted that Georgia Power has been working near the north end of the county along Highway 11. Rumley said, “It was brought to my attention a week or two ago…they do try to abide by all the rules, but they had the road blocked with no flag whatsoever. If you do have problems or complaints, call me.”
Rumley also reported that a portion of Highway 136 going over Lookout Mountain will be double-lined to address safety issues near Canyon Quick Stop. “We’ve got so much more truck traffic going along that road, it’s unbelievable.”
Robert Goff, commissioner for District 3, explained a trucking issue that has created additional wear and tear on roads. Due to national issues surrounding COVID-19, trucks were allowed to add an additional 9,000 pounds to each load, and lobbyists are now pushing for this to be a permanent change.
Goff said, “I am retired from a trucking company – 30 years. I understand the need for trucks…Our roads are not made for heavier loads. Lobbyists are saying the permanent increase is for the timber industry, nobody else. But we know it will not end with them…So many are being diverted to come over Lookout Mountain and Morganville Ridge Road, and those roads aren’t made for them…That’s my take as a former truck driver.”
The next Dade County commission meeting will be on March 2 at 6 p.m.