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Opioid Fund Use, Recycling Issue, IDA Land Acquisition, and Workforce Housing Discussed at County Meeting

News Editor

The July 6 meeting of the Dade County Board of Commissioners included long discussions about use of funds for drug prevention/rehabilitation tactics and the ongoing recycling issue, as well as an update from the Industrial Development Authority about workforce housing and a recent land acquisition.

Photo by Lydia Berglar – The Price family farmhouse, located on land recently purchased by the Industrial Development Authority, will be torn down in coming weeks. The IDA invites citizens with connections to the home/family to reach out if they would like to visit the house before demolition.

Evan Stone (executive director for the IDA) gave an update on expansion projects in the industrial park before noting the planned “Trenton/Dade Business Park North.” The IDA recently purchased a total of about 74 acres of land at 14327 US-11 for the purpose of creating this additional industrial park. (In the meeting, Stone misspoke, reporting 78 acres, but the Sentinel later confirmed with him the correct acreage.)

Stone reported that 40 acres are currently slated to be used for the business park, 8 acres lie east of the railroad tracks, while 26 acres on the west side of the interstate are not going to be industrial. “There’s no infrastructure over there,” he said. “We are going to be looking to do something with it in the near future.”

This land once belonged to the Price family, and the Price farm house on the property will be torn down. Stone said, “We had hopes it could be restored, moved, or something, but the looks are deceiving from the front.”

County Executive Ted Rumley who has visited the house reported that the interior is in bad shape, with floors and roof caved in.

Stone continued, “We did want to make it public in case there’s anybody out there who may be kin to them who wants to take pictures or something. Before you do that, please let the commission office know.”

Stone reported that the IDA is working on Project Caspian. He explained the reason for code names, saying, “We do not have a clue of what Project Caspian means. A lot of folks may not understand that these project [names] are set because these companies…are also looking at other communities. They don’t want the right hand to know what the left hand’s doing…They could be negotiating with five different cities and counties and even states on who will give them the better deal…We don’t know [what the project is] until we make the short list. Then, we have to sign a piece of paper that says we can’t tell anybody.”

He noted that the secrecy is also intended to use taxpayers’ money well. “If everybody knew that the government was going to buy it, then it costs more.”

He added that Filler NAME? is converting 11804 South Main Street (which once housed North Georgia Home Health Care) into a new dental office.

Stone then discussed workforce housing. See the May 25 issue of the Sentinel for further details about potential government-funded housing coming to the county.

Stone noted that this funding is not related to Section 8 housing. He added that these homes must be sold between $125,000 and $290,000.

Later in the evening, during his report, Rumley expressed his concerns about finding people to work, noting that Dade County has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Georgia. (According to the Georgia Department of Labor, Dade is one of 16 counties – out of all 159 counties in the state – with an unemployment rate of less than 3%. These statistics are available online at file:///C:/Users/mrzer/Downloads/laborforce.pdf.)

The commission returned to the proposed agreement between A Hand Up Ministry and Dade County. (See the May 10 issue of the Sentinel for information about the initial discussion.)

Robin Rogers (county attorney) reported that there is still some uncertainty surrounding the separation of church and state question, so the county will return to the resolution at a later meeting.

Lowery noted that other government funds (through the Dade County Sheriff’s Office) are going to A Hand Up Ministry, and he asked if the same separation of church and state question applies to these funds.

Lowery added that drug testing of Dade Middle School and Dade County High School students who participate in extracurricular activities stopped in January of this year, saying, “I really worry about us not testing our high school students.”

Don Townsend, chief financial officer and county clerk, explained that those tests were funded by court fines, and the sheriff made the decision to stop the program. The Sentinel plans to cover this issue in more depth in an upcoming issue.

Rogers said that he will find out if the opioid funds could be used to reinstate this testing of students.

Moving on, Townsend explained the millage rate schedule (available on the county’s website). The county will hold three public hearings, two on July 27 at 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., and the third on August 3 at 5:00 p.m. The millage rate will be considered for adoption on August 3 at 5:30 p.m.

Tax Commissioner Angie Galloway will mail out property tax bills by September 1. Property tax payments to the county are due by November 15 of this year.

Robert Goff, commissioner for District 3, then brought up the ongoing recycling issue, noting that he continues to hear rumors about the entire transfer station closing. He reiterated that the transfer station is not closing, nor has the commission decided to end the recycling program.

See the March 15 issue of the Sentinel for an in-depth explanation of the issue.

Goff said, “We have been talking about the loss of money on cardboard and other things that we’re recycling. We just need to make a decision on what we’re doing…If we stop recycling all together, it’s nothing you can’t start back if there becomes a market for it.”

He continued, “People are still not sure, are they taking recyclables? If they are, are they going to the recycling centers from Dade County or are they being pulled out and put in the dumpster?”

Melissa Bradford, commissioner for District 4, later explained to the Sentinel that they have seen recycling center employees move recyclables from the center to the garbage dumpster. This is something she wants to investigate.

The commission noted again that businesses are now being charged to drop off loads of cardboard. Hartlined noted that he wanted to wait several more months to see if this change impacts the net loss.

Lowery said, “My biggest problem is we can’t get good information. I’ve asked Billy Massengale three or four different times, give me a number that that recycling center’s costing us…it’s all over the board.”

Bradford responded that they determined the numbers earlier this year. (The net loss to run the program in 2022 was just over $65,000.) She added, “I have a problem with the word ‘losing.’ This is a service we give the county.” She believes there are further steps to take before ending the recycling program.

The other commissioners felt that the $65,000 net loss was a significant amount of money. The commission will return to the topic at a later meeting.

During Citizen’s Participation, Jennifer Blair added her thoughts about recycling. She thanked Bradford for investigating and advocating for recycling. She said, “It will likely not surprise any of you that I care deeply about this issue.”

Blair is in favor of running recycling programs, knowing that it comes with a monetary expense. She touched on the dangers of landfills, the issues caused by waste materials, the responsibility consumers have when purchasing and disposing of materials, and other complexities surrounding this world-wide issue.

Bradford added that she would like to hear opinions from any side about this issue.

Audrey Clark with the Bank of Dade announced that a date has been chosen for the Christmas Parade (sponsored by the Bank of Dade) and Christmas Crossing (run by the sheriff’s office). The date is December 9, and the theme is Christmas movies.

Lowery read the 911 calls for June, which totaled 2,767:

  • EMS: 206
  • Fire & Rescue: 279
  • Law Enforcement: 2,282

In his report, Rumley made note of a recent meeting with the Environmental Protection Division. He reported that construction on land over an acre has a new EPD approval process.

Rumley also noted recent meetings with the Georgia Department of Transportation about two issues: First, GA-299 traffic, noting that the county has limited input since it’s a state highway, but he has sent the state photos and videos of the issue. Second, GDOT is having counties take responsibility for interstate access ramps, which will be an added expense to counties.

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