By LYDIA BERLGAR
The September 7 meeting of the Dade County Board of Commissioners covered numerous updates and spending questions and also included two citizen appearances.
As discussed previously at the county meetings (see the August 9 issue of the Sentinel), the fire departments are requesting ARPA funds for a fire training facility. Ansel Smith (Trenton assistant fire chief) reported that the chief’s association is in favor of the facility.
However, the desire for new fire trucks was mentioned to the commission. Numerous representatives from fire departments attended the meeting.
Rodney Ross (New Salem fire chief) said, “We’ve got three or four departments that are in need of trucks. It’s going to be difficult, even with our new SPLOST.”
Jerry Kyzer (Trenton fire chief) further explained that trucks must meet tank capacity and ladder requirements to earn ISO (Insurance Service Office) ratings.
Commissioners discussed the importance of having both trucks and volunteers. They discussed how SPLOST and ARPA funds could be used for these needs. Smith and the fire departments will work on getting exact numbers about trucks needed and ways to lower the cost of the training facility.
The commission then discussed placing AEDs (automated external defibrillators) at the Dade County Sports Complex. Alex Case (EMA director) explained that ideally, several would be located throughout the complex in areas that are under surveillance or could be secured. The commission is waiting to hear the latest cost for new AEDs before making a decision.
Paula Duvall with the Tax Assessor’s Office reported that the “2022 State-Wide Equalization 100% Digest and Dade County Sales Ratio Study” have been prepared by the Georgia Department of Audits & Accounts.
Duvall explained to the Sentinel, “The ratio is how well our values are in line with what property has actually sold for. We use that to see if we need to make any changes in value based on the actual market.”
The ratio is supposed to be as close to 40 as possible. Above 40 indicates that the assessments are too high, and below 40 indicates the assessments are too low. With a 38.16, Dade is within the acceptable range.
A resident of Middleton Estates who wished not to say her name spoke to the commission regarding a short-term rental in her neighborhood that sleeps 16 people and often houses disruptive guests. She wanted the commission to consider laws about short-term rentals in the county.
In her words, “Middleton…is a quiet neighborhood–it has been up until now. With that one that sleeps 16, there seems to be nothing we can do about it. It’s party, party, party all night long…three or four in the morning, they’re still up partying…Do we have any rules in Dade County? I’ve already checked; the state does not. Some counties have implemented some rules.”
County Executive Ted Rumley asked if the subdivision’s homeowner association had been dissolved. The portion of Middleton in question does not have an HOA. Rumley recommended establishing one, later noting that the current short-term rental would be grandfathered in, but an HOA could prevent future short-term rentals.
He also noted that the rental might be violating health department permits related to water and septic, depending on how many people the home was permitted to sleep. He asked the citizen to send him the address so he can speak with the health department.
The lady said, “We can implement some extra taxes on these facilities.” The commissioners noted that short-term rentals have an eight percent tax.
She continued, “I am not going to live with all of that. There’s strangers walking up and down the street constantly…If there’s no rules, I can sleep 20 at my house. That’s not a threat. I’m just letting you know…Something has to change, or I’ll just turn mine into one as well. The whole county, I guess, will be one.”
Regarding zoning, Rumley said, “Over the years, it’s been brought up. If you try to get a petition of people who want zoning, you’d be surprised [how many people] don’t want it.” He asked the citizen to follow up with him.
Phillip Hartline (District 2 commissioner) said, “Was there anything in the covenants? When I done my subdivision, I put stuff in the covenants to keep it out, whether they had an HOA or not.” She did not know if there were covenants.
Citizen John Huffman then spoke to the board about property values and prices and an off-hand comment Rumley made during the third millage rate hearing, as reported in the August 23 Sentinel.
In Huffman’s words, “These words were said by our county executive that he wishes he could gate off Dade and stop those from outside from raising land values, and nobody in the room called him out on it.”
Huffman’s first point: “Doesn’t gating off Dade go against anything we are doing to promote Dade?…To the world, are we promoting Dade, or are we spending money to promote while thinking we should really just gate ourselves off from the world? From the Sentinel, from the top of the commission, gating us off is apparently what everyone here is wishing for, right?”
Huffman’s second point: “You blame out-of-towners for looking at us with their big wallets and being willing to pay $500,000 for property valued at $175,000. You accuse them of raising land values beyond what locals can pay…You don’t think that our own Dade landowners who have Dade property only appraised at $53,000 who are listing it for $2.5 million–50 times the value–it’s those local Dade County landowners and not the people from California, it’s those landowners here who are trying to fill their wallets, they aren’t the problem?”
He continued, “The property that someone is trying to fatten their wallets with, 50 times the value, is 0 Old Georgia 299 Highway. QPublic shows that it is appraised at $53,000. But there is an active listing on Crye-Leike–10149502 is the MLS. Who are we talking about? Who is this landowner? Why, the Rumleys.”
Huffman expressed strong emotions and anger toward Rumley and the commission before concluding, “To the Rumleys, maybe you can consider lowering your asking price a million or two because this practice of inflating prices is really, like you said, out of control in our county…I hope everybody got a good laugh. If so, I have done my job here tonight.”
Rumley thanked Huffman for being there and sharing his opinion, and Huffman exited the room quickly. Rumley later explained (during his county executive report), “I didn’t even know what my family was asking for that property. We told the real estate company to sell it and get what they could out of it.”
The Sentinel followed up, and Rumley explained that his family is selling the property in question after his mother passed away. He said, “The real estate agents judge what they can get for it. It might never sell for that much; we don’t care.”
Lamar Lowery (District 1 commissioner) read the 911 calls for August, which totaled 3,252:
- EMS: 227
- Fire & Rescue: 350
- Law Enforcement: 2,675
He also announced that he has pancreatic cancer and thanked the community for support.
Hartline also discussed property values and the millage rate. “When I voted no on the millage rate it was due to homeowners paying more for their property. It has nothing to do with what it’s worth. My father told me one time, ‘It’s worth exactly what you’re willing to give and what somebody’s willing to take for it. That’s the value of land.’ I don’t care if you’ve got a $50,000 house worth $5 million. If you can get it, I am happy for you. I voted no [on the millage rate] because of property taxes going up.”
Robert Goff (District 3 commissioner) noted a state referendum taxing sporting goods that would go to recreational spaces, such as the county’s Sells Lane property. He suggested going after the grants coming from those taxes. He said, “Green space is disappearing. We’ve got about 61 acres over there. You can launch a kayak or a canoe, you can go swimming, you can go fishing.”
Goff and Rumley explained plans to use the property at Sells Lane for a corn maze and pumpkin patch in October. The pumpkin plants have blooms, but no fruit yet. Goff said, “We’ll promote it a little more if it gets to it. If not, it’ll give us a chance to look at it and know exactly what we need to do in the future.”
Melissa Bradford (District 4 commissioner) referenced Huffman’s speech, saying, “We get emails about these sorts of things, but that man has never come to me and wanted to work on a program or work to make anything better. I would like to say that it doesn’t bother me and that it doesn’t disturb the rest of us, but it does…I have put out there many times that you give me a call, I’ll work on a project. I will get dirty, and get the job done…He’s out on social media. Things come back to me all the time, people saying, ‘John’s saying this, John’s saying that.’ Most of it is not true…Please anybody that has a question or wants to talk, whether we don’t agree–-we don’t have to agree–we can have a conversation and we can make this town better instead of making things worse.”
Rumley reported that rabies cases are rising across the eastern United States. He reported that the replacement of power poles will continue for a year to year-and-a-half and encouraged citizens to be patient with those working on the poles.