By LYDIA BERGLAR
Following up on topics from last month’s meeting, the October 5 meeting of the Dade County Board of Commissioners discussed SPLOST and ARPA spending for fire trucks and AEDs (automated external defibrillators). Other topics included updates on the courthouse restoration and various small projects across the county.
The New Home Fire Department requested approval for an expense of approximately $10,000 in SPLOST funds for AED and radio systems. (This would come from the department’s remaining 2015 SPLOST allocations with the remaining amount covered by the 2021 SPLOST.)
Multiple fire departments requested approval to purchase new fire trucks. Chief Rodney Ross reported that New Salem FD, South Dade FD, and West Brow FD need engine pumper trucks with 2,000 gallon tanks, and North Dade FD might need one. He said that by next month’s meeting, they will confirm whether or not North Dade needs one.
Once ordered, trucks are anticipated to take two years to arrive. At $450,000 for a truck, the chiefs’ favored quote is the most expensive of three quotes. However, this quote has the best warranty and the company is offering a $92,000 discount for each additional truck.
Once the number of trucks needed is known, the commission can vote on the expenditure and Don Townsend (clerk and CFO) can work on a financing schedule. ARPA funds will be used to cover costs beyond the SPLOST allocations.
The fire training center (discussed at length in previous meetings) was also tabled until after the fire trucks have been taken care of.
The commission also discussed purchasing AEDs at last month’s meeting, but the number needed is still uncertain. Alex Case (EMA director) reported that the cost of AEDs continues to rise. He explained that ideally, every public building would have an AED, including the yet-to-be-built elections building. Ideally, each storm shelter would have one and the Dade County Sports Complex would have several.
Phillip Hartline (commissioner for District 2) said that he would work with Case to confirm the exact number needed and the cost before the next meeting.
Jamey Blevins of Blevins Construction Management gave an update on the historic courthouse restoration project, noting that while work was anticipated to be completed by the end of this year, that has been pushed back. He anticipates completion in the first quarter of 2024.
He reported that the town square wall that was damaged by a car accident will be repaired once the trench drain is completed. This is included in the masonry bid, but they are still searching for bids on concrete work.
Blevins then reported that they are working on refinishing the hardwood floors to both save money and retain the existing floors. He also explained that the elevator will serve as the handicap entrance.
Other details in the report read, “Framing and drywall work is ongoing. In-wall electrical rough-in is continuing. Additional courtroom ceiling tiles are being produced. Delivery date TBD. Exterior drain line work is pending availability of crew…Upcoming RFPs: A hardware vendor has been engaged to assist in RFP selections to ensure that appropriate hardware is specified. Cleaning and sealing courthouse brick. Refinishing the flagpole.”
Kerri Carter (probate judge) requested confirmation for the appointment of an associate probate judge. The board approved the request.
While Robert Goff (commissioner for District 3) was not at the meeting, Ted Rumley (county executive) reported that Goff plans to apply for the Recreational Trails Program which provides funds to enhance recreational trails.
During citizens participation, Melissa Faircloth asked if the county commission had the authority to ask the Industrial Development Authority to move their meetings from Monday mornings to an evening timeslot. She believes this would allow for more citizen attendance. Rumley said that the commission does not have that authority, but he could make a recommendation to the IDA.
Lamar Lowery (commissioner for District 1) read the 911 calls for September, which totaled 2,277:
- EMS: 212
- Fire & Rescue: 238
- Law Enforcement: 1,827
Last month, Rumley noted rising cases of rabies across the eastern United States. This month, he reported that the rabies vaccine which is being airdropped across southern states will not kill animals.
Commissioners also gave reports about several small ongoing and upcoming projects, such as bridge construction, bush hogging on GA-299, and shoulder work on GA-136 going up Lookout Mountain.
Hartline noted that he’s received inquiries about a gate on the road extension connecting Belk Road and Steele Road. The Sentinel asked him about the purpose of the gate and if it is locked. Hartline explained that the road is only intended to be used when a train is blocking the main road, so the gate is to discourage overuse. The gate is unlocked; anyone can unlatch it in the case of an emergency/train blockage. Rumley added that one resident lost his job after being late three times due to the train blocking the road.
Rumley reported that the county is working with the elementary schools to host a field trip at the Sells Lane property for Kindergarten through third grade. He reminded citizens that the land is open for public use, and he encouraged everyone to enjoy this beautiful area along Lookout Creek.