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Fire Departments and IDA Topics Dominate County Commission Meeting

News Editor

The November 2nd meeting of the Dade County Board of Commissioners was lengthy and ended with an executive session.

The board reappointed both D.L. Moore and Robert Russell to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board for four-year terms.

Phillip Hartline (District 2 commissioner) explained the desire to update surveillance equipment at the Dade County Sports Complex due to the current equipment not capturing details of cars and tag numbers. Ted Rumley (county executive) said, “Right after we finished the sealing of the parking lot and the lines, it wasn’t there two nights and someone went in and they tore a third of that up by doing donuts. We had cameras, but all you could see was a little black car. Every once in a while, they’d wave.”

Hartline added that he’s had a few phone calls about “incidents involving a 16 or 17 year old female that had called. We had a video, but we couldn’t tell what went on. That’s the other concern.”

Once the county receives information about bids, they will return to the topic.

The board approved SPLOST expenditure not to exceed $138,363 for two new Dade County Sheriff’s Office vehicles and accompanying equipment. Major Tommy Bradford explained that the office tries to budget for two new cars per year, rotating the higher mileage vehicles off in pairs. The DCSO’s highest mileage vehicle is nearing 200,000 miles.

Rodney Ross (New Salem Fire Chief) and Matt Hill (South Dade Fire Chief) returned with the request for ARPA funds to complement the volunteer fire departments’ SPLOST funds to purchase three new 2,000 gallon tanker fire engines. The fire trucks are for the New Salem, West Brow, and South Dade volunteer departments to replace 1989, 1993, and 1998 models, respectively.

The commission discussed this expense at length, bringing up issues such as how to split the cost, whether or not to finance the purchase, whether or not to purchase the more expensive trucks with a better warranty coverage or save the county money by purchasing the cheaper options.

With the volunteer departments using their $275,000 SPLOST allocation, an additional $154,000 per truck will be needed from ARPA funding to purchase the most expensive trucks.

Hartline said, “This is the only way I would vote yes. If we take the three departments that want the trucks, take the $275,000, get the remainder out of ARPA, but it does not overflow into the next SPLOST.”

Hartline and Don Townsend (chief financial officer and county clerk) were not in favor of financing the purchase.

In the end, the commission voted to purchase three fire trucks from Tactical Fire/Toyne Inc. for a total of $1,270,703, using fire department SPLOST funds first and ARPA to cover the remaining balance.

Photo by Lydia Berglar – Part of the November county commission meeting discussed infrastructure expansion to support the Trenton Pressing expansion, pictured here. Melissa Bradford (District 4 commissioner) asked a number of clarifying questions about the expenses for the project.

Evan Stone (executive director of the Industrial Development Authority) then requested to use $120,000 of the IDA’s SPLOST allocations to help cover water and sewer expansion costs within the industrial park. This is because the City of Trenton’s sewer and the county’s water company approached the IDA to request funds to help cover costs. While a $1.2 million federal grant was awarded to the Dade County Water and Sewer company for this project and for water lines on Highway 299, there are still additional costs.

$1.2 million from SPLOST was allocated to the IDA to purchase land and expand infrastructure, such as this project. After purchasing the Price Farm for $350,000, the IDA has $850,000 remaining in the account.

Melissa Bradford (District 4 commissioner) had many questions, explaining that this was the first time she was hearing about this topic. The expanded infrastructure is tied to Trenton Pressing’s expansion project. Bradford asked why the county entities were bearing the costs instead of Trenton Pressing and why the expansion had moved forward before the infrastructure was in place. She asked how this benefits the IDA and the county as a whole.

Stone explained that he had kept Rumley updated about the project, as well as Alex Case (City of Trenton mayor). Stone, Rumley, Case, and other commissioners explained that the county and city entities have desired to expand water and sewer in the industrial park for future growth and to act as back-up for the north end of the county if a water main break should occur. They explained that building projects are generally begun/completed before water is connected. Stone noted that if the water company had not received the federal grant, the costs for all government parties involved would be much higher.

On a follow-up phone call with Stone, he explained, “Trenton Pressing is responsible for running their sewer and water lines underneath the road. They have expenses and will have additional expenses. The water company had been wanting to put that line all the way through to have that redundant backup. We were going to help them all along to get water up to Trenton Pressing.”

Ansel Smith (assistant fire chief for Trenton-Dade) briefly returned to the proposed fire training facility, noting that they have until December 31st to make a decision. Bradford explained that she would not like to go with the slightly cheaper option only to later wish they had gone with the more comprehensive option.

The commission voted to purchase 13 AEDs (automated external defibrillators) for the Dade County Sports Complex and public buildings for a total of $28,693.

During citizens participation, Shan Anderson brought up his concerns regarding the IDA’s purchase of the Price Farm property which is adjacent to Anderson’s home. See the lead-off article in this issue of the Sentinel for a complete explanation. His speech referenced much of the content from that article, but some other quotes include: “I lived in a very bad part of New Jersey for a little while…If you drove ten miles in any direction, you could expect a 30-minute drive on a good day. Everywhere you looked, there were large businesses and industries that had pushed people out of what was once a beautiful place. When I got home, I realized that there was really no place like Dade County.”

He continued, “People have come to Dade County to remove themselves from areas that are fast approaching similarity to the one that I just described. However, if we’re not careful, we’re gonna find ourselves on the fast track to demoralizing our beautiful town.”

He added, “I’m not here to degrade industry as I believe there is a need for industry as long as it’s kept within the correct balance of the county’s needs and the desires of the taxpayers. I am, however, totally against the county taking actions that will have a negative impact to our citizens.”

Hartline asked Anderson, “Would you like to see zoning put on the next ballot to let the citizens of the county vote to whether they do or do not want zoning? In my opinion, nobody wants zoning until it’s in their back door. I agree, because I live on a farm. If somebody came next to me and built a multi-unit apartment complex, I would be upset.”

Anderson answered, “I’m a firm believer in transparency…When you put something on the ballot that says ‘zoning,’ it puts a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouth. If you’re transparent enough in what exactly zoning means and show that it can benefit somebody, I believe your outcome would be different.”

Rumley added, “That’s true. And not just that it benefits somebody, but it benefits the whole county. It’s been brought up for years.”

Lowery asked Robin Rogers (county attorney), “It’s my understanding that this board already has the authority to do zoning if they so choose.” Rogers confirmed this statement.

Anderson said, “I’m not going to deny that I have kept my head in the sand…and stayed out of the actions of county politics. I hope that the citizens listening here tonight see this and they pull their heads out of the sand too and make preparations to make sure that this don’t happen to them in the future.”

Hartline said, “This problem’s not going to be fixed until we do have zoning. I think it’s a two-year process…I think it needs a lot of discussion to go into it.” He mentioned I-57, Highway 11, and other nearby businesses on various sides of Anderson’s property, explaining, “You’re telling us we’re supposed to look to one side of the property…Which side of the problem am I supposed to look at? You’ve got the interstate here, a state route here, and businesses to the south. You’re asking me to look to one side of the property for you.”

Anderson said that if Komatsu comes to the 299 area (as it has been rumored), it would affect a lot of people. Rumley said the regional commission does impact studies on all industries that want to come to Dade County.

Hartline asked, “This is for the future. If they had done all the studies and all the answers were that it wasn’t going to impact, would your opinions change?” Anderson answered, “When you’re being transparent, that gives us something to sit down and discuss, but if it’s not there, you can’t discuss it.”

Lamar Lowery (District 1 commissioner) read the 911 calls for October, which totaled 3,187:

  • EMS: 185
  • Fire & Rescue: 275
  • Law Enforcement: 2,727

He reported that Tennessee Valley Net will be setting up internet equipment in Wildwood starting at the end of this month. In January 2024, TVN will begin accepting applications for internet. Lowery said, “We haven’t had internet ever.”

The commission entered executive session to discuss “possible litigation and real estate” per Rumley.

Afterward, Rumley and Lowery explained to the Sentinel that the commission voted to terminate the agreement with North Dade Fire Department due to a lack of response to calls. Lowery said, “It’s become a heavy call area with the interstates, and most of our volunteers have to work jobs during the day. It’s come to where we don’t have people answering those calls, so we have to try something new. We’ve been working on a contract with the Trenton-Dade department.”

Lowery anticipates that utilizing the paid firefighters in the Trenton department will offer better coverage for North Dade, especially during the work day.

Rumley also explained that the commission voted to purchase property for the planned elections building, using funds from the Back Valley land auction. For $100,000, the county is purchasing about three acres just north of Bank of Dade by Highway 11 and west of the Dade County Transfer Station.

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