Commissioner Hartline Posed Several Questions Concerning North Dade Volunteer Fire Department during Dec meeting

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Commissioner Phillip Hartline posed several questions for his fellow Commissioners and EMA/E911 Director Alex Case and Deputy EMA Director Ansel Smith.  Hartline’s questions were regarding the North Dade Volunteer Fire Department with which the Dade County Commission voted not to renew their fire services contract in an executive session during October’s County Commission Meeting. Since then, several questions have come up. Hartline said even though it wasn’t his district, he had made the motion to not renew the contract based on the understanding that a new Fire Chief would be found and the station and Department would be given back to their community. Hartline mentioned the missing North Dade Fire Department sign and was told the sign was not taken down by county representatives. Hartline asked about why the name had been changed to Dade County Station 4 and who had d3cided it should be changed.  Hartline was told that the department taking over North Dade had changed the name and Smith said that it had to be done because the North Dade Fire Department was dissolved with Georgia Standards and Training and then they had it added back in as Station 4. Smith said part of the reason for that was the ISO rating, but that the trucks would still have North Dade on them somewhere and a new sign and emblem were being made which would say Dade County Station 4 Serving North Dade.

Hartline asked if or what was being done to find a new chief and received no answer except that they were giving the current arrangement a year and seeing how things worked out. Hartline also asked who the current Chief was for North Dade and Smith answered that it was Trenton Fire Chief Jerry Kyzer. Smith said neither himself or Kyzer had ever made any statements regarding a single Fire Department for the county.

Another issue addressed by Hartline was the fact that a North Dade truck and other items that belonged to the fire department were missing. According to Smith and County Executive Ted Rumley that included 13 sets of turnout gear.  Hartline said equipment that was donated or meant for the use of the county should not be at someone’s house and that he felt the taking of the equipment from the fire station was theft, no matter if the things were donated to other stations in the county the equipment was meant for use by the community.

Rumley said they were attempting to set up a meeting with the former North Dade Fire Chief Chris Lowrance, but had been unable to make contact with him.

Commissioner Hartline’s second area of concern regarded SPLOST approval. Hartline asked what the amount was where SPLOST purchases had to be approved by the commission. Rumley said all SPLOST purchases had to be approved by the Commission. Hartline asked that a letter be sent to all department heads reminding them they needed to bring all SPLOST purchases before the commission. Hartline also stated that emergency purchases that were brought forward at the last minute was the fault of the department head. Rumley pointed out that the Sheriff’s Department had a boiler go out last year and after the tornadoes there were things that had to be paid for and Hartline said those type of things were not what he was talking about and that “you know what I am talking about”.

Potential concerns for EMS were brought to the commission by EMS Director Alex Case. Case said that the contract for EMS with Memorial would be coming  up and would fall halfway through the 2025 budget. Case said he, Rumley, Walker County Chairman Shannon Whitfield, and Fire Chief and EMA Director Blake Hodge had been meeting to discuss the contracts. Memorial administration had agreed to meet with them but their concern was that Dade and Walker would receive 120 day notice of an increase in the amount of subsidy the counties would need to pay. Case also discussed the county’s five ambulances, several of which are high mileage. Case provided some chassis costs to Commissioners as well as a remount cost for one chassis could be $211,000 to $261,000. Chassis are also two years out. Case said he just wanted to start the discussion so Commissioners were aware of what they could be looking at.

Case said they would continue to work with their neighbors next door (Walker) and that Dade was unfortunately up in a corner where they could not get help from Tennessee or Alabama.

“We have got to look forward, protecting the lives of our people,” Case said.

Case also spoke about radio needs with commissioners saying they have been having problems with the North Dade Repeater. Case said they have looked at bids for full replacement – $217,000 from Motorola – down to the minimum of $30,000. Case asked to move forward in creating a proposal that includes scope of work needing to be done as $217,000 was too much. Case said they were looking at what Walker had and hoping to have one tower that links both the north and south ends so they no longer have to page separately for each tower.

Monthly Commissioner reports began with Commissioner Lamar Lowery. Lowery reported that Dade E911 handled a total of 2,840 calls in November. Those broke down into 184 EMS calls, 297 Fire Department Calls (which are higher than EMS Lowery said because on certain calls more than one service is paged out), and 2,359 Law Enforcement calls. Ten new E911 addresses were added for a total of 124 new addresses for the year.

Everything at the sports complex has ended and employees are working on maintenance for the facilities, Hartline said. Middle School Baseball will begin using the fields in February. The county had 23 electrical inspections in November, three new temporary electrical inspections and 10 for new construction. Utility work continues on 301 on Sand Mountain. Hartline reminded everyone of the Military Dinner he and his wife put on with their companies each year. This year emergency services have been included and can be a volunteer plus one. The dinner is on December 16th from 11 am to 2 pm.

Commissioner Robert Goff reported another record collection for SPLOST for the month at $349,070. Goff also spoke about the purchase of property behind the Bank of Dade approved by commissioners in a previous meeting. The property is to be used for the construction of an Elections Office and voting precinct. Goff said some preliminary work has begun at the property but it will not be done in time for the 2024 elections.

Rumley said the county was in the middle of repair work on the Depot building. The county had received the insurance money from the fire, then determined the damage was not as bad as they thought and decided against demolishing the building. When completed plans are to move two offices over there including the county’s indigent defense office. The building indigent defense is currently housed in will be put up for sale and back on the tax rolls. Rumley said the county is doing as much of the work on the depot as they can themselves.

Rumley said the county has received several complaints about tractor trailers on Hales Gap, Buckhalter Gap and even Newsome Gap roads. They are finding the GPS is taking them that way. Hales and Burkhalter can be used for deliveries, but not thorough traffic with 18 wheelers and Newsome Gap is a dirt road. Rumley said the county is having bright, noticeable signs put up to let semi’s know they can take those routes. Rumley said the state continues to work on the Hwy 299 congestion issue.

Re-districting has been approved by the Board of Education and sent to the state for further approval, but as far as County Commission districts are concerned, Rumley said there are no plans to re-district County Commission districts and the commission is happy with them the way they are.

County Commissioners approved. Resolution (R-40-23) for reappointment of Wesley Bradford to Board of Health; Resolution (R-41-23) for appointment of James Michael Eckhardt to the Board of Assessors; Resolution (R-42-23) for reappointment of Shannon Henry to the NWG Joint Development Authority Board; Resolution (R-43-23) for reappointment of John Case to the Limestone Valley RC&D Board; Resolution (R-44-23) for reappointment of George Williams to the NWG Regional Commission Board; Resolution (R-45-23) for reappointment of member to the Water & Sewer Authority – Tony Payne; a Proclamation: Georgia Military Veterans’ Hall of Fame, Inc. Day – November 4, 2023 in honor of Army Tech 5 Dolas D. Bain; Resolution (R-37-23) to send a Recommendation to Governor and General Assembly to continue efforts to reform and improve mental health services; to commence proceedings to abandon Pleasant Hill Road as a County Road; the monthly update for Historic Courthouse Restoration Project – Mr. Cole Adkins, CM of BCM, Inc.; the monthly financial report; the agenda as amended by Commissioner Hartline to add discussion on North Dade Fire Department and SPLOST; previous meeting minutes; personnel report; and to send letter to department heads notifying them all SPLOST purchases must come before the commission.

By Summer Kelly