New Salem Resident Presents Petition Regarding Lookout Lake at County Commission Meeting; Wildwood Lifestyle Center Requests Abandonment of County Road 159


A petition signed by over 200 residents of Dade County asking County Commissioners to stop the further draining of Lookout Lake Dam was shown to commissioners during the July work session Thursday evening.

Dade County resident Melvin Bradford addressed commissioners during the work session for the regularly scheduled July commission meeting regarding the Lookout Lake Dam project. Bradford shared a brief history of the dam and memories of baptisms, fishing, and other activities at the lake. Bradford said the lake was an important part of the New Salem community. Bradford pointed out that there are five lakes at The Preserve in Rising Fawn and all but one of them have dams that are leaking and nothing is being done about any of them. Bradford talked about the potential impact to the lake and fish, saying Lookout Lake was already at least four feet below where it should be based on the water lines around the lake. Bradford also talked about the fact that since the dam was constructed in the 1960″s and the lack of flooding due to the lake.  Commissioner Allan Bradford later explained that the flooding of the lake during Hurricane Ivan was the result of a boat blocking the pipes and preventing the lake levels from being siphoned down.
“If it didn’t flood this past week, it isn’t going to flood,” Melvin Bradford said.
Rumley explained that the Safe Dams people from the state had done a study on Lookout Lake and their information shows that if Lookout Lake dam ever gives out it would cause an event lasting four to eight minutes which would funnel water down into the canyon wiping out driveways and possibly roads along the way, through the canyon and two homes at the bottom would have three to four feet of water inside. The state classified the dam as a Class 1 – most dangerous – back in 2004 after Hurricane Ivan when the state became aware of Lookout Lake Dam, according to Rumley, as a result of the media attention received by water overflowing the dam. Rumley said the state sets what has to be done in order to bring the dam into compliance for a Class 2 dam and that the county has been working on this project with engineers and the state for years.  The state recently gave approval and the county has six months to get the project completed or they will have to pay a $500 per day fee that at 18 to 20 days changes to $5,000.
Bradford told commissioners more than 200 people had signed the petition and only one person in New Salem was for the work being done. Bradford chastised the commission for causing additional stress to his brother-in-law, and property owner, Larry Moore and said Moore did not deserve to be paid back by the county this way after everything he had done for the county saying commissioners should be ashamed of themselves.
Commissioner Phillip Hartline clarified that it was not the county doing this, the Lookout Lake dam project was out of their hands and the county has to do what the state tells them to.
Rumley said the original plans by the state would have been worse and the only reason Lookout Lake is still there is that commissioners and Moore worked with the states and engineers to come up with a more affordable plan in order to keep the lake. As to the lakes and dams at The Preserve, Rumley said the state had looked at those dams because the county knew they were leaking and the state told the county that the dams are all a Class 2 and they, the state,  can not touch them.
Most of the commission verbally said they empathized with Bradford and the other New Salem residents and Moore and said they would rather not touch the lake and dam at all, but they had no choice.
“We inherited this twelve years ago, ” Goff said. “Nobody here wants to see that lowered, but we’ve got a mandate from the state.”
“We don’t have a choice, we have to do this,” Commissioner Allan Bradford said.
Rumley said the plan was that when the dam and the project were complete and signed off on by the state and it came time to bring the water level back up, they were going to bring it back up as high as the state would allow them to go.
County Road 159, which deadends at the Wildwood LIfestyle Center in Wildwood, may soon be closed. The Wildwood Lifestyle Center has been dealing with a lot of vandalism and theft along the road, which they have assured the county have been caused by out of state visitors and not by county residents.  The Lifestyle Center has requested that County Road 159 be abandoned by the county to them in order to gate the road. County Attorney Robin Rogers will be looking into the request and determining what steps the county needs to take or what legal issues there may be.
Trenton Fire Chief Jerry Kyzer asked Commissioners for land, not money, in order to use the space for a Firefighters Memorial. Kyzer asked if the round, raised flower bed located near the gazebo and next to Highway 11 on the square just opposite the courthouse could be used for the memorial. The Firefighters Memorial will include two statues, lights, and a flag pole and flag as well as a pathway or area of bricks set in sand. The bricks will then be pried up and etched with names of firefighters. Each volunteer fire department will have a plaque as well. Funds for the memorial will be raised through donations.  Commissioner Lamar Lowery said he believed the entire area around the gazebo had been designated as Veterans Memorial Park, so they may have to work out something with the Legion. Commissioner Allan Bradford said it was all part of Veterans Memorial Park, but he felt sure they would be able to work it out. Rogers will be looking into that as well.
SPLOST and LOST collections from the first month affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have come in and remained over $200,000. Goff reminded everyone that SPLOST and LOST collections amounts are always two months behind, so SPLOST collections for June reported at $221,000 were actually collected during the month of April.
“Thank the Lord SPLOST was still up,” Goff said and contributed the seemingly unaffected SPLOST collections with the grocery and restaurant sales. Goff thanked all the county restaurants for working hard to meet guidelines and provide take out service to Dade residents.
Goff also spoke about the SPLOST which passed during the recent election. Goff said it passed by the same margin it usually does and said that SPLOST collections for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 were over $2.6 million dollars for the county and the Board of Education received the same amount meaning the residents benefitted from $5.2 million that did not have to come from property taxes.
A few brief items of interest discussed at the commission meeting included the county’s transfer station looking for someone with a CDL to drive the trailer at the transfer station during the week and on Saturdays for $15 an hour. Alliance for Dade is looking for a Director of Operations to work PT during the week at the Regional Visitor’s Information Center and Saturday mornings with job information posted on the group’s Facebook site. The Dade Department of Public Health is doing free COVID-19 testing five days a week and Rumley said cars had been lined up during testing times out into the roadway. E-911/EMA Director Alex Case said 72 people had been tested in four hours on one day alone.
Commissioners approved the appointment of Alan Townsend to the Special Use Permit Board; declared a 2008 grasshopper lawnmower as surplus property to be listed for sale on; approved the purchase of extrication equipment for the Davis Fire Department in the amount of $10,096.52 from SPLOST; the purchase of a Ram 1500 crew cab truck at a cost of $15,718 from Jenkins Chrysler from SPLOST for the Dade County Sheriff’s Office; the purchase for the Sheriff’s Office from Prater Ford an Explorer police utility vehicle at a cost of $55,146.36 of which will nearly all be paid for with insurance funds from two totaled vehicles; and the first reading of Ordinance 07-02-20(a)-Amending ABC Ordinance to Permit Sunday Sales Off-Premises Consumption and Ordinance 07-02-20(b)-Amending ABC Ordinance to Permit Sunday Sales On-Premises Consumption.
County Attorney Robin Rogers will be looking into the state statutes on vandalism and/or destruction of historical statues, monuments, memorials and markers.  Commissioner Lamar Lowery asked if there was a way to make a county ordinance that makes it worse than a misdemeanor to damage or vandalize historical statues, monuments, memorials and markers.