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Political Debates
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By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter

The Trenton City Commission is in the market for a new parks, recreation and animal control commissioner, and Mayor Anthony Emanuel encourages prospective candidates to come to City Hall and apply within.

“If you know anyone’s who’s interested in getting involved in the city commission, this is the time to do it,” said the mayor at Monday night’s regular January meeting. 

The slot on the commission was left empty last week when two-term incumbent Chuck Cannon made a dramatic exeunt from Trenton civic life and indeed from Trenton, announcing his decision to move out of state following his divorce and a well-publicized encounter with the justice system.

The city commission will appoint a replacement to serve out the unexpired term of Cannon, who was up for reelection in November in any case.  Emanuel said he’d already spoken with four interested applicants but would be happy to speak with more.  “There’s no limit on how many can hold up their hand and say, consider me,” he said.

The commissioners will make their choice with a vote next month, said the mayor.

Speaking of the off-year elections in November, another order of business on Monday was to set qualifying fees for the three city positions up for grabs this year.  Besides Cannon’s slot, Trenton must also hold elections for police commissioner and city clerk. 

The commission voted to keep the qualifying fees at 3 percent of salary, which translates to $108 for the two commission seats, which carry a part-time salary of $3600 a year; and $1122.36 for the full-time clerk’s position, which has a base pay of $37,000 per annum.

The police commission seat has been held on and off by Sandra Gray since 1994 – she sat out one term but was appointed to fill the unexpired term of her successor in 2005, then successfully ran again – and Lucretia Houts has been city clerk since 1990.  Ms. Houts told the Sentinel she has already decided to seek another term.  Ms. Gray made no announcement Monday night.

For more information on any of these positions, readers may call City Hall at (706) 657-4167.

Otherwise, the commission had a fairly short agenda this month.  Mayor Emanuel took attendees through the usual monthly tour of Trenton’s finances.  As he predicted last month, the city finished 2012 slightly over budget, missing Emanuel’s goal of ending the year at breakeven, but he pointed out that this was an improvement over previous years.  “Sometimes to look at where you are, you have to look at where you’ve been,” said the mayor.  “I’ll take $87,000 in the hole vs. $300,000 in the red any day.”

Emanuel said the commission had done a good job of belt-tightening in 2012, specifically in the personnel area, and hinted more staff cuts could be expected in the future.  “We are taking a very aggressive approach to our budget,” he said.  “We do recognize that 85 percent of our budget is our employees.” 

Also on the subject of matters pecuniary, the mayor invited representatives of the Dade County Public Library to submit numbers to the commission representing levels of support it receives from its other funding sources so that the city could set its own budget amount for the library. 

Dade’s library has historically been funded through the city, county and board of education, with state assistance dependant on local maintenance of support, but the board of education abruptly pulled all support last year amid some controversy.

Trenton under Emanuel’s predecessor as mayor was poised for a similar ducking out from under as it set its 2011 budget but relented at the last minute, if only conditionally, amid some public outcry. 

Emanuel’s comments on Monday seemed more library-friendly.  “The library is the light in the darkness, and we will find some way to support it,” he said.  “We purposefully withheld funds from the library not for any reason except we were trying to get to zero as quick as we could.”   

Now, he said, he was guardedly optimistic about the 2013 numbers.  He said the commission would review the library’s situation and announce what the city could do to fund it next month.

Library manager Marshana Sharp was home sick, but Melanie Parrish spoke up for the library during the civic organizations part of the meeting.  She said library usage continued to climb. 

Longtime library board member Donna Street also spoke for the library, inviting the public to next Tuesday’s seminars on how to use library resources.  “There are all sorts of things that the public doesn’t realize they’re paying for with their state tax dollars,” she said. 

The seminars will be held throughout the day Tuesday.  The library may be reached at (706) 657-7857 for more information.  

Ginnie Sams spoke for the Trenton Arts Council.  She said TAC’s latest ArtScapes public art installation, a sculpture by Jerry Wallace on Highway 11 North, had brought the town a lot of publicity.  “People are fascinated with the textures and with the objects embedded in the stone” she said. 

She said another ArtScape sculpture was targeted for March 1.  Also, said Ms. Sams, TAC hopes to open an art show in the Trenton Civic Center around the beginning of May.

In public appearances, one citizen stood up to complain that a damaged gas station sign at the Trenton interstate exit “stuck out like a sore thumb” and should be repaired.

The Trenton City Commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 12, and Mayor Emanuel reiterated the commission’s new schedule:  Instead of starting its informal work session at 6 p.m. and recessing until the public business meeting at 7 p.m., commissioners will now begin the business session as soon as they have finished the work session – usually around 6:30 p.m., the mayor predicted.                


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