Based on the action items of the Dade County, Georgia Comprehensive Community Plan, the courthouse is being renovated and three new storm shelters are being built.
And right now, local officials are inviting the public to submit more ideas about what they would like to see in their community through a poll released earlier this week.
The plan’s title refers to Dade County and the city of Trenton, but because city and county officials represent the community, it’s really the people’s plan, said Alex Smith, a community planner from the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission, the organization conducting the survey for the northwest. Communities of Georgia.
“The purpose of the plan is to meet their [citizens’] needs, and we assess their needs,” Smith said. “And that’s a big part of what the public inquiry is – to get their opinion and understand what direction they would like to go. And we do it on their behalf because we want to know better how to serve them.”
The survey, “Fostering Positive Growth: Dade County Community Survey 2022,” is available at bit.ly/dade-survey.
Dade is proceeding with the required five-year update to its current plan, while Walker County has just completed its comprehensive plan which is rewritten every 10 years. Smith said Walker County received 640 survey responses, and he hopes to have the same, if not more, for Dade County.
The survey includes a dozen questions, with a list of checkboxes to choose from. Officials hope to compile the surveys in April or May and complete the plan by June 2, before the June 30 deadline, according to Don Townsend, county clerk and chief financial officer for Dade County.
The regional planning commission serves 15 counties and 49 municipalities in northwest Georgia, Smith said. The commission also has agencies on aging and disability, and a workforce component, helping people find jobs and an education when they are unemployed or when a large factory closes, a he added. Although it has existed under several different names, the regional commission began in 1959 as a way to coordinate regional planning, according to its website.
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Prior to becoming mayor of Trenton, Alex Smith said he worked for Dade County and helped draft the current comprehensive plan. Accompanied by a steering committee and public meetings for stakeholders – industrial companies, banks, chamber of commerce and the general public – the survey is part of a desire to listen to the community on the changes desired by the inhabitants.
“It’s just an update, it’s not a complete overhaul of the plan,” Smith said. “We’re just updating what’s in the first half of the current 10-year plan that we have. So it’s just a catch-up to see where we are and where we want things to go.”
Smith listed some of the categories residents can provide input on: economic development, work programs, broadband, housing, transportation, natural and cultural resources, land use, intergovernmental coordination, facilities and services. The community hasn’t won many grants, but Smith said the overall plan is an important part of ensuring the community is prepared for the future and winning grants down the line.
“Hopefully it continues to grow if we can find funding to do a lot of things, that’s the most important thing,” Smith said. “You need to keep your plans up to date and see if things are still on track. If federal or state funding is available to complete some of them, maybe we can get those grants, and that would be good. “
At its meeting Thursday evening, the Walker County Board of Commissioners did not approve its overall plan as scheduled on the agenda. Shannon Whitfield, chairman of the commission, said he noted that there were several clerical errors on the plan and that the commissioners wanted to correct them before the plan was approved.
The commission approved the decision to correct errors in the plan and bring it back for consideration at next month’s meeting.
Townsend, Dade County, sees both sides of growth in Georgia’s small communities.
“Trenton is one of the smallest hometowns, and we appreciate and keep that,” he said of the municipality which advertises at the top of its website, “Your town for family life!”
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While residents often travel to Chattanooga to shop, he said the local government is still doing well with sales taxes on online purchases. The city also benefits from sales taxes when drivers exit Interstate 59 to fuel up and eat. And while there are no big box stores or Super Walmarts in Trenton, they do have several smaller grocery stores — ones he said were closed by Walmart in other nearby communities.
Townsend said he really wanted to publicize the survey as the community looks to the future.
“It’s really important,” he said. “It’s a way for the public to give their two cents on what’s in the plan.”