published Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Whitfield County commissioners to study Prater's Mill repairs

Prater's Mill as seen in this file photo.
Prater's Mill as seen in this file photo.
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DALTON, Ga. -- For the second time, Whitfield County commissioners tabled a request for funding from the Prater's Mill Foundation to get more information.

When Roger Rollins asked the board last month for $18,300 to paint the exterior, repair the front porch and do other projects, board members said they wanted information about how the foundation spends it money.

During a board meeting Monday evening, Rollins provided information that the foundation brings in about $23,000 a year in events and donations. It spends about the same amount of money in operations.

"Even in a good year, we just break even," Rollins said. "There is no money to budget for capital expenses."

Prater's Mill is in northern Whitfield County near Varnell and is on the National Register of Historic Places. More than 150 years old, it served as camping grounds for both Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.

It is home to Prater's Mill Country Fair, an annual festival that attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Last year, the mill's owners deeded the property over to the county. The foundation has leased the site since 1971 and runs it.

During Monday's meeting, county commissioners agreed to have the county's building and grounds department take a look at the mill to see exactly what needed to be done to restore the aging buildings.

County Commissioner Mike Babb assured Rollins that the delay did not mean the county doesn't support the foundation.

"I don't think anybody in the county accepted that building just to see it fall off its foundation," he said. "We'll send someone out there to make an evaluation and give us a report."

In other business of the evening, county commissioners narrowly approved $10,000 to pay the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute to help study a merger between the city and county.

A Charter Commission tasked with studying the merger has been meeting for more than a month and decided last week it needed additional help from the Institute.

The city approved its share of the funding last week.

The county commissioners voted three to two in favor of the funding, with Harold Brooker and Greg Jones voting against it. Gordon Morehouse and Robby Staten voted in favor of the funding, with Babb casting a rare tie-breaking vote for the funding.

Jones said everyone he talks to opposes the merger.

"The only one interested in it is the mayor (David Pennington)," Jones said. "They have some really smart people on that committee; they should be able to do it without help."

Brooker said he didn't necessarily oppose the funding, but thought the committee should do more work before bringing in outside help.

Contact Mariann Martin at 706-980-5824 or

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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