published Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Whitfield, Dalton merger panel elects officers

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The next charter committee meeting will be at 2 p.m. July 13. Meeting place to be determined.

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DALTON, Ga. — Fifteen members of the commission created to help merge Whitfield County and Dalton governments grappled Wednesday with the best way to proceed at their first official meeting.

In 10 months, they are expected to study Whitfield and Dalton governments, decide on how best to consolidate them and write a charter for the proposed government. They walked out Wednesday carrying reams of information on budgets and audits for the last few years.

“It’s going to be a task,” newly elected Chairman Frank Thomason said after the meeting. “But both the city and county have good departmental information. We’ll start by looking at that.”

The group, which met for an informational session last week, began Wednesday’s meeting by unanimously electing Thomason to serve as chairman. Thomason is a retired superintendent of Dalton City Schools.

The committee unanimously voted to appoint Tangela Johnson as the group’s vice chairwoman. Johnson is a business consultant and corporate trainer who also serves as an adjunct professor at Dalton State College.

Dalton Executive Assistant Kim Witherow and County Clerk Samantha Bearden, who are not on the committee, will serve as secretaries for the group.

The members decided to meet once a week through the end of August, beginning their task by learning as much as they can about each city and county department.

Both fire departments will be asked to present information at the next meeting, with the sheriff’s and police departments addressing the group in the following meeting. The group likely will divide into subcommittees to examine individual departments.

To give members a better idea of issues they need to consider in the process, the commission also voted to hire the Carl Vinson Institute of Government to provide information about other Georgia cities and counties that have consolidated. Both the city and county governments will need to approve funding for the study, which is expected to cost about $7,000.

Thomason said the bottom line for the consolidation is dollars — the group will need to show that consolidation would save taxpayers money during tight economic times.

But Johnson also reminded the group they need to hear from citizens about what they want from their government.

“We need to look at the philosophical differences, at the differences in expectations of citizens,” she said.

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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