DALTON, Ga. — The Dalton and Whitfield County parks and recreation departments use different operating models to provide services, which would make it difficult to combine them, their directors said Wednesday.
The directors spoke to the 15-member charter commission, which is studying the consolidation of Whitfield and Dalton and writing a charter for the new government. If recommended by the commission, citizens will vote in November 2012 whether to merge the two governments.
Dalton Parks and Recreation Director Steve Card told commissioners Wednesday about his department's numerous programs, two recreational centers and year-round youth and adult athletic programs at 12 parks. The department has 26 full-time employees, a budget of about $2.5 million and brings in about $350,000 in revenues.
His Whitfield counterpart, Brian Chastain, said his department serves more as a facilitator and maintenance team for community associations that organize sports teams. The department has seven full-time employees, a budget of just under $1 million and brings in about $40,000 a year in revenues. It also maintains Whitfield County school athletic fields, where many of the county associations play.
Both the city and county departments also use volunteers, but the county relies most heavily on volunteer associations.
"What it would cost to consolidate the departments depends on the level of services and what the expectations are," Card said.
Commissioners asked both men if it would be possible to combine the two models and how that would affect the offered services.
Card said it would be important to allow participants to play sports in the communities where they live and go to school. County residents can already participate in any city programs they choose, and city residents can also play on county teams.
Neither the city nor the county charges for children to play on sports teams, but community associations usually charge a fee.
Chastain expressed concern about how associations and volunteers would be affected by consolidation.
"These are all volunteers that put a lot of time into what they do," he said, and he would be reluctant to change that model.
Varnell City Administrator Jason Hall seconded that concern.
"We get a lot of participation out of our community, and we like our identity," he said.
Commission Chairman Frank Thomasen assured the department directors that the charter commission had no intention of telling them the best way to combine the departments. Details would be left to department directors if voters approve a consolidation referendum.
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, ...