Whitfield County and Dalton leaders will head to Athens, Ga., this week to talk with planners about ways the city and county can merge services.
The entire City Council and County Commission, with five members each; the Dalton mayor; and the commission chairman will head to the University of Georgia on Friday for a two-day talk on a wide range of topics, including merging city and county agencies that overlap.
"The hope is to have an open and frank discussion, and it is entirely possible the topic [of outright consolidation] could come up," said City Manager Ty Ross. "Any discussion of total merger would be a discussion of a public referendum because that's what would be required."
Whitfield and Dalton already have merged planning and zoning offices and building inspections departments, and the county performs all the city's road maintenance.
Leaders in the county and city also have expressed interest in merging the now-separate fire departments and a study on that issue is pending. Dalton Mayor David Pennington also said the county should fold its recreation department into the city's.
But outright consolidations of the two governments would require a special referendum.
Commission Chairman Mike Babb said a number of areas could be merged and, when it makes sense, mergers could save taxpayers money and be more equitable.
"If there are services that can be delivered countywide, the county ought to do it," Babb said. "We've got to look at what's the fairest way to deliver the most services to the citizens."
Because the entire council and commission will be present for the meetings, it is considered an open meeting, and the public is allowed to attend by law.
Contact staff writer Adam Crisp at email@example.com or 423-757-6323.