Dalton/Whitfield consolidation panel still seeking consensus

Dalton/Whitfield consolidation panel still seeking consensus

July 28th, 2011 by Mariann Martin in News

Downtown Dalton, Ga. Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Downtown Dalton, Ga. Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga...

DALTON, Ga. - Dalton/Whitfield County consolidation charter panel members differed Wednesday on how best to proceed, with some saying they should concentrate on the bigger picture as others called for examination of each department and how they could be combined.

The 15-member commission, tasked with deciding whether city and county government consolidation would be good for Whitfield County residents, has been meeting once a week for about a month. So far the commission has heard from several department heads but also has spent a good deal of time discussing how to best proceed with its task.

"We need to focus on what is the greater good for all, to keep looking at the bigger picture," Dalton business owner Phil Neff said.

But Ray Broadrick, a retired schoolteacher and former judge, said he thinks the commission needs to take a close look at how departments would merge and how it would affect those departments.

Other members said they would like to concentrate on two or three issues that will be the most difficult to resolve.

The commission adjourned without a clear consensus of which path they will pursue. They agreed to ask heads of the police and sheriff's departments to come in and discuss how consolidation might work with the two departments.

The commission also will ask officials from several Georgia counties that already are consolidated to answer questions about how consolidation worked for them.

Members of the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute are scheduled to meet with the commission on Aug. 17.

The commission also heard from two countywide groups on Wednesday.

Elyse Cochran heads the Dalton-Whitfield County Joint Development Authority, which was formed in 2006. It is equally funded by Whitfield County and Dalton, but also receives more than half its funding from private sources.

Cochran said the authority does not focus on whether a business is in the county or city but looks at the overall benefits to the county. Having a consolidated government would be a good selling point to potential businesses, she said.

"It sends a message of strong consolidated services," she said.

County Tax Commissioner Danny Sane told the committee that consolidating city and county tax collections serves the taxpayers and has been hugely beneficial for both governments.

"If you have a problem, there is just one person to talk to," he said.