Arts center added to Dalton projects

Arts center added to Dalton projects

September 4th, 2011 by Mariann Martin in News

City Manager Ty Ross

DALTON, Ga. -- Using sales tax money to fund half of a performing arts center in Dalton is a great economic opportunity, supporters said last week.

City leaders announced they are placing the center on a projects list for the public to vote on in November.

"I believe the community is really behind it," said Dixie Kinard, who serves on the executive committee of the Archway Partnership, which works on Dalton and Whitfield County community planning. "If we are going to have an additional tax, this is a community need."

City Manager Ty Ross said the city took some other items from the special purpose local option sales tax list in order to add $6 million for a performing arts center. The other $6 million will come from various sources, including Dalton City Schools and private support.

County commissioners met Friday morning to approve a new projects list that includes the center.

If approved, the 1 percent sales tax would go into effect in January.

Other projects on the list are $2.7 million for greenway projects that include bike and pedestrian trails.

Fire and police equipment dropped from the list in favor of the center will be bought using capital funds, Ross said.

"We believe [SPLOST] projects should be special projects that could not be paid for in other ways," Ross said.

Mayor David Pennington adamantly opposes the sales tax increase and said he will work for its defeat. But if the tax is passed, the center would be a good way to use the money, he said.

Dalton school board chairman Steve Williams said the schools probably will put up several million to help build the center.

The money would come from funds the city gave the school system several years ago for a middle school auditorium that never was built. That money, a "significant amount," has not been spent, he said.

The Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia will support the performing arts center but has not pledged a specific amount of money, President David Aft said Thursday.

Dalton State College President John Schwenn said the college is enthusiastic and supports the center but will not be able to contribute money to the project.

The college is developing visual and performing arts programs that would use the center, he said.

Final details, such as where the center would be built, have not been decided. Somewhere in the downtown area is one option, officials said.

The theater at Dalton State College has a capacity of about 300 people, Kinard said, which is not large enough for many shows. The new center would have from 700 to 1,200 seats, she said.

Aft said the center will provide an economic boost to the area and make the city more attractive to young professionals. If touring groups from surrounding cities such as Nashville and Atlanta booked shows at the center, it would allow residents to spend money for tickets that now is being spent in Chattanooga and Atlanta, he said.

City and county officials have said attracting younger people to the area is a high priority for them and vital to Dalton's continued growth.

"We are excited about the possibilities," Aft said. "I think it is a great opportunity for Dalton."