Dalton-Whitfield County merger ease expected

Dalton-Whitfield County merger ease expected

September 29th, 2011 by Mariann Martin in News

Benny Dunn, City of Dalton Public Works Director.

Benny Dunn, City of Dalton Public Works Director.

DALTON, Ga. - After weeks of hearing department heads fret over the difficulty of consolidating their departments, members of the Dalton/Whitfield County charter commission were told Wednesday it would be relatively simple to combine the public works departments.

"It wouldn't be that complicated. We have very similar services," said Benny Dunn, Dalton public works chief. The charter commission is studying the proposed consolidation of Dalton and Whitfield County governments.

Salaries and benefits would have to be adjusted, but little else, Dunn and Whitfield Public Works Director Dewayne Hunt said.

The biggest challenge would be different levels of services. The city provides free weekly garbage and recycling pickup, as well as occasional brush and leaf pickup. It also sweeps streets.

Whitfield County does not provide these services.

Charter commission members have talked often about how to address different service levels. In general, city residents have a higher level of fire, police and recreation services.

Some commission members have suggested creating separate tax districts within a consolidated government to provide for different services.

When asked about the benefits of consolidation, Dunn and Hunt said they no longer would need to hash out agreements between the city and county. Under the present agreement, the city pays the county $1.8 million to resurface, repair and maintain public streets within the city limits, with a $500,000 cap on material costs.

What was once an oral agreement caused some problems last year, so the two governments wrote out an agreement approved by county commissioners and the Dalton City Council.

Hunt said any time his department gets caught up in political arguments, it can't operate as efficiently.

"We need to stick to what it is we are supposed to do," he said.