DALTON, Ga. (WDEF) — The top leadership in the city of Dalton and Whitfield county will meet at the Convention center next Tuesday.
They are once again trying to resolve some financial issues that have divided them for almost a year.
The centerpiece of the dispute between city and county is “the service delivery agreement” that has to be renewed every 10 years.
“This one came up about a year and a half, 2 years ago, and there was this dispute between the city and county of certain services that the county does not provide to city residents, but city residents are being taxed for,” said Dalton Mayor, David Pennington.
In fact most of the 30-plus items in that agreement have already been resolved. But, funding for some elements, like roads, has become a sticking point.
“One of their arguments is roads, two courts have already found that roads are for the benefit of the entire community. You know it would kind of hard for the city of Dalton to operate without using county roads,” said Whitfield County Commission Chairman, Lynn Laughter.
Pennington wants an open meeting on Tuesday.
“This involves the public, their money, their services, they need to be there and its needs to be done in public because nobody is going to be harmed by doing it in public, they could be harmed by doing it in a private session,” said Mayor Pennington.
Laughter disagrees. She says, remember there are lawsuits involved.
Like most communities, these two governmental bodies, the city and the county, each provide vital services like law enforcement and fire departments. Pennington says there is too much duplication of services.
“Why do we have a protection class three fire department on top of a protection class two fire department? We have some cases where you can drive by a county one and a city one, within a mile of each other,” said Mayor Pennington.
County Commission Chairman Lynn Laughter is not optimistic about wide-spread consolidation.
“It’s very expensive to consolidate. I think people think oh, we’re going to save all this money, but that’s not always the case. But having said that I’m in favor of consolidating some services. I think that the sheriff for instance could handle the whole county patrol and all of that. It would increase our budget for the sheriff of course,” said Chairman Laughter.
A retired judge will moderate next Tuesday’s meeting. We’ll be there to cover it.