Dalton City Council approves agreement on encrypted radios, other business

Dalton Mayor Dennis Mock says he's glad the city now has an intergovernmental agreement with Whitfield County concerning the use of encrypted, county-owned radios.

"The agreement basically just puts into writing what had been the practices before," Mock said. "I'm not sure why we didn't have a written agreement before, but I'm glad we do now."

The Dalton City Council voted 4-0 on Monday to approve the agreement, which says the radios can only be used for public safety purposes. The county Board of Commissioners approved the agreement last week.

The agreement also says each government is responsible for paying the subscriber fee for each of the radios it is assigned to the Tennessee Valley Regional Communication System, codifying what had been the practice. The city of Dalton has 402 handheld and vehicle-mounted radios and its annual subscriber fees total $45,285.

Whitfield County adopted a new digital emergency radio system in 2017, replacing the 40-year-old analog technology the county had been using. The system, which cost some $12 million, was the top priority under the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) approved by voters in 2015. It serves all county first responders as well as those in the cities of Dalton, Cohutta, Tunnel Hill and Varnell.

Whitfield County Emergency Management Director Claude Craig said in June he was developing a formal policy regarding the radios. Craig made the comment shortly after a county grand jury declined to indict Varnell Police Chief Lyle Grant for providing one of the radios to a private business. District Attorney Bert Poston said then it was “particularly significant” that there was no formal policy concerning the use of the radios among the county and the cities.

Grant provided a radio to Bob Cummings, owner of Bob’s Wrecker Service in Dalton, a situation investigated first by the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office and then by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The new agreement says the cities can’t give or sell the radios to anyone else.

City Council members also voted 4-0 to:

• Appoint Whitfield County registrar Mary Hammontree as the city election superintendent for the Nov. 5 municipal election.

Qualifying will take place on Monday, Aug. 19, to Friday, Aug. 23, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day in the city clerk's office in City Hall, 300 W. Waugh St. The offices up for election this year on the City Council are mayor, Ward 1 (held by Denise Wood) and Ward 3 (held by Tyree Goodlett). On the Board of Education, the seats held by Rick Fromm, Tulley Johnson and Pablo Perez will be contested.

Qualifying fees are $360 for the Ward 1 and 3 City Council posts, $576 for mayor and $35 for the Board of Education.

• Approve the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) low-income home repair policy manual, which is required by the federal government. To be eligible for the program, homeowners must meet certain income requirements and be current in their mortgage and homeowner's insurance payments.

The city has $120,000 in CDBG home repair funds this year, and officials expect to repair a minimum of eight homes. There will be a public meeting on Thursday, Aug. 1, at 3 p.m. at City Hall where residents can find out more about the program.

• Approve CDBG sub-recipient agreements with Friendship House day care and preschool, the Housing Authority of the City of Dalton and the Latin American Association. Friendship House will receive $22,527 to underwrite tuition. The Housing Authority will receive $146,618 to install heating and air-conditioning systems in 64 apartments. The Latin American Association, a nonprofit whose mission is to help Georgia Latinos "adapt, integrate and thrive," will receive $24,000 to help Hispanic families at risk of becoming homeless find decent housing.

• Approve a five-year agreement with Croy Engineering, which has offices in Chattanooga and Cartersville, for engineering and consulting services at Dalton Municipal Airport. There is no cost to the contract.

"This contract provides a retainer for future engineering services, at Dalton Municipal Airport, primarily related to capital improvement projects which may be approved in the future by GDOT (the Georgia Department of Transportation)," said City Administrator Jason Parker. "These would include projects like paving of the aircraft taxiways, ramp and runway work, etc. With no current, active projects the cost is zero at this point. When projects are undertaken, there will be engineering costs associated, and those will accompany future contracts presented to mayor and council for consideration."

• Allow the Public Works Department to request bids for a new garbage truck. The city has three trucks and runs two routes each weekday, and Assistant Public Works Director Andrew Parker said "the internal compartments are not holding up" on one of the trucks.

Parker said it would be nine months from the city issuing a purchase order before it could take delivery of the truck.

"We need to get this process started so we are not down a truck," he said.

The estimated cost is $255,000.

Mock typically votes only in the event of a tie.

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