Dalton City Council tables vote on SPLOST agreement, members say Tuesday's service delivery talks could affect projects

An artist's rendering of what the proposed new John Davis Recreation Center building could look like. The City of Dalton has approved construction of the facility and hopes to fund it with proceeds from a potential Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

Members of the Dalton City Council said Monday night that mediation planned for Tuesday concerning the service delivery agreement could have an impact on a potential Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) vote later this year.

The council voted 4-0 Monday to table an intergovernmental agreement that would spell out how a four-year, $66 million SPLOST would be spent. Mayor David Pennington typically votes only in the event of a tie.

"We need more time to study this agreement," said council member Gary Crews. "And we also need to see if the mediation will have any effect on any of the projects the SPLOST would fund."

Officials have been looking at putting a SPLOST referendum on the May general primary ballot.

The City Council, the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners and members of the city councils of Cohutta, Tunnel Hill and Varnell are scheduled to meet Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Dalton Convention Center to discuss the service delivery agreement. The service delivery agreement between Whitfield County and the cities expired on Oct. 31 after the Dalton City Council refused to agree to extend the existing agreement.

State law requires cities and counties to negotiate a new service delivery agreement every 10 years, spelling out which services the governments will provide and how they will be funded. The agreements are aimed at reducing duplication of services. The Whitfield County service delivery agreement — which is actually 39 separate agreements — covers everything from ambulance service to historic preservation to zoning.

Representatives of the cities and the county took part in almost eight hours of voluntary mediation on Oct. 17 at Dalton State College without a deal being reached. Those deliberations were held in executive session, closed to the public and the media. But Pennington said he wants the Dalton council's portion of the meeting Tuesday to be open, and invited people to attend the meeting.

He said he believes the state requires the service delivery agreement to make sure that local governments are "delivering services as efficiently as possible" and "where it makes sense we combine services."

The proposed intergovernmental agreement follows closely the recommendations of a citizens advisory committee. Dalton would receive roughly $19 million and among the projects that would fund are:

• $11.175 million for the Dalton Parks and Recreation Department for the construction of a new John Davis Recreation Center and development of soccer fields at Heritage Point Park.

• $2.612 million for the Dalton Fire Department for the purchase of a ladder truck and two pumper trucks.

• $2.531 million for the Dalton Public Works Department for bridges and the resurfacing of public roads and the purchase of equipment.

• $2.356 million for the replacement of patrol cars and a property and evidence building for the Dalton Police Department.

• $425,000 for renovations to the Dalton-Whitfield Senior Center.

The agreement would provide $6 million for repairs to the Whitfield County Courthouse, including a new roof, and $850,000 in security upgrades to the Whitfield County Jail, which are considered Tier 1 projects that are funded before local governments split the rest of the money.

In addition, the county would receive about $38.8 million for various projects, including:

• $13 million for a proposed Riverbend Park near Southeast Whitfield High School.

• $9.9 million for resurfacing roads and repairing bridges and culverts and new equipment for the Public Works Department.

• $4.942 million for sewer expansion to Cleveland Highway from about Beaverdale Road north to Frontier Trail; the area around the Carbondale interchange; the area around the Connector 3 interchange.

• $4.668 million to pay off the bonds issued to build Fire Station 12, as well as renovations to other fire stations and vehicle purchases for the fire department.

• $2.3 million for renovations at Westside Park, including two turf/soccer fields, and resurfacing of the Miracle Field, a special turf diamond for baseball for those with special needs; new vehicles for the sheriff’s office; and new engines for the fire department.

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