published Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Whitfield merger panel still being built

DALTON, Ga. — More than a week after Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill authorizing Dalton and Whitfield County’s consolidation charter committee, its roster of appointed members is a bit sparse.

So far, the official list for the 15-member committee is two — County Commissioner Mike Babb and Varnell Mayor Pro Tem David Owens.

The committee is charged with studying the possible consolidation of city and county governments and writing a countywide charter by April.

City and county officials have not made any appointments to the board, but they say they likely will do so within the next two weeks.

“I hope to announce the appointments at the next City Council meeting,” Dalton Mayor David Pennington said Friday. “They (the committee) should be able to have their first meeting by the second week in June.”

Pennington must appoint two council members, and the council will appoint four civilians.

The council meets June 6. According to the bill, officials have 45 days to make the appointments after the bill is signed.

Officials hope to place the issue on the ballot in November 2012 for a vote.

More than 140 people have volunteered to serve on the committee, compiled in two lists for the city and county.

Babb said Commissioner Gordon Morehouse would likely serve as the second member from the County Commission, although he has not been officially appointed.

Commissioners would work on selecting four civilians in the next week or so, Babb said, with each commissioner turning in four names from the county list. County Manager Mark Gibson will then work with commissioners to reach an agreement on the final four names.

Babb said the county will try to appoint four members from different areas for equal representation on the board.

“We are trying to make sure the selection is as fair as possible,” Babb said.

The towns of Varnell, Cohutta and Tunnel Hill will each appoint one member.

Varnell already has appointed Owens, Mayor Dan Peeples said. Tunnel Hill City Manager Blake Griffin said its City Council will appoint someone at its next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday.

Cohutta city officials could not be reached for comment.

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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