published Sunday, September 4th, 2011

Arts center added to Dalton projects

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DALTON, Ga. -- Using sales tax money to fund half of a performing arts center in Dalton is a great economic opportunity, supporters said last week.

City leaders announced they are placing the center on a projects list for the public to vote on in November.

"I believe the community is really behind it," said Dixie Kinard, who serves on the executive committee of the Archway Partnership, which works on Dalton and Whitfield County community planning. "If we are going to have an additional tax, this is a community need."

City Manager Ty Ross said the city took some other items from the special purpose local option sales tax list in order to add $6 million for a performing arts center. The other $6 million will come from various sources, including Dalton City Schools and private support.

County commissioners met Friday morning to approve a new projects list that includes the center.

If approved, the 1 percent sales tax would go into effect in January.

Other projects on the list are $2.7 million for greenway projects that include bike and pedestrian trails.

Fire and police equipment dropped from the list in favor of the center will be bought using capital funds, Ross said.

"We believe [SPLOST] projects should be special projects that could not be paid for in other ways," Ross said.

Mayor David Pennington adamantly opposes the sales tax increase and said he will work for its defeat. But if the tax is passed, the center would be a good way to use the money, he said.

Dalton school board chairman Steve Williams said the schools probably will put up several million to help build the center.

The money would come from funds the city gave the school system several years ago for a middle school auditorium that never was built. That money, a "significant amount," has not been spent, he said.

The Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia will support the performing arts center but has not pledged a specific amount of money, President David Aft said Thursday.

Dalton State College President John Schwenn said the college is enthusiastic and supports the center but will not be able to contribute money to the project.

The college is developing visual and performing arts programs that would use the center, he said.

Final details, such as where the center would be built, have not been decided. Somewhere in the downtown area is one option, officials said.

The theater at Dalton State College has a capacity of about 300 people, Kinard said, which is not large enough for many shows. The new center would have from 700 to 1,200 seats, she said.

Aft said the center will provide an economic boost to the area and make the city more attractive to young professionals. If touring groups from surrounding cities such as Nashville and Atlanta booked shows at the center, it would allow residents to spend money for tickets that now is being spent in Chattanooga and Atlanta, he said.

City and county officials have said attracting younger people to the area is a high priority for them and vital to Dalton's continued growth.

"We are excited about the possibilities," Aft said. "I think it is a great opportunity for Dalton."

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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Wilder said...

Unlike individuals, who have limited amounts of resources to squander on projects with a low probability of success, Dalton's politicians, who have nothing to lose, march on.

This is the same sales pitch used for the NW Georgia Trade Center in 1987, which was supposed to retain events that would otherwise go to Chattanooga or Atlanta. As Zell Miller and others predicted, it became a dismal and costly failure that continues to bleed local taxpayers.

Their latest theme for spending taxpayers' money on "special projects" is to attract young and educated people to Dalton. They are either incredibly naive, or more likely, have an ulterior motive - constructing a venue for the townies’ Debutantes’, once a year, exciting Christmas production, which will benefit such a small number of residents, that you can round it off to no one.

Dalton is a mill town, populated by mill-hands, which includes the largest concentration of illegal aliens in the state, and consequently, it has the state’s lowest average education level , which is reflected in the town’s business community. Dalton has a Dollar General Store on every corner, while numerous attempts to establish upscale restaurants litter the landscape.

Young and educated people want to be surrounded by other young and educated people and they want a business community that reflects their needs, which is the antithesis of Dalton's current demographics. The only rational way to change Dalton is to purge the town of the Carpet industry, and that isn’t going to happen.

Building what amounts to a facade will never attract young and educated people to Dalton. You can put lipstick on a pig, but all you’re going to attract, is more pigs.

September 4, 2011 at 12:27 p.m.
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