Commissioner, school board candidates answer questions from the League forum | Local News

Candidates for the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners disagreed on Tuesday over how far the county government should go to boost economic development.

Rep. Barry Robbins, incumbent for District 1, and Darrel Long, who is in the pest control business, who are in the May 24 GOP primary for that district, and District 3 incumbent John Thomas responded. questions at a forum organized by the League of Dalton Area Voters at the Mack Gaston Community Centre. Shane Day, who is challenging Thomas in the GOP primary, was absent. The organizers said he had a conflict.

Early voting is underway.

The candidates were asked about an April vote in which current commissioners approved an intergovernmental agreement with Dalton City Council and the Dalton School Board to provide tax increment funding to help fund a development in mixed use in the Hammond Creek area around the northern bypass. and Pleasant Grove Drive. The council and the school board unanimously approved the agreement.

Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Jevin Jensen and Commissioners Robbins and Robby Staten voted in favor of the deal. Commissioners Greg Jones and Thomas voted against the deal.

The development is within a Tax Allocation District (TAD) of Dalton, which allows for such tax financing. TADs freeze the value at which a property can be taxed for general revenue. Taxes collected on the additional value created by improvements to the property go towards paying for infrastructure, public artwork, or other amenities to attract one or more developers to that area.

Voters in 2014 gave the city council the power to create TADs. The city council created four. The others are the downtown business district, the area around Dalton Mall, and the West Walnut Avenue/Market Street area.

County voters rejected TADs that year and again in 2021, but under state law the county has the right to join the city’s TADs if commissioners deem it to be within the public interest. The county participates in the Dalton TADs around the Dalton Mall and covering the downtown business district, which were established in 2018.

The candidates were asked if the commissioners should have joined the Hammond Creek deal given that county voters rejected the TADs.

Robbins noted that he had always supported such redevelopment powers, and he noted that Dalton voters had approved the use of TADs.

“It’s something that the city council and the school board have supported,” he said. “It’s something that will bring us the residential development, which we need, as well as commercial and business development.”

Thomas noted that he had voted against the deal as well as TAD funding for the development of Patterson Farm in Varnell and expressed concern about the exemption for residential developments that could impose costs on schools, saying that this would shift the burden to other taxpayers. But he said he may be open to county participation in the TAD at Market Street and West Walnut Avenue because it is commercial and retail property.

“I’m ready to watch that one and I might be convinced,” he said.

Long said he would have voted against the Hammond Creek deal because county voters refused TADs.

“I’m here to represent you,” he said. “I’m not going to second guess you or act like I’m smarter than you.”

Thomas and Long said they support returning countywide polling commissioner elections from the district only. Robbins said he was open to the idea.

In 2018, county voters voted to move to district voting for commissioners from 67.45% to 32.55%. This is the first year that Districts 1 and 3 will be elected by district vote.

The audience of about 40 also heard from retired educator Joe Barnette and inventory control Greg Williams, who are running for Whitfield County Board of Education District 4 in the Republican primary. Absent was Amber McMahan, a nurse practitioner who is also seeking that seat. This district is currently represented by Joseph Farmer, who is not seeking re-election.

Barnette said “the unique qualification I would have to be a board member would be 33 years of active service as an educator.” Barnette moved to Whitfield County in 1989 when he began teaching at Northwest Whitfield High School.

“I left Northwest High School to become an assistant principal at North Whitfield Middle School for four years. I was the second principal at Beaverdale Elementary School. I moved to New Hope Middle School, then ended my career at Valley Point Middle School as principal.”

Williams said he and his wife graduated from Northwest Whitfield High School.

“We have four children,” he said. “My working life has been in the private sector. I’ve worked for Expert Die in Antioch for over 20 years. I was a salesman there for 20, 22 years and then moved into inventory control.”

Williams said he would like to strengthen secondary education programs and bring agricultural education to colleges.

The audience also heard a presentation from Dalton Public Schools and Whitfield County Schools officials on the Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax Referendum (ESPLOST) which is on the ballot. of May 24. An ESPLOST is a 1% tax on most goods sold in the county.

Dalton Public Schools chief financial officer Theresa Perry said the tax over five years is expected to raise up to $140 million. This would be split between the two school systems based on enrollment, with Dalton receiving 37.1% and Whitfield 63.9%.

Whitfield County Schools would use his money to place new turf on the football fields of his three high schools and to make some of his old elementary schools compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as for roof repairs and new heating and air conditioning in several schools.

A list of proposed projects for ESPLOST VI is available at

Dalton Public Schools would use their money for, among other things, renovations at Park Creek School, Roan School and Westwood School.

A list of Dalton Public Schools ESPLOST projects is available at

Early voting is underway at the county courthouse.

Melvin B. Baillie