The April 30th deadline for the commission studying the merger to release its report on the merger of the city and county has come and went, but apparently the deadline was more of a guideline than an actual drop-dead date. There are a couple of issues that the commission are still reviewing. One is alcohol law differences between the city and the county. From the Dalton Daily Citizen:
One of the key issues commission members are grappling with is what would happen to alcohol laws in what is now the city of Dalton if the merger takes place. Dalton currently permits the sale of distilled spirits as well as the sale of alcohol by the drink and in retail stores on Sunday. Whitfield County does not. Officials say that no successful merger of a city and county in Georgia history has involved governments with such different alcohol laws.
Smalley and Bisson said it isn’t clear what would happen to the alcohol laws if the two governments merged but it looks as if the county’s laws would take effect in the city. That means that Dalton restaurants and stores could no longer sell distilled spirits or sell any alcohol on Sunday. Those that currently make such alcohol sales could not be grandfathered in.
The attorneys also advised the commission that even if the April 30 deadline isn’t set in stone the commission still faces considerable time pressure if it wants to put a referendum to merge the two governments on the ballot. If commission members vote to recommend a merger, they must then draft a charter and present it to the federal Justice Department for review in time to get the measure on the November ballot.
“That (drafting a charter) will be serious business. Not that what we have done so far wasn’t serious. But drafting a charter for a new government will be complex,” said Thomason.
The commission has the option of recommending a “functional consolidation” of some departments. A functional consolidation would not need to be put on the ballot and only be approved by the Dalton City Council and Whitfield Board of Commissioners.