Congressman Graves Visits Dalton…

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Congressman Graves joined Chamber President, Brian Anderson, this week to film the next episode of Greater Dalton Today. Some of the topics up for discussion were the IRS scandal and Fair Tax, the Email Privacy Act, the Keystone XL Pipeline and Obamacare.

You can see the most current episode of Greater Dalton Today on Channel 10 at the following times:
Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m.
Wednesdays at 6:30 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.
Saturdays at 10:30 p.m.
Sundays at 7:00 p.m.

You can also watch online at WDNNtv.com or by clicking HERE.

Graves Update

Congressman Graves also provided a Congressional Update to the community at a luncheon hosted by the Chamber. To see all the pictures from the event, visit the Chamber’s Facebook page by clicking HERE.

What it means to live green?

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Living green means making daily choices which lessen the impact on our environment both at work and at home. At COUNTRY we want to do our part to limit our impact. With knowledge about the choices we make and available alternatives, we can make a difference. To help us in our ongoing green efforts, we’ve created a company-wide Green Team.

Green Team and objectives:
The Green Team brings together different areas of our organization, regions and business partners to discuss and review green efforts. The committee meets quarterly to identify and review new green opportunities.
The Green Team’s objectives are to:
• document and educate others about what we’re currently doing for the environment and
• identify new green opportunities.

Our green efforts:
COUNTRY is concerned about the environment. You may be familiar with our recycling efforts, but here are other green efforts we have taken to lessen our impact on the environment. This list will be updated as we continue to identify and implement new ways of doing things.

See what our clients are reading on our website about our green initiatives at http://www.countryfinancial.com.

What’s your carbon footprint? A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact our activities have on the environment. You can calculate your own carbon footprint and compare yourself to the national average using a carbon footprint calculator, http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/ind-calculator.html.

Update from Our Local Leaders…

Dalton Mayor David Pennington
David Pennington

What are the top priorities of the City Council?
To continue efforts to make the City more attractive for young educated professionals. Continue to expand Dalton as the retail, education and healthcare center for NW Ga. To solidify Dalton’s status as the carpet capital.

What will the City look like 5-10 years from now because of the efforts of the City Council?
10 years from now, Dalton will have reestablished itself as a dynamic entrepreneurial hot bed.

Update from Our Local Leaders…

Varnell Mayor Dan Peeples
Dan Peeples

What are the top priorities of the City Council?
Since my last report much has been accomplished in Varnell. We continue to grow through both residential and commercial annexations, addition of new businesses and the prospect of a new restaurant opening in the near future.

The Historic Varnell House and Community / Senior Center has been completed and is being used by the community. The community center is hosting activities such as the Varnell community club, senior exercise classes, dance classes, music lessons and boy and Girl Scout activities. This year we are relocating the Varnell Saturday farmers market to this location. The construction of a multipurpose pavilion is near completion at the location of our former temporary city hall. The facility will be available for use this spring. Reservations to schedule the facility can be made at city hall.

Our new city hall is also near completion. This facility will be the new home of city council, city manager, city clerk, public safety and municipal court. The new city hall has been a grand effort among city employees, citizens, suppliers and the State department of corrections who provided labor for all three facilities on this campus.

What will the city look like 5-10 years from now because of the efforts of the City Council?

In 5 to 10 years, our City will look like a more efficient, self-sustaining bedroom community. People will still go to the bigger cities like Chattanooga and Dalton for larger items, but we will be more self-sufficient with items like more restaurants, a vet clinic, dry cleaners, perhaps a dentist office and other things of that nature. Our downtown area will be more attractive and have that “southern feel” as we add small buildings to go along with our Community Center, City Hall, and the Varnell family Pavilion. Look for more picnic tables, more places to walk, and more festival events planned in our downtown area.

Varnell is a great place to live and raise a family. I Love Where I live and I Hope Our Citizens do also.

Update from Our Local Leaders…

Tunnel Hill Mayor Kenny Gowin
Kenny Gowin

What are the top priorities of the City Council?
During the last round of comprehensive planning, we decided as a community to pursue sidewalks, depot renovation, a new route for Hwy 201 to US Hwy 41, and adding wastewater service. We weren’t selected for a sidewalk grant we applied for; the new route for Hwy 201 was defeated due to the T-SPLOST vote in 2012; we’ve cleaned up the depot area significantly, but have yet to find the appropriate funding for any renovation; and we have successfully added a wastewater trunk through much of the city (thanks to the efforts of Dalton Utilities and Whitfield County).

What will the city look like 5-10 years from now because of the efforts of the City Council?
The city could look much different, or it could look much the same. It’s very doubtful Hwy 201 will be re-routed anytime soon unless something dramatic changes in funding during the next few years. Depot renovation will be very expensive, but remains a possibility. Sidewalks are possible too, but have taken a bit of a backseat to the depot and wastewater efforts. Being such a small community, it’s hard to tackle more than one or two large projects at the same time. The addition of wastewater is what could change our city dramatically in the near future. In addition to the lines laid, we could be close to an Appalachian Regional Commission Grant that might help spread the lines to more businesses along Hwy 41. That’s phase 1 of a plan that could possibly see wastewater lines built throughout the community. If these plans do come to fruition, then new development and redevelopment could follow close behind, especially with an improving economy.

Update from Our Local Leaders

Whitfield County Commission Chairman Mike Babb
Mike Babb

What are the top priorities of the Commission?
The top priorities of the county commission continue to be Economic Development/Jobs and dealing with a difficult budget. Unfortunately the top priorities of the commissioners are counterweights to each other.

Economic development and job production involves being “business friendly”. Supporting the elimination of the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, not enacting the 2% local excise tax on energy, supporting infrastructure development, investing in the development of a new business park, approving 100% Freeport, and the use of tax abatements to support business expansions are all positive pro-business, pro-growth initiatives. The end result of these initiatives will be a vibrant economy and jobs.

The pro-business, pro-growth initiatives put in place for business growth are all negatives to the county treasury due to less tax income and increased bond indebtedness. Add to this the reduced sales tax revenue to the treasury resulting from the recent Local Option Sales Tax Negotiations (an estimated reduction of $3.4 million) and the result is a significant revenue reduction to the county treasury. How do you replace these funds? Just to recoup the $3.4 million reduction from the LOST negotiations would require an increase of $500 million in local sales. This sales increase will not occur overnight.

A majority of the counties along the I-75 corridor in Georgia (16 of 19 counties, 84%) support a penny SPLOST to reduce the pressure on having to seek other ways to fund county projects. The three counties of Whitfield, Fulton, and DeKalb do not have a SPLOST (although Fulton and DeKalb do collect a MARTA tax). The counties of Cobb, Bartow, Gordon, and Catoosa along the corridor north of Atlanta are all using SPLOST collections to give relief to their county budgets. These sister counties of Whitfield in NW Georgia are using SPLOST for roads and bridges, public safety vehicles, recreation improvements, economic development, and retirement of debt. They are able to address these issues without adding to the property tax rate. Whitfield County will have to evaluate the advantage of the lower sales tax rate against what the other NW Georgia counties have accomplished with a higher rate but using the SPLOST to address improvements in their communities.

The board of commissioners will continue to support economic development and the creation of jobs by private industry. The county will strive to provide services while maintaining one of the lowest Maintenance and Operations millage rates and cost per capita for a county of our size. This goal will be difficult to achieve if other counties continue to have the advantage of SPLOST to give relief to their general budget and property owners while Whitfield County attempts to address county expenditures using only property tax and LOST revenues. Regardless of how much the county expenditures are cut, a SPLOST would still give relief to pressure on the budget and the property owner.

What will the County look like 5-10 years from now because of the efforts of the Commission?
Five to ten years from now the commissioners expect the southern area of the county around Conn. 3 and Carbondale Interchange to be a major job and tax revenue generator with new businesses and business expansions. We expect commercial growth along the north bypass to draw shoppers from Murray County and north Whitfield County. The county budget will continue to be conservative and the county M&O millage rate will be competitive with any county of our size and economic level. Quality of life will be improved due to more jobs, more opportunity, better recreation, and better transportation routes. You will see more parks and trails in the non-municipal areas.

Dalton and Whitfield County will be a great place to live.