June 23, 2014

Commission candidates promise budget focus

Early voting starts Monday for the July 22 primary and nonpartisan runoffs, and candidates on the Whitfield County ballot made another push for votes Monday night.

The League of Women Voters of the Dalton Area and the Whitfield National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) held a forum at the Mack Gaston Community Center in Dalton. About 40 people gathered to listen to and ask questions of Superior Court Judge David Blevins and his challenger, Dalton Municipal Court Judge Jim Wilbanks, and the candidates for the Republican nomination for Board of Commissioners District 1, Renee Davis and Barry Robbins.

“Law should be colorblind,” said Blevins. “I do my best to see that it is, and at the end of the day, I think I do a pretty good job.”

Blevins noted that he has reduced a backlog of cases since first taking office a little more than two years ago.

Wilbanks said he wanted to be a Superior Court judge since he was a young boy, and he said he believes his 30 years of experience as a lawyer and a judge have prepared him for that role. He invited people to come watch him in court or to talk to people who have worked with him or been in court before him.

“I treat everyone who comes before me with respect,” he said.

In the commissioner’s race, both Davis and Robbins promised to keep a close eye on county finances.

“With more than 30 years in banking and finance, I know I will bring a unique perspective to the board,” said Robbins, who works for First Bank of Dalton. “I will take a conservative approach to budget issues.”

Davis, owner of Fur Paws Pet Resort, said her experience as a business owner has taught her the importance of living within a budget and keeping a close eye on spending.

Both said economic development would be a priority. Robbins said he would look for innovative ways to bring new business to Whitfield County. Davis said she would take a close look at those companies that look at Whitfield but ultimately decide to expand elsewhere.

“I want to find out why we aren’t closing these deals,” she said.

Gordon Morehouse, the Republican who currently holds the commissioner’s seat, did not run for re-election. No Democrat qualified.

Curtis Rivers, director of the Emery Center, a nonprofit multicultural heritage center, updated those in attendance on the plans for repairs at the center’s headquarters in the old Emery Street School building.

Center officials have reached an agreement with the city of Dalton, which owns the property, that the fire alarm, sprinkler system and heating and air conditioning must be replaced and in compliance with state code by Aug. 1, 2015. Under the terms of the center’s lease, it is responsible for repairs to the building.

An architect estimated the cost of all the needed repairs would be $455,000, but Rivers said the center is seeking other estimates. He said the center raised $2,200 on Saturday with a “Praise in the Park” fundraiser.

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