Local News

April 21, 2014

Commissioners consider business licensing, litter issues

Requiring all businesses in unincorporated Whitfield County to be licensed could help officials monitor who pays sales tax and stave off problems with buildings constructed in the wrong zones.

It could also incite public outcry from those concerned about additional government oversight.

Members of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners said those are among the issues they’re considering as they weigh whether to start requiring business licenses. Commissioners discussed the issue during a work session Monday.

Commissioner Gordon Morehouse broached the idea and said employees at the county tax assessor’s office reported they would be able to better keep up with business information if the county required licensing. Commission Chairman Mike Babb said there have been some cases in which owners have invested thousands of dollars into a business only to learn later that they built in an area that wasn’t zoned for business.

“Our choice then is either to change the zoning or to ignore it,” Babb said.

Babb said county officials might work out an agreement with the city of Dalton to have an employee there handle the paperwork since the city already requires licensing. He said officials have no easy way of knowing how many businesses are in the county.

Commissioners haven’t formally proposed an ordinance or said when they might draft one. Babb said they will informally gauge interest from the public and allow commissioners time to consider whether the issue is one they want to tackle.

Also at a commission meeting Monday night, Kay Motto, who lives in the Waring Road area, asked commissioners to take a harder look at ways to address trashy areas.

Motto said she wants more done to combat littering in Whitfield County. From trash on the side of the road to trailer parks that are not kept up to residences that house more than the four animals allowed on less than two acres, Motto said the problems seem to be increasing.

County Administrator Mark Gibson said employees from the sheriff’s office and public works departments investigate complaints about littering or code violations but usually don’t go out looking for violators and citing them as part of their regular duties. The current littering ordinance provides for fines ranging from $100 to $1,000 and up to 60 days in jail, but officials said they try to be understanding of individuals’ circumstances and don’t always issue fines.

Commissioner Lynn Laughter said she wants to look at what more can be done.

“We will look into the ordinances we have and see if we can’t put more teeth into them,” she said.

Commissioners also voted 3-1 to spend about $34,000 to buy and install a new air conditioning unit at the Whitfield County jail and remove one that is in disrepair. Commissioner Robby Staten voted “no,” saying he believed someone should have looked deeper into whether they were getting the best price. Staten said he wasn’t necessarily opposed to the purchase but wanted more evidence that the Trane company from Chattanooga that quoted the price was actually providing the best deal.

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