Dalton officials hope to have new charter proposal by the fall

·3 min read

May 2—City of Dalton officials hope to complete the first full proposed revision of the city's charter in at least 50 years by this fall.

"My goal would be to have it finished by late October or early November, so the City Council can vote on a resolution before Thanksgiving," said City Administrator Andrew Parker.

Because it would be a complete overhaul, the new charter would have to be approved by the state legislature. The council would have to approve a resolution asking the local delegation to introduce a bill to enact the charter during the session that starts in January 2024.

Parker spoke Monday during a public information session on the charter at City Hall. He noted that at 125 pages, Dalton's charter is significantly longer than charters of its peer cities in Georgia such as Gainesville and Rome.

"A charter grants broad powers to the elected officials to provide governance to the city," Parker said. "It also defines essential procedures."

Parker said a charter does not list each and every thing a city government might do or how it does it. He said that is the function of city ordinances or resolutions passed by the City Council.

Parker said one reason Dalton's charter is so long is that it includes items that other cities address through ordinances as well as sections that are out of date and conflict with current city practices.

For instance, according to officials, there are references to city residents paying for their share of road resurfacing based on their road frontage. There's also a section that mandates a technique to pave roads that hasn't been used in about 50 years.

Parker said the proposed charter would change the residency requirements for City Council members. Currently, they must have lived in the ward they represent at least three months on Election Day. The new charter would increase that to six months. Additionally, it would incorporate a recent state law that requires city council members to have lived in their city at least one year on Election Day.

He said other changes would clear up the chain of command. For instance, one section of the current charter gives the City Council the power to hire and fire the fire and police chiefs. Another gives that power to the Public Safety Commission, and another section said all department heads, including the chiefs, report to the city administrator.

The new charter would make it clear the City Council hires and fires police chiefs.

The proposed charter would reduce the power of city commissions, giving them more of an advisory role. For example, the Public Safety Commission currently hires the fire and police chiefs and confirms all new firefighters and police officers. A proposed charter change would allow the two chiefs to hire all firefighters and police officers without the approval of the commissioners.

Parker said city officials are still fine-tuning the charter proposal and will likely have at least one more public information meeting. He said lawyers working for the city are currently reviewing city ordinances to make sure there is nothing that would conflict with the proposed charter and that will likely take several more weeks.

Parker's presentation can be viewed on the city's YouTube channel. Residents can read the latest draft of the proposed charter and find other updates on the city's website, www.daltonga.gov.