A Georgia superior court judge has been appointed to preside over a mandatory mediation of the Service Delivery Strategy (SDS) negotiation between the City of Dalton and Whitfield County. With mandatory mediation imminent, the municipal and county governments of Whitfield County have made a joint motion to have any penalties for missing a deadline to come to a new SDS agreement to be held off.
The Honorable Ralph Van Pelt, Jr. of the Lookout Valley Judicial Circuit was appointed on Friday to preside over the mediation. Under Georgia law (OCGA 36-70-25.1), mandatory mediation is the next step to resolve disputes between governments involved in a service delivery negotiation. The City of Dalton petitioned for the mediation last week.
Cities and counties in Georgia are required by law to negotiate a new SDS every ten years to determine which services each government will provide to residents and how they will be funded. The existing SDS in Whitfield County expired on Oct. 31, after the parties were unable to come to a new agreement in voluntary mediation on Oct. 17. Without a SDS in place, governments can lose qualified status to receive certain state financial assistance or grants. However, Georgia law also allows for those penalties to be held in abeyance during a mandatory mediation of a SDS dispute. On Friday, the municipal and county governments made a joint motion in the Superior Court of Whitfield County motion to have those sanctions placed on hold. The motion calls for sanctions to be held in abeyance until May 2020 to give time for completion of mediation between the parties. A decision on the motion is expected soon.
“We’re looking forward to seeing this process brought to a close and have a new service delivery agreement that’s fair to the taxpayers of Dalton and also Whitfield County residents,” said Dalton Mayor Dennis Mock. “We’re pleased that Judge Van Pelt has been appointed and we’re looking forward to working together to bring this negotiation to a resolution.”