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City pens IGA to help animal control issue
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The Dawsonville City Council has made the first move in the latest round of the animal control resolution.

The city unanimously agreed to send an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) containing what was being tentatively called "option one" of three by City Attorney Dana Miles during the city's April 20 work session.

"Based on my legal research, the city has three options," Miles said during the April work session. "The first option, because both city and county residents pay ad valorem taxes, and ad valorem taxes are a large part of what funds animal control, both inside the city and outside the city, you could enter into an IGA with the county at no cost, using the funding through ad valorem taxes paid to the county."

The agreement would split the responsibility of animal control between the city and the county.

"This IGA was drafted in accordance with the city council's instructions during the last meeting," Miles said Monday. "This will allow the county's marshal to enforce the city's ordinance within the city limits, which is identical to the county's own animal control ordinance. It also states that the county would pay for the animal control and the city would pay for the court services and all related court costs and the city and county would divide equally all fines [from that pickup]."

This is the same plan that the city sent to the county in March of 2013.

According to Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan, the county never responded to the proposal.

The county has countered in the past that it has tried to set up an IGA with the city, but they also received no response, according to County Attorney Joey Homans. The county's board of commissioners voted unanimously during its Nov. 20, 2014 meeting to approve a proposed IGA with the city for animal control, according to that meeting's minutes.

Homans said previously that the city should be fully capable of taking care of its animal issues.

"The city now has separate marshals or officers for code enforcement. The county's marshals don't have any legal authority to enforce city ordinances," Homans said previously. "The county's marshals run a risk if they are in the city trying to enforce an ordinance for which they are not lawfully authorized."

According to Grogan, the most recent issue of animal control response recently came up due to an incident at the historic courthouse involving a dog snapping at citizens.

The city was contacted by concerned residents, who in turn were told to contact the county's animal control.

Because the city currently does not have an intergovernmental agreement with the county regarding animal control, the issue was bounced between the two entities.

"If this [IGA] is acceptable to the county, this would avoid the issue of having to create a special tax district for the city as compensation per what was discussed in the work session," Miles said.

This tax district was the third option discussed by Miles in the work session. It would, under state law, allow the city to create a special tax district in the unincorporated areas of the county in order to pay for the animal control services to the city.

According to Miles, this option would help offset the cost of the animal control ad valorem "double tax" for city residents still paying. This would cut the portion of the ad valorem tax the county levies for animal control from city residents.

"If the city is providing that service but the city residents are still paying ad valorem taxes for that service, the city residents are getting double taxed," he said. "If the city provides that service at its expense, it can, by state law demand the county creates special tax districts."

The current IGA was signed by the city council Monday and will be sent to the county for consideration.