The City of Dawsonville has taken steps toward mending an animal control issue within city limits.
During its April 20 special called meeting, the city council heard several options in regards to solving its animal control disagreement with the county.
"We've had a lot of discussion regarding this over the past few weeks, both internally and externally," said Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan. "[City Attorney Dana Miles] and I got together at length recently to discuss our options after the city investigated the matter."
According to Grogan, the issue of animal control responsibility 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.
"Based on my legal research, the city has three options," Miles said. "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."
This is the same plan that the city sent to the county in March of 2013. According to Grogan, the county never responded to this proposal.
"Option two is what the county proposed [in November of 2014] to provide animal control in the city limits for whatever the county claims that it costs," Mile said. "The clear, practical problem with that is that the county retains control and we just write a check."
Currently, according to Grogan, the county has given the city figures for animal pickup.
"Based on the figures given to me by [County Commission Chair] Mike Berg, it will cost us $297 per animal."
Homans said 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," said Dawson County Attorney Joey Homans during a previous interview. "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."
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 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.
According to Miles, the third option is one that would give the city the most power, but could take the longest to enact.
"The third option is for the city to provide its own animal control," he said. "The city would provide that service and then you would have the right to have a special tax district in the unincorporated areas of the county created. City land owners would not be taxed for the amount of money the county land owners would be taxed for animal control."
According to Miles, this option would help offset the cost of the animal control ad valorem "double tax" for city residents still paying.
"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 city voted unanimously to attempt Miles' first option, trying once again to send the county an IGA to provide animal control at no cost to the city.
"Either of the first two options are fine, but who is checking the actual amount of animals picked up in the city," said Councilman Caleb Phillips. "The city can take a dog to the animal shelter for much less, most likely."