According to Dalton, Georgia, Mayor Dennis Mock, carpet is more important than peaches, and he insists a strong road, bridge and infrastructure system is necessary to maintain his city’s title of the carpet capital of the world.
“Due to the carpet industry and the ancillary business growth it promotes, a strong infrastructure system means a lot to us,” Mock said.
Dalton, population 33,000, is located 90 miles north of Atlanta; I-75 runs directly through Mock’s community, which in turn draws truck and business traffic south from Atlanta and north to Chattanooga.
Mock, who said he leans to the right, said he would give his city’s infrastructure a B- grade.
“Due to our businesses, we’ve spent a lot of local money to take care of our infrastructure,” he said.
This season, the city is working on a transportation project called “Rails to Trails,” for a $500,000 price tag, a downtown streetscape project for $200,000, 17 streets will be resurface for about a million and improving some intersections for $150,000 as part of the city’s four-year capital improvement plan.
Some projects have been put on hold due to Congress' recent patching of the Highway Trust Fund until the end of July.
That, said, Mock considers his community lucky since the state passed a state fuel tax increase this year.
“The new tax will generate about $1 billion a year, of which we’ll receive about $10 million over the next four years,” he said.
The challenge, Mock said, comes from not knowing when, or if, federal dollars will be available.
“We’ve been pretty good about budgeting. We plan, but never budget [projects] until we know we’re going to get the monies.”
While Mock doesn’t support any specific legislation being floated to create a long-term solution to the Highway Trust Fund, he does believe it should be supported by user fees.
“While I don’t like new taxes, if it takes an increase in the gas tax to fix the fund then I’m in favor of it," Mock said. "We’ve got to have good infrastructure.”
Mock said that if Congress patches the trust fund again through the end of the year, it will affect his city’s ability to plan.
“If Congress patches the fund again, projects we have ready for bid will have to be held or postponed," he said. "We’ve held some projects for two years, if they patch the fund again, we’ll have to postpone those projects further.”