House to vote on Albany/Dougherty consolidation - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

House to vote on Albany/Dougherty consolidation

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Commissioner Jon Howard Commissioner Jon Howard
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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - If they approve the bill, Albany and Dougherty County voters will get to decide whether to consolidate city and county governments.

The Bill was introduced by Representative Ed Rynders and supported by freshman legislator Carol Fullerton.

City and county commissioners have never really gotten behind the idea, but now say they wish they'd had more input on the legislation.

Consolidation is not a new idea for Albany and Dougherty County. It's been debated on the local level for years, but it never went anywhere because commissioners wouldn't vote on it.

Now that state legislators have the ball in motion, local leaders say they feel rushed.

As promised, but with mixed support of local leaders, Representative Ed Rynders introduced House Bill 800 which calls for a referendum on whether to consolidate Albany and Dougherty governments. Commissioners John Hayes and Jon Howard were surprised it was introduced.

"I think there should have been some type of communication between our state representatives and our local delegation," said Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard.

City Commissioners Jon Howard, Roger Marietta, and County Commissioner John Hayes say they believe more than a week was needed to decide whether moving forward with the plan was the right thing to do.

"I will agree that the city and county commission have had time to digest the consolidation plan. We were unable to come up with a decision because there were some snags,"  Howard said.

All three said they would have liked the opportunity to make changes to the measure before it was introduced just a week after Rynders announced his intentions.

"Looking at it two years ago it needed to be tweaked. But I think we could have gotten together in a round table discussion with our sisters and brothers on the county and tweaked those things," Howard said.

Dr. Charles Lingle who sat on the charter commission say he believes the measure is fine as is and supports Rynders push to make something happen sooner rather than later. Like it or not, both city and county commissioners say they'll be watching to see how the legislature votes.

"Whether we like consolidation or not I think the ultimate decision should rest with the voters to make the decision," Howard said.

Dougherty County Commissioner John Hayes says people in his district just don't know enough about the issues.

But the chamber, in supporting Rynders bill, says they will work to educate all Dougherty County voters on what consolidation would mean.

If House Bill 800 is passed by the House the measure will move to the Senate.

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