Leaders hear about government consolidation - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Leaders hear about government consolidation

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - It's been years in the making, and today Albany and Dougherty County leaders sat down to hear talk about government consolidation. They discussed details of a proposed charter and a timetable on when the issue could go to the voters.

Not all commissioners agree on whether we need consolidation. But most agree on two points--letting the people decide, and not being forced into action by state legislators taking the matter out of Albany and into Atlanta.

County Commissioner Gloria Gaines wasn't on the board when consolidation originally was voted on by the county, so today's meeting with experts from the Carl Vinson Institute was largely to help her and other new commissioners better understand the proposed charter.

"All I'm able to discern at this point is the possibility of efficiencies, the possibility of savings will be there, but ultimately, it is this new government that will take place that will determine whether or not we realize these efficiencies and whether or not we realize these savings," said Gaines.

Reverend Don Kea was on the committee that drafted the charter. He says in a community with only one municipality, where many departments are already joined, consolidation makes sense.

"We're all one in Dougherty County and this is the idea, trying to make it more efficient and there will be cost savings, I feel sure over time. That's just common sense," said Kea.

And he doesn't want the discussion to end without letting the people decide. "If it ends today, and it's all over, the $150,000 have been just flushed down the toilet. Why can't we at least get to the point where the people are the ones deciding not the elected officials we have here today."

Dougherty County chairman Jeff Sinyard called for today's discussion. He says he feels sure some action will take place soon. "Obviously, we're striving to get a unified charter that will then go to the state."

One other main issue of concern for members is making sure minority voting strength isn't diluted when new districts are drawn.

City and county commissions plan to take up issues with the charter at their next work sessions.

One committee made of representatives from both commissions will then come together to see if they can agree on a unified charter to be passed by both the city and the county.

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