County won't move charter forward - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

County won't move charter forward

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Dougherty County commissioners voted Wednesday not to send their version of a proposed consolidated charter to the General Assembly. That doesn't mean consolidation is dead.

City commissioners decided last night to send their version to the General Assembly, and there's already an active bill in Atlanta that lawmakers can act on.

Wednesday's vote wasn't supposed to be on the issue of consolidation, but rather what commissioners would like to see in a new charter if consolidation passes, but the county commission, in a 4-3 decision, said they don't want to see consolidation move forward.

Commissioner Gloria Gaines says there are bigger issues plaguing Dougherty County than consolidation, like the need for economic development and to fight crime and that's why she doesn't want to spend time on consolidation right now.

She said, "I am just concerned about the amount of energy and the divisiveness that a referendum on such a tough issue will have on us if this issue were to be taken up next year."

So that's why she voted against sending the charter along to the General Assembly. Commissioner Lamar Hudgins voted to move it forward. He says by not passing along their proposed charter, the county citizens don't have a voice.

Hudgins said, "That's, in effect, said the county wants to squelch the issue and not allow people to vote."

Chairman Jeff Sinyard agreed. "My thoughts were that people should be allowed to vote, but obviously there was a difference of opinion on that, but that's how democracy works."

But Gaines says the commission's vote against moving it forward, was the message to move forward to legislators.  She said, "The vote today was input to our legislative delegation I think what the county said is that we don't think this is right time to move this issue forward and that is in fact input to the legislators."

John White chaired the consolidation study committee. He says city commission should have studied the charter more to get a better understanding of it before they moved it forward.

He said, "I think they did not have the intestinal fortitude to do what they should have done on this issue."

But even with the county voting against it, the issue isn't done. The General Assembly will still have the opportunity to debate consolidating Albany and Dougherty County when the session convenes next month. In addition to the proposed consolidated charter the city voted to move forward yesterday, the legislature also has House Bill 800, introduced by Rep. Ed Rynders last year, they can consider regarding consolidation.

Commissioners Jack Stone, Gloria Gaines, Muarlene Edwards and John Hayes voted against moving the charter forward. Chairman Jeff Sinyard and commissioners Charles Lingle and Lamar Hudgins voted to pass it along to legislators.

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