County residents heat up over Albany/Dougherty merger - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

County residents heat up over Albany/Dougherty merger

April 6, 2005

Dougherty County - People in southeast Dougherty County express strong opposition to city/county consolidation. "I have two governments now. The county that gets squat, and the city that gets it all," said Peter Rivero. Every speaker at Tuesday's public hearing didn't want Albany and Dougherty County to become one.

15 people attended the second public hearing the government consolidation committee is holding. And, most had made up their minds that consolidation was a bad idea before they walked in the Putney Community Center.

It didn't take long for this small, but passionate, group to cast doubt on the cost effectiveness of consolidation. "I'm not going to argue about how much money you're going to save, but I doubt I'll ever see it on my property tax bill," said Putney homeowner George Clewis.

The government consolidation committee gave the results of a study that showed $2-million a year could be saved by joining the two governments and services. But, the backlash to "one government" was fierce.

"Unless you have a strong central government, it's never going to work because what you're going to end up with is they're going to steal from one and give it to the other. Nobody is going to get anything," said attendee Peter Rivero.

"They do things different than the County. I think they're wasting money, and I just don't agree with it," said Radium Springs resident Spencer Salter.

The study also showed 100% duplication of services in several departments including public safety and suggested one police force with fewer employees could work. That too met opposition. "You are not going to be able to cut a police force down, you don't even have enough police force now to take care of Albany city," said Rivero.

6 people spoke against consolidation. All said they don't trust current city leaders with the county's money. "ATI already has that money spent six times over," said Clewis.

Committee members were quick to say they don't have the final say-so on consolidation "No, no, no. The 20 of us were appointed by the county and city county commission, and will give it back to them." But, the committee will decide how much of this public comment to include in their recommendation to Albany and Dougherty county commissioners.

Spencer Salter summed up how these southeast Dougherty residents felt, "Left-out." But, it's citizens who will make the decision on consolidation at the polls - if the plan makes it that far.

Posted at 4:51PM by kathryn.murchison@walb.com

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