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Looks like no Consolidated Government

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December 4, 2006

 Albany -- Dougherty County voters apparently will not get a chance to vote on a consolidated Government. Despite thousands of tax dollars, years of study, and a recommendation from an independent committee, County commissioners decided today not to pass a proposed consolidation charter along to the voters.      

It's been talk of the town for three years now. Should the city of Albany and Dougherty County consolidate?

Dr. Ira Roth served on the consolidation study commission. "Our original study commission voted unanimously to push to process forward and ultimately allow the voters decide and unfortunately three individuals decided we're all not smart enough to do that."

There have been numerous public hearings, two separate commissions and thousands of tax dollars, about $150,000, spent on studying if consolidation would suit voters, but now you won't have a chance to decide for yourself.   "It's a complete show of arrogance to the individuals that voted against it that maybe they might be a little smarter than voters of Albany and Dougherty County, and it's very disturbing that they think that way."

Today county commissioners voted three to three on the charter. Commissioners Lingle, Hudgins, and chairman Jeff Sinyard voted in favor, tying it three to three. Sinyard says, he too is disappointed with the vote.   "I feel very strongly that regardless of what side you fall on for or against is, the people should decide how they're governed and I'm disappointed that we're not sending the process forward."

Commissioners Stone, Searles and Hayes voted against passing along the charter. Hayes says he agrees it should go to the people, but doesn't believe they have enough information to vote on it right now.   "My vote was to kill it to allow time to do just what I had asked to be done, and that is that we perhaps establish some clusters where we're able to go to the voters and have more discussion about this."

He says he views his vote as more of a suspension than completely putting a stop to the issue. He says people must have more information.   "What I've found is that most voters don't have an understanding about something that I think is vitally important."

But Roth thinks it's important to let the voters decide, and says they need to speak out if they disagree with the commissions vote. "Even if you're personally against the idea, you should be equally incensed like I am that there's people that think they know better than you do and a starting point would be to get on the phone."

It would have taken both the city and county voting in favor of the charter in order to pass it along to the General Assembly, then to the Department of Justice and ultimately to you. Now, the city commission's vote would be a moot point.  

The vote ended in a tie because District 3 commissioner Brenda Robinson Cutler just resigned. Since it did not get four votes, it could be brought up again.

Art Searles said he believes the people elect commissioners to vote on issues like this for them, because they are not going to take the time to investigate the details themselves. He also says he was deluged with phone calls from constituents asking him to vote against moving the charter forward.

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