Will consolidation ever happen in Dougherty County? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Will consolidation ever happen in Dougherty County?

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November 16, 2007

Albany - It's been almost a year since Dougherty County Commissioners essentially killed the consolidation issue for the city and county. The commission was split on the vote, but John Hayes, who initially voted against consolidation, said he could change his mind, if his constituents were better informed. So has he? And has he taken more information to the people in his district?

It was the vote heard 'round the county. Three for consolidation, three against, which essentially stopped the process in its tracks. Commissioner John Hayes said at the time he wasn't necessarily against consolidation, he just wanted to know more and deliver more information to the people who live in his district.

"And you're going to do it?" "We need to do it," said Hayes.  "That's what we committed to doing. That's what I've committed to do."

So has he taken that information to the people who elected him? Not yet. Hayes says there are competing interests that have needed to be addressed in the meantime. "There are so many other things in my opinion with tremendously more value than whether or not we have a unified government."

Hayes does say since the vote last December, there are things he's decided he doesn't like about the proposed consolidated charter. He thinks the chair of the consolidated commission should be a full-time position, not part-time. Plus, he's worried that with fewer elected officials, some voters would essentially lose their voice.  Hayes said, "We would go from 14 elected officials right now to nine. Somebody, somewhere would be a bit left out if you look at how we are currently structured."

Lila Lisom says she remembers hearing lots of talk about consolidation, but admits, she doesn't know enough. "I never heard anymore information about it," she said, "so I was just curious as to what it would do."

And she says it would be helpful if the commissioners did as Hayes is suggesting and told their constituents more. "Yes," said Lisom, "I'd like to know more about it."

Something Hayes vows to do, but he can't say when that will happen, and asks for patience. "However we decide to proceed from here with it," he said, "I think patience still has to prevail." Patience for a fair government, consolidated or not.

Commissioners Lamar Hudgins, Chuck Lingle, and chairman Jeff Sinyard voted in favor of consolidation. Hayes, Art Searles and Jack Stone voted against. The city hasn't taken up a vote on the issue so far. This year, they slowly dissected the proposed charter, discussing each part bit by bit.

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