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Merger issue still withheld from voters

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November 19, 2007

Albany -- It's been nearly a year since a government consolidation issue was voted down in Dougherty County, and it's no closer to going before the voters.

In fact, one of the commissioners who voted it down will have to request it be put back on the agenda.  

Since Albany is the only city in Dougherty County, it doesn't seem like it would take all that much to consolidate the two governments.

But it's a hot button issue.  That's why two study commissions were put together to look into the subject, and thousands of your taxpayer dollars spent.

"I think this is an issue that the citizens should be able to vote for the type of government they want to be governed by," said County Commissioner Lamar Hudgins.

But that hasn't happened and here's why. In December of last year, the issue essentially died.  That's when county commissioners voted three to three on handing the decision to you--the voters.

County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard said, "The 3-3 vote dictated basically a defeat of the joint program which was to put the city and county hopefully on the same ballot so the people could make the decision, do they want a consolidated government or not?"

Jack Stone, John Hayes and Art Searles all voted against sending the charter to the voters to decide on.  But Hayes hasn't closed the door to consolidation.  He says he simply wants the voters to have more information on the subject. 

Lamar Hudgins says that information was widely distributed before the initial vote. "We had four public hearings on the charter itself and there would be many public hearings before it ever got to the ballot and there would be plenty of opportunities for people to be educated on the charter before it got to the point of voting for it."

But will voters ever actually get a chance to decide what they want? 

Chairman Jeff Sinyard says only if one of the three commissioners who voted against it puts it back on the agenda. "Nothing is ever dead if a commissioner wants to bring it back to life and the commission would like to revive and start the process again."

A process these commissioners hope ends up in your hands. Even if the county were to vote on passing the consolidated charter to voters, there's still lots of work to be done.

City commissioners would also have to vote on the issue.  Plus the Department of Justice and the General Assembly would have to approve the process.

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