The Union Recorder

December 28, 2013

BOYLAN: Rise above narrow interests on unification

The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — <p> The members of the city council and county commission met at CGTC recently to listen to a brief from the Vinson Institute regarding the issues of unification of the city and county. It was clear to all that neither group was at all interested in finding ways by which unification might prove advantageous to our community. Only one commissioner asked questions of the experts from Athens that would have explained the positive aspects of unification. Instead the questions were all negatively biased.<br /> &quot;I don&#39;t want to hear anything more about Athens/Clark County unification&quot; was the comment from one member. Interesting that that person would not have inquired about the issues Athens faced and the successes they achieved. Another comment from an elected official, equally narrow: &quot;Well, if there are only 39 instances of unification around the United States this could hardly be something that is successful because if it was there would be more instances of this occurring.&quot;&nbsp; Of course, what that individual failed to recognize is that Georgia is somewhat unique with its 159 counties many, if not most, of which have only one resident city. Thus, it is hardly a surprise that Georgia leads the nation in the number of unifications. Clearly, many communities in Georgia have recognized the potential value of unifying the city and county governments. It was noteworthy that the officials focused on the potential benefits accruing from cooperation among the various services that the city and county provide. Of course, it is equally noteworthy that, over the years, there has been nothing but dissension and non-cooperation between the two governments. One has to wonder what magic both groups would intend to create that would ensure that a &quot;new era of cooperation&quot; will occur. Further, it was instructive at the meeting to note that most of the officials had not read the revised unification charter, yet rendered comments that were embarrassing to the degree that their ignorance of the revised charter was apparent.<br /> Whether we as a community are in favor of (or against) unification of the city and county governments is an issue that we should be allowed to vote on. There are, unfortunately, several members of these elected bodies who believe that they are so much more aware of what our community should become that they do not wish us to provide them with our opinions. This smacks of extraordinary egoism, desire for power, or whatever other descript you wish to apply. Certainly, it is not consistent with the concepts on which our country was founded and on which it continues to function. I should point out that the principal reason that this group may not wish to unify the governments is that one half of them will lose the perquisites that are afforded them: salaries, insurance, retirement, travel, etc. It is important as well to include the doubling of costs associated with the two water departments, the two communications systems, the two fire departments, other doubled associated administrative costs (secretaries, file clerks, etc.), the police/sheriff organizations, the city and county jails and the list goes on. On the other hand, Athens/Clarke County in an earlier briefing opined that the addition of franchise fees from various entities (e.g., Windstream, Charter, etc. which more than doubled when unification occurred) essentially covered the cost of unification. It is true that money will not be saved initially if unification were to occur since it has been agreed that no person would lose their job&nbsp; but the positions would be eliminated through retirement&nbsp; so, the process would take some time before real savings would occur. On the other hand, consolidation of the various services (now separate) would vastly improve safety and cost effectiveness. One final point&nbsp; the growth of our economy is hindered by having two political entities that do not cooperate. I believe that the citizens of this community should be allowed to vote on the issue of unification. For the elected officials who believe otherwise, you should rise above your narrow interests and recognize your obligation to properly exercise the responsibilities that you were elected to perform.<br /> <br /> Maj. Gen. Peter Boylan (Ret.)<br /> Milledgeville</p>