The Union Recorder

April 10, 2013

City, county in joint meeting

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE —  

This Wednesday’s joint Baldwin County Commissioners and Milledgeville City Council meeting at Allen’s Market opens potential for sit down gatherings between the two parties.

City manager Barry Jarrett responded to Commissioner Henry Craig’s open request for a council and commission meeting in a city work session March 12. Jarrett mentioned then it would be beneficial to both groups and the community for such a gathering.

“I spoke with some council members that agreed. I got the consensus of the group they would like to meet,” Jarrett said.

The city stepped forward to host and arrange this first run.

Starting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, the attendees will eat dinner and then hear a presentation from a Carl Vinson Institute of Government representative.

Jarrett said it’s a time to get to know each other better. He mentioned letting the future joint meeting schedule flow as necessary.

“We feel that we need to open up this line of communications between the city and county even though we do communicate on certain issues as needed. It would be good to get some type of regular meeting. That’s what I hope comes from this,” the city manager said.

Both governments used to meet regularly up until the early 1990s, according to Councilman Steve Chambers, District 6. The councilman said competition got in the way over the last few years.

“The public seems to have what I believe is a misperception of the city and county not being able to work together. That comes from over the past couple of decades when we more or less got into competition with each other,” Chambers said. “I look for some icebreaking dialogue. I think we are going to find out that we are all a lot closer in our thoughts and what we feel like we need to do going forward whether it is for the incorporated or unincorporated area.”

County Commission chair Sammy Hall, District 3, thanked the city for extending its hand to revitalize the effort. 

“I think it’s a good opportunity to get together and perhaps start some dialogue in the future about different issues that we have. We don’t dislike each other,” Hall said. “Each of us represents our own area, and from time to time we are going to have some disagreements because the city and county are looking out for their interests. They aren’t always going to be the same. Other than that, we get along and are willing to work together.” 

Chambers added that the city and county usually agree on middle ground for processes such as the sales tax split. Constructive debate outside of just SPLOST or LOST negotiations looks to be a mutually beneficial way.

Jarrett said this is the perfect time to initiate the joint meetings while no major issues linger.

“The city and the county have productive meetings. Normally, we meet to deal with different situations that arise. In some of those cases we might have opposing views each protecting what they think are best for the city or the county,” Jarrett said. “You should have disagreement because you represent two different perspectives. Disagreements bring about better solutions to the problems.” 

Face to face meetings are the consensus best option.

“I think it’s much more effective when you are sitting in the same room, and you can express those feelings,” Chambers said. “I look forward to it. I like being up front and out in the open a lot better.” 

The commission chair said these gatherings could realize joint master planning goals and opportunities. He loves the same room approach taken by the city.

“I’m hoping this leads to future meetings, so we can work on projects down the road. It’s always better when you can meet face to face and discuss whatever issue there might be,” Hall said. “It will be a good chance to rub elbows. It might lead us to do some other planning together.”

Chambers echoed Hall’s opinion of behalf of the county that this meeting will begin helping all parties for a better community. 

“It’s going to show those who may show some interest in our community that we are willing to work together and that we will hopefully have some projects that we can work together on,” the District 6 councilman said.

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