The Union Recorder

July 17, 2013

Joint city, county meeting Thursday

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder


The Baldwin County Commissioners will host the City of Milledgeville at Central Georgia Technical College Thursday.

The second of the newly created joint government meetings involves no specific agenda though Commission Chair Sammy Hall, District 3, said all members of the Unified Government Chart Writing Committee were invited.

“It’s more or less to tell them we appreciate what they have done. We don’t have any formal agenda where we plan to go into in depth discussion over the consolidation plan,” Hall said. “They’ve already made their presentation. We will probably have some discussion about where it goes from here.”

After one year of research and development, the foundation charter for a Milledgeville-Baldwin County, Georgia Unified Government was completed and the executive summary presented April 30 by the Chair of the Unified Government Charter Writing Committee Ken Vance at CGTC.

Vance said he looks forward to Thursday’s gathering after local government and staffs have reviewed the 57-page document.

“I think it will be a good meeting, and I hope some good comes of it. I think it’s the first of many meetings we will have,” Vance said. “We wanted to get with the elected officials first. This is something that is on the forefront of their minds because they are looking at a new way of governing or being governed.”  

Commissioner Henry Craig, District 4, said regardless of how the elected officials feel about consolidated government the community should have the chance to decide.

Craig expects the joint meeting will provide moments of constructive criticism.

“The plan is to thank the charter writing group for all the work. I’m sure in the social aspects there will be opportunities to exchange information between the elected officials and those that wrote the charter,” Craig said. “I think there will be opportunities for the officials with concerns to tell the unification organization what they feel should be included in the charter.”

Vance said so far the questions received are more transition-related than charter-based. 

“I think there are a lot of misunderstandings about what a charter is,” Vance said.

In the end, the unification writing committee chair wants the people to vote on consolidated government.

“Our goal is that at some juncture the citizens of Baldwin County get to vote. That’s all we are asking,” Vance said. “We want to get feedback and move forward toward that process. We understand (local officials) are the ones that have to ask for it to be voted upon.” 

• Format of joint city and county meetings

The future format and purpose of these joint city-county functions isn’t settled.

During the April city and county meeting at Allen’s Market, Commissioner Tommy French, District 2, said the city and county must put an agenda on a plate to adequately weight the ideas out. Otherwise, the joint meetings are just talk.

French still wants an agenda on the table. He isn’t a fan of sitting down to brainstorm.

“Otherwise, I’m not interested in wasting time or the taxpayers’ money. They need to be more transparent about the intentions behind having these meetings for no reason,” French said. “We spoke of an agenda last meeting, so we could have a program. We could have discussed the issues that need to be brought to the table. If we don’t know and they don’t know, there shouldn’t be a meeting.”

Craig agrees with French that agenda setting is important to make progress “on those areas of the community that need attention sooner rather than later.”

While the District 4 commissioner sees these conventions as progress that didn’t happen during previous years, addressing issues like city and county government business relations should be on the docket.

“Every one of these meetings needs to have specific substance planned. It takes considerable resources to put these things together. They should be used to address issues of substance for the entire community,” Craig said.

Hall said it’s worthwhile to “continue the dialogue” to show the public both governments can work together.

The county commission chairman said further down the road the joint meetings would likely be for specific items.


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