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December 16, 2013

Government consolidation in neutral

MILLEDGEVILLE —

Local City of Milledgeville and Baldwin County elected officials attended a Thursday joint meeting for a presentation and discussion of unification and functional consolidation at Central Georgia Technical College.

The amended foundation charter for a Milledgeville-Baldwin County, Georgia Unified Government wasn’t reviewed, as city and county officials seem non-committal on the issue.

More talk centered on the idea of functional consolidation agreements instead of a single government to provide more efficient service.

Carl Vinson Institute of Government representatives Dennis Epps and Harry Hayes placed the community’s unification talk into both a state and national perspective.

“Georgia leads the country in terms of consolidated governments that we have. We have eight now including Macon-Bibb County,” Hayes said. “We have a lot of situations in Georgia where cities and counties are providing very similar services.”

Hayes said it’s often difficult to create a charter that’s exactly what the people want, educate everyone about that charter and then have a majority of the people vote on it.

“We also lead the country in number of attempts at consolidation,” Hayes said Thursday.

County Commission Chairman Sammy Hall said the people want better service at less cost. Hall said the current charter doesn’t address the details to know “if we put it up for a vote and it passed, how much is it going to cost to implement?”

County Commissioner Tommy French said his research shows that Athens-Clarke County is still losing money.

“Functional consolidation is a lot simpler. Most people aren’t getting the gist that you have to make a charter. You are talking about making a new law,” French said.

French said the Augusta area still doesn’t have its tax districts correct.

State Rep. Rusty Kidd also weighed in Thursday.

“You can’t compare apples and oranges when you are looking at Baldwin County and any other larger county with multiple cities,” Kidd said. “Consolidation is not going to save money immediately. It will keep you from spending more money thus not having to raise taxes in the future.”

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Cade Bass practices her pitching technique at the newly opened Between the Lines 8,000-square foot indoor facility located inside the Columbia Center at 611 Hammock Rd. Members gain 24-hour access to the batting cages, tee work and soft toss training stations, pitching rubber and areas for various agility and other sport-related fitness activities.

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