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Consolidation charter sent for approval

ALBANY -- After nearly one years of discussion, negotiating and political posturing, the city tentatively agreed Tuesday to send a proposed charter for a unified government to Atlanta.

Although the decision won't become final until next week's voting meeting, the move Tuesday signals the end of the city's involvement in the debate on whether they should merge with their counterparts in the county.

In a compromise devised by Mayor Pro Tem Dorothy Hubbard, the commission voted to send one proposed charter for a new city-county government to the Georgia General Assembly for approval for a referendum, with the caveat that a consensus between the city and county could not be reached on two issues.

After reaching an agreement on four different changes to the proposed charter, the city and county deadlocked on the pay of the new commissioners and whether the mayor/CEO should serve as a part time or fulltime leader.

The city had asked the county to consider altering the charter to allow the new commissioners to earn the same pay as the current city commission -- roughly $15,000 per year -- but the county reached a consensus among themselves to keep wording in the charter that would pay the new commissioners at the base salary of the county commission, or $9,600 per year.

But the area that garnered the most discussion Tuesday was the employment status of the new CEO.

Both the current mayor and chairman are part-time employees who balance professional lives outside of the government center with their official duties as elected officials.

In reaching a consensus to keep the mayor or CEO's position part-time, the county commission expressed concern over the need to have both a fulltime CEO and a full time manager, which is how the charter is currently written.

After discussion and a general unwillingness on behalf of city leaders to work out the issue through a joint city-county meeting as was suggested by Commissioner Roger Marietta, the commission voted unanimously to pass Langstaff's motion to send the charter to Atlanta with the statement that the two issues could not be resolved.

The decision appeared to take some county officials by surprise. County Administrator Richard Crowdis said that the next scheduled meeting for the commission is set for Monday, but he was unsure if Chairman Jeff Sinyard would be interested in convening a special called meeting to take a vote.

The two commissions are working to get a consolidation document to legislators before the General Assembly term begins in January.