County opposes consolidation charter

ALBANY -- The Dougherty County Commission opted not to send a consolidation charter to the state Legislature at a special called meeting Wednesday.

The motion failed 4-3 with Commissioners Gloria Gaines, Jack Stone, Muarlean Edwards and John Hayes voting against it. Chairman Jeff Sinyard and Commissioners Lamar Hudgins and Charles Lingle voted in favor of it.

Those that voted against it say they did so based on feedback from their constituents indicating they did not want consolidation.

"I can't speak for the 96,000 people in Dougherty County, but I can speak for District 2," Hayes said. "I am here to carry out their desires."

Edwards, who represents District 3, said there were too many unknowns to allow the charter to go forward.

"If I don't know enough facts to give the pros and cons, I will go with my constituents," she said.

Other dissenters felt there were bigger fish for the community to fry.

"I'm going to do what the people elect me to do," said Stone, who represents District 6. "We've got many other things to worry about."

Those that voted for it did so mainly out of respect for the public's right to vote on the issue.

"I feel the basic right to vote is at the basis of this argument," said Lingle, representative for District 4.

Sinyard had similar feelings on the process, and felt the effort in dealing with the charter demonstrated an open process amongst area officials.

"I felt that people should be able to vote," he said. "The most important aspect is that we have an open and deliberative process. It's good to

see the city and county work together; that's very important to me.

"At the end of the day, we have to move forward with it or not. There

was a lot of hard work involved and I respect each commissioner's vote."

The bill calling for a referendum on consolidating the city and county governments passed the Georgia House in March, where it later moved on into the Senate. Legislators can now take the city's charter and move forward with it, or the issue could die.

"I feel certain the issue of consolidation in Albany-Dougherty County is to be continued," said Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Albany. "I'm sure consolidation is not dead."

Of all the issues Sims has gotten feedback on from her constituents recently, she said consolidation has been low on the list. Since then, she has been waiting for the local government to act on the matter.

In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, Sims did not give an opinion on the issue.

"My responsibility is not to 'suade public interest on this," she said. "My responsibility is to move forward so constituents can move forward."

At 11:05 p.m. Tuesday, the Albany City Commission agreed to send a charter consolidating the city and county governments to the General Assembly in a 5-2 vote. Commissioners Tommie Postell and Jon Howard were the only naysayers.

"I'm sure each one of the (county) commissioners voted with their conscience, and I'm glad my commissioners voted their conscience," Albany Mayor Willie Adams said. "The people in the community will have to vote on the charter. It's unfortunate we are split on this issue. My gut feeling is that it doesn't look good."

Rep. Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, said Wednesday that it will be interesting to see how things unfold in the coming months.

"At this point, people have the right to decide how they want to be governed," he said. "I'm curious to see how things will move forward."