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Pros and cons focus of Darton consolidation forum

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY -- Members of a student-run political group at offered their opinions and asked questions about the much deliberated consolidation movement currently undertaken by Dougherty County and the city of Albany, during a consolidation forum at Darton Tuesday night.

Moderated by Ward 4 Commissioner Roger Marietta, the discussion from the handful of those in attendance centered around the pros and the cons of merging the two governments.

Darton student Tammy Harris asked Marietta and Assistant City Manager Wes Smith, who was in attendance to offer background on the consolidation movement, about the feasibility of losing jobs due to the merger.

"Isn't the whole point of this consolidation effort to save money? And won't that happen through downsizing? Granted I know that no one wants to lose their job, but when these two governments consolidate there's got to be some downsizing," she said.

Smith and Marietta answered that question by saying that the only jobs lost would be through attrition. Duplicate jobs would result in reassignment where needed.

During the course of the forum, students built a list of perceived pros and cons which included increased efficiency of the government, economic development, pay disparities increase in government size.

Ward 5 Commissioner Bob Langstaff joined in the discussion by explaining why he supports consolidating the two governments.

"I support it because of all the intangibles of combining the government," Langstaff said. "The bickering between the two governments, for instance, or the hassle of getting one's permission to do something else, will all be eliminated."

Langstaff used tipping fees at the landfill as an example of an "intangible" that will be gained if the county and city merge, saying the city is currently the biggest user of the landfill so merging that service only makes sense.

Marietta also said that he plans to vote for a referendum that would give the citizens an opportunity to vote on the measure, but said he wasn't sure how things would play out if the county, who some believe already has four votes against the measure, votes the issue down.

On Monday, county commissioners debated on how to respond to a request by the city commission on how to best to handle the revenues and liabilities associated with the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission. The city is requesting the proposed charter be altered to ensure that the assets of WG&L remain confined within the city limits.

At the end of the meeting, the commission decided to ask the city commission for clarification on their intent behind the measure. Tuesday morning a city commission meeting, Marietta moved to have the county's issues put on the city's next agenda.

State Representative Winfred Dukes has asked that the city and county present an agreed upon charter to the state legislative delegation by December so they could have a chance to review it before the General Assembly term begins in January.

Commissioner Dorothy Hubbard is set to hold her own consolidation forum at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Second Mt. Olive Church.