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Sims: Residents will get chance to vote on merger

ALBANY -- Albany and Dougherty County's lone representative in the state senate said Wednesday that she has confidence that local leaders will present a charter to the state delegation before the next General Assembly term ends.

Senator Freddie Powell Sims, D-Albany, is in a position to resuscitate an effort to consolidate the city and county governments from the state level when the session convenes in January.

House Bill 800, which was introduced by Representatives Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, and Carol Fullerton, D-Albany, during the last legislative session, calls for the merger of the two governments.

The bill, which was largely patterned after a charter voted on by the county commission in 2005, passed the House of Representatives. It then moved over to the Senate, but has remained dormant in the Senate clerk's office awaiting action from Sims before it can come to a vote.

Sims has said publicly that she is waiting to give an opportunity for local leaders to draft their own charter before moving the process forward, but when asked Wednesday what she would do if the city and county failed to send up a charter, said she had faith in the local leadership.

"I have every confidence that they will work through the process and produce something beneficial to the people," Sims said.

When asked again what would happen if they didn't, Sims said, " I won't get into the hypotheticals, but my gut feeling is that the registered voters in Dougherty County will have an opportunity to vote on this issue."

"They (local leaders) have done an excellent job working through this difficult process. They have worked tirelessly to move this process along so the people can have this opportunity," she said.

The discussion continues even as forums hosted by government officials take place.

Tuesday, City Commissioners Roger Marietta and Bob Langstaff each discussed consolidation with members of Darton's student-run Democrat, Independent, Republican Team or DIRT, during a forum on campus.

That forum examined the pros and cons as perceived by the members of the groups. Some of the pros outlined were increased efficiency in government, no job loss of those long-term employees and positive economic development opportunities through a lack bureaucracy.

The cons centered around a loss of entry-level job opportunities as the government shrinks, possible impacts on existing pension and retirement benefits of city and county employees and the initial cost of equalizing pay between the city and the county.

Today, Commissioner and Mayor Pro Tem Dorothy Hubbard has scheduled a public forum for 6:30 p.m. at Greater 2nd Mt. Olive Baptist Church, located 302 Adkins St.