Commission votes to delay consolidation vote until 2012 (updated with video)

ALBANY, Ga -- The Albany City Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to delay a public vote until 2012 to allow inclusion of the latest census data into the proposed charter that, if approved by voters, would unify the Albany and Dougherty County governments.

The commission's vote Tuesday again puts the brakes on consolidation discussion for the time being.

At issue are the district maps that would accompany a proposed charter, which must be included as part of any ballot initiative. Those maps are constructed using census data and, according to City Attorney Nathan Davis, the lawyers who represent the General Assembly feel it would be best to wait until the figures from the 2010 census are released before moving ahead with a ballot initiative.

The commission vote came on the same day the Georgia House voted overwhelmingly to approve a referendum for voters in Bibb County to decide whether the Macon and Bibb County governments should be merged.

If that bill receives approval by the Senate and receives approval from the U.S. Justice Department, voters in Macon and Bibb County could have an opportunity to vote as early as November.

Albany Mayor Willie Adams said that while he's ardently for allowing the public an opportunity to vote on the measure, he doesn't want to give critics an opportunity to derail the entire initiative because of outdated data.

"Once this bill is dropped, it has to go through the Department of Justice also to make sure that there have not been any irregularities, so to speak," Adams said. "So if the census data has changed and there has been a shift in where people are living now, of course that would play in the Department of Justice's decision. In order to make sure this thing is done correctly, we should avoid anything we know that will be a conflict."

While they're waiting, however, commissioners did express an interest in tinkering with the charter to address some remaining issues with it.

One of those -- pay for the chief elected official of a consolidated government -- was pointed out in Sunday in an Albany Herald column. Under the proposed charter, a full-time CEO would be limited to a salary of $25,000.

Some at the table Tuesday -- Adams included -- were concerned that wouldn't be enough salary to entice someone who would be effective as the city's executive to do the job full-time and suggested the provision needed to be reworked.

While they were discussing the issue Tuesday, Mayor Pro-Tem Roger Marietta asked that commissioners put more specific language in the charter that would make the bill come up for a vote, if approved by the Legislature, in November 2012.

The bill feasibly could come up for a vote during the summer of 2012, depending on when the General Assembly passed the measure and when it was approved by the Department of Justice. Marietta asked that the commission narrow that window so that "the most voters get an opportunity to vote on it."