Lawmakers Have Consolidation Questions

By: Stephanie Baker
By: Stephanie Baker

January 4, 2006
Columbia County commissioners hope consolidation will get the go ahead at the legislative session starting Monday. But the bill could sit on the shelf for another year.

One county, one government. This sounds simple enough. But Evans business owner Ann Cushman has some questions.

“What is this, how is it gonna take place, how is it gonna affect everybody from one end of the county to the other end of the county?” Cushman said.

So does State Representative Barry Fleming.

“At this time the county commissioners in Columbia County have not given to the delegation any proposal for consolidation,” Fleming said.

County Management Services Director Todd Glover wants a consolidation bill to pass the house and senate, and get signed by the governor this session.

“We’d like the citizens to have the opportunity to vote on it in 2006,” Glover said.

Ann Cushman isn’t sure how she’d vote.

“I know that we’re going to generate more revenue by having the consolidation, but where will that money go? How will it be spent? Who will determine who spends it?” Cushman said.

And there’s a lot of money on the line. As a city, Columbia County could collect about five million in fees attached to cable, phone and natural gas.

The power company adds the franchise fee to the total of your bill no matter where you live. So people who live in Columbia County already pay the same fees as people who live in cities like Augusta.

“People living in unincorporated areas of the state are paying franchise fees for other cities,” Glover said.

Glover wants to use that money for storm water and road projects. But Representative Fleming says consolidation may not happen this session.

“Anything’s possible, but as the clock ticks closer and closer to the beginning of our session, it becomes more difficult for us as legislators to do our jobs,” Fleming said.

Representative Ben Harbin also tells News 12 he wants more information about consolidation before he decides whether or not to support a bill.

Columbia County has two upcoming information sessions to educate the public. One is on January 10th in Appling and the next on January 24th in Evans.

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