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Government consolidation is non-starter
Officials bounce ideas around at retreat
retreat billy
Hinesville City Administrator Billy Edwards looks at a list of issues facing the city and county. The dots represent votes by retreat participants on the priority that should be placed on the issue. - photo by Photo by John Deike
ST. SIMONS ISLAND — The controversial issue of government consolidation came up — sort of — at Liberty’s Countywide Planning Workshop this week.
Much of the discussion dealt with consolidating of services rather than governments. One participant threw out the idea of combining law enforcement services — “If it works in Chatham County, it could work here” — but no serious discussion followed.
Liberty County appears to be headed in the other direction, with the small town of Walthourville having it’s own law enforcement through a contract with the sheriff’s office and Midway having recently launched a one-man police department.
Hinesville has its own police department, but Liberty’s other municipalities, Gum Branch, Flemington, Allenhurst and Riceboro depend on the sheriff’s deputies and the Georgia State Patrol.
True consolidation, with municipalities and the county giving up their authority to a single, united new government appears unlikely.
One of the facilitated groups at the workshop, the yellows, said half-jokingly that they wanted to discuss consolidation, but no member of the group would take responsibility for writing that word on the ever-present flip chart.
Muscogee County and the city of Columbus are an example of a merged government.
Partnering for service delivery was a different story. The Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission, which handles zoning, land use, planning and other matters for the county and all its municipalities, was cited as a success.
The LCPC sponsored this year’s workshop to help encourage wide participation in updating Liberty County’s comprehensive plan.
Commission Chairman John McIver said one of the planks in his platform had been to hold periodic meetings of the heads of governments in the county. He said he had been able to schedule only one meeting before the idea collapsed.
Librarian Robin Shader related a similar experience. She said county library board chairwoman Joan Hollingsworth had been trying to schedule a meeting with the partners who sponsor libraries and found it extremely difficult.
Hinesville, Liberty County and the board of education contribute to library funding; the two small cities in east Liberty chip in to support the Riceboro/Midway branch.
“More and bigger libraries” did emerge as one of the top issues identified by the workshop participants.
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