Would consolidation save taxpayer money?

Folks say they want the chance to vote on consolidation of Albany and Dougherty County / Ashley Knight

Citizens want to put consolidation back on the ballot.

Charles Westbrook, who lives in the unincorporated area of Dougherty County, took the matter to county commissioners Monday.

According to a recent study by the Carl Vinson Institute, projected savings would be between $370,000 and $3 million a year.

Assistant City Manager Wes Smith says it would likely be nearer the lower amount, which wouldn't make a difference in their $100 million budget. He says nearly all the county and city departments have been consolidatedâ"and the ones that aren't provide different services, like the two public works departments who even share equipment.

The larger department to consolidate would be police services. Commissioner Chris Pike says taxpayers would pay more since they would have to raise the pay rate of the county officers. No officers would be consolidated, since there are barely enough to patrol all of the city and the county.

The bigger issue at hand, says Westbrook, is the fact that the people weren't even given the right to vote on the matter themselves. In 2010 city commissioners voted to move forward and send their consolidated charter to the state legislature for approval. After approval it would then be sent to the voters. Dougherty County commissioners voted against sending their version of a consolidated charter to the state, therefore stopping the process altogether.

Dougherty County Chairman Jeff Sinyard had a letter written to Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, asking the city to consider making the changes necessary to set the process back in motion so that the public's voice could be heard.

It is doubtful the issue will be seen on the November ballot, however, since crossover dayâ"the deadline for bills to switch chambersâ"is Wednesday.

Only seven of 159 counties in Georgia have been consolidated.

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