Columbia County commissioners and county staff will play host to the second of three planned informational sessions concerning consolidation at the Appling Courthouse on Tuesday.
The 6 p.m. meeting will feature a slide presentation outlining the county's plans for consolidation and the potential benefits of county consolidation. There also will be a time for questions and answers from the staff and elected officials.
"We (county staff and I) think it's the best thing for the county and hope the legislative delegation will agree with that and put it on the ballot so the people can decide," commission Chairman Ron Cross said. Cross and Commissioner Tommy Mercer will not be at the Appling meeting because of a prior obligation.
Cross has said that consolidation will benefit the county by putting the county on the map and through a bond referendum for infrastructure. Consolidation will not change the level of service or increase the size of government.
District Four Commissioner Lee Anderson said he will attend the meeting to explain his views on consolidation.
As part the plan, Cross has said he would like to use franchise fees that a consolidated city-county would be eligible for as security for a $30 million bond for infrastructure projects. Those projects include improved sewer capacity and quality of life improvements, which would include parks and other recreational amenities.
Anderson said that before he can support consolidation, money for water lines and roads must be made available for the rural parts on the county that he and Commissioner Diane Ford represent.
"I won't be satisfied until we get $5 million of the $30 million (bond) for infrastructure," Anderson said.
As the plan was first presented to him, Anderson said, the rural parts of the county were receiving about $1 million of the $30 million bond.
"If the whole county cannot benefit from it, I cannot vote for it," Anderson said.
He also said that he wants $10 million that would not be covered by the bond to pay for water lines.
"All I'm asking for is the necessity of life," he said. "Another reason for water is 24-7 fire protection. We need the water and (we need to) prepare for future growth that is coming. I feel like water is past due."
Anderson said the county's plans for consolidation also need to address the concerns of the cities of Grovetown and Harlem. Harlem Mayor Scott Dean has said he opposes consolidation because it would limit the growth of the cities and the amount of sales tax revenue they could receive.
"I don't want to force it on the people at all," Anderson said. "I just want to put the options out there and at this present moment, I don't have nothing to show what people would get in return out of consolidation."
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