The response was one of opposition from many of those who attended a Tuesday night meeting in Appling concerning a proposed Columbia County consolidation.
The public forum, the second of three to occur in the county concerning the idea of an incorporation of the Evans/Martinez area and then consolidation of it with the county government, attracted more than 100 people to a standing-room-only courtroom inside the Appling Courthouse.
"I just still don't see the why of consolidation,'' said Carl Miller, of Grovetown, who attended the meeting wearing a T-shirt that displayed the word consolidation with a line crossing through it. "...I'm against consolidation 100 percent.''
Miller's response, which was met with applause from the audience, was among several against the idea after county officials made a slide show presentation detailing what they believe consolidation would mean for the county and its two cities, Grovetown and Harlem.
"Ultimately, if this goes forward, you will decide," said County Administrator Steve Szablewski to the crowd. Consoli-dation would have to be presented to voters in a referendum, which would have to be approved through the state legislature.
The area's legislative delegation would first have to present the idea to the state legislature.
Following the county presentation Tuesday night, most who spoke said they were not convinced that the plan would have much benefit in it for the county's more rural areas, adding that they already feel a divide in services provided there as opposed to the Evans/Martinez area concerning such things as dirt roads and water lines.
"I don't see where any of this is coming our way,'' said Jim Davis, who lives on GR Tucker Road in Harlem.
Commissioner Lee Anderson, who represents a good portion of the county's rural areas, said he also wants to make sure consolidation benefits the county's rural locations.
He said a past list concerning a $30 million bond issue, which would be paid for through franchise fees from a consolidation, had only included just more than $1 million in funds for improvements to his district.
He said he is requesting that the amount from a bond more equitably represent the population of his district, adding that he is asking for $5 million of a $30 million bond go to his district. He said he also is asking that the $30 million bond be increased to $40 million to allow an additional $10 million for water lines in the more rural areas of the county.
"You could say Lee Anderson is an idiot to ask for $10 million for a civic center," he told the crowd. "But I'm asking for a necessity of life - water."
Anderson said he won't be able to support consolidation if it doesn't provide an equitable share of funds to rural areas for improvements and if it chokes growth for the county's two cities. His response was followed by a loud applause by the crowd.
Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross, who was unable to make the meeting because of a previous engagement, has said in a past consolidation meeting that the county is considering working out an agreement that would allow the cities to annex west from Grovetown and east from Harlem and to allow Harlem to annex north toward Interstate 20.
Officials told the crowd Tuesday night that consolidation wouldn't create an additional government entity and would benefit the county by allowing it to collect about $5 million in franchise fees from telephone, cable television, electricity and natural gas companies.
Commissioner Steve Brown also said that $2.5 million in franchise fees is already being collected in the county as part of a statewide charge on Georgia Power utilities, yet he said the county can't retrieve those fees because it isn't incorporated and consolidated.
"That's what consolidation does for us,'' he said.
Brown then turned his attention to a neighboring county, noting how a consolidation in Augusta-Richmond County hadn't gone the way some had hoped and that Columbia County's effort would be different in that it wouldn't create additional layers of government.
He said the purpose of consolidation is to make government operate more efficiently and questioned what the county's future would be like without a consolidation.
"I'm not here to have an agenda," he said. "... I'm looking at the efficiency of this county in the future."
County Commissioner Diane Ford said Tuesday that she's supporting consolidation because of the money franchise fees would bring to the county.
"I'm not saying consolidation is the answer to everything, but we've got to have some more money to do the things you need us to do," she said.
First, though, residents such as Richard Hogue, who lives outside Grovetown, said an effort needs to take place to convince residents who live south of Interstate 20 that there isn't a divide between them and the areas north of I-20.
"I would suggest you start working to disprove that perception,'' he said. "Otherwise, this consolidation idea isn't going to fly.''
The third consolidation public forum will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Evans Government Complex.
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