The Columbia County Commission recently approved an update to the county's 20-year Comprehensive Growth Plan - a five-year review required by regional and state planning officials. This review involved a 30-member citizens committee who worked in several subcommittees and with paid consultants over a period of a year. They hammered out a plan that would be good for all - at least one that would not hurt any community or interest group. The meetings were sometimes contentious, as all efforts with competing interests will be, but in the end a good plan was completed that is acceptable to all.
The plan is excellent, and anyone who spends any time reading it will understand that the vision of the county's citizen leaders is to fight the sprawl concept of suburban development and to protect the way of life of all of the county's residents - rural and suburban alike.
...This year the county is considering changing its government to a city/county - a move that will be effective forever and will have a permanent impact on some of the county's residents. We will never again have an opportunity to determine the viability of such a change once it is done. Doesn't it make sense for the consolidation issue to be studied by a similar citizens committee? Shouldn't it be given at least the same diligence as a five-year update to a 20-year plan?
It appears that the county commission is just going to plow forward with this - bullying city officials, an under-informed public and perhaps even the legislative delegation into getting it done this year. The commission says they are going to present a proposal to the delegation after the three public information meetings. What they are not saying is that this will be done no matter what the public sentiment at these meetings indicates.
There are many complicated and unprecedented legal and voting issues involved. There is a permanent and potentially damaging effect on Grovetown and Harlem. All to get $30 million quickly for some immediate infrastructure needs. This seems a little shortsighted to me.
If the county commission will not appoint a citizens committee to study consolidation, then I urge the legislative delegation to do so. Even an ad hoc citizens committee made up of residents of all the affected communities is better than the one-sided public relations effort that we have seen to date.
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