In three public meetings, Columbia County officials have provided information about the proposal to incorporate and consolidate the county into a city/county form of government.
They've heard questions and concerns and addressed them on the spot, or used the information to fine-tune their proposal. Now, the commissioners' next step is to hand off the issue to the Columbia County legislative delegation.
Is consolidation the best route for Columbia County's future? Though commissioners are convinced it is, and many nay-sayers are certain it isn't, the lawmakers are keeping an open mind until they have more information.
That is exactly the route we suggest for citizens, too.
As is abundantly clear from the public meetings on the topic, and from discussion in the community, the concept of consolidation isn't ready for prime time. The public does not readily accept change and uncertainty, and consolidation is filled with both.
Thus, reaction to consolidation has been exactly as expected: hyperventilating opposition from a few people, along with indifference and ambivalence from just about everyone else.
To sort out the noise, local lawmakers say they will insist that a citizen committee study the issue, much like the group that studied the change to an elected county commission chairman.
It's possible, though not likely, that all this could be done in time to put a question on the ballot for voters in November. More probable is that the decision will be delayed at least for a year.
That's perfectly OK. There is no move afoot in the Georgia Legislature to undo the law, passed in 2005, that allows Columbia County and other communities to consider consolidation. And the projects that would be funded with "extra" money from consolidation aren't so critical that fixing them can't wait.
Citizens, even those who won't consider consolidation a good idea no matter what they hear about it, deserve plenty of opportunities to get all the answers they need before being asked to vote on something that fundamentally and permanently changes their community.
A committee should be able to provide those answers - and all of us ought to keep an open mind about hearing them.
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