Some members of the Columbia County Commission still have lingering resentment toward state Rep. Barry Fleming because they believe he is the man responsible for stopping consolidation.
It's wrong to say the legislative delegation, Fleming included, derailed consolidation. It never really got on track to start with. The widespread belief seems to be that the commissioners hatched the plan in secret, and tried to pull out of the station without getting citizens on board.
And many of those citizens felt railroaded as a result.
Some of that belief is accurate. Much of it isn't, especially the ludicrous idea some cynics have posed that consolidation was all a plot hatched by County Commission Chairman Ron Cross to get more power.
Earth to those tin-foil-hat wearing conspiracy theorists: He's already the county-wide elected chairman. That's pretty much the county's highest office already.
Good or bad, noble or nutty, consolidation probably won't get a proper epitaph on its tombstone. And, yes, it's dead; we don't even have to call Coroner Tommy King to pronounce its demise - it suffered a natural death, passing away quietly in the wee hours of the Legislature.
A few hardy souls will keep pumping its chest and blowing into its maw, hoping to breathe life into the already decomposing corpse. But it's dead. RIP.
And it won't be resurrected. If it were, the miracle would be comparable to only one other rebirth - and that one caused the founding of a major religion. Somehow, I don't expect future citizens to worship Consolidationanity.
The good news is that civil discourse in the county still lives. Oh, sure, things got a little tense as some of the discussions about the issue. The cops even got a little antsy with some of the participants, though they never got nervous enough to pop off any spritzes of pepper spray. (That would have been fun.)
But after all the dust settles, after the last limited-edition anti-consolidation T-shirt is turned into a car-washing rag, everyone will again figure out how to get along and move on to the next Big Issue.
Want proof? I found some the other day while flipping through the pages of the 1976 Columbia News and Martinez-Evans Times.
It seems that almost exactly 30 years ago, the citizens packed themselves into the old City Council chambers in Grovetown because they were angry about proposed changes in city government.
All the council wanted to do was empower the planning commission to conduct its own rezoning hearings, and to adopt rules on non-conforming zoning. These days, such things are an accepted part of zoning.
Not back then, apparently. The story about the meeting points out that when then-Mayor Leon Davidson read the proposed rules, members of the audience started clamoring to speak. Davidson ignored them; the council passed the rules with just one "nay" vote; and immediately adjourned the meeting.
"The room exploded with shouts and jeers," the story notes. "Everyone had expected to be heard. The crowed was angry. They hurled threats at the councilmen and called for Davidson to resign."
The ensuing years were tough ones for Grovetown, which weathered a series of recall elections that eventually made the city's government as big a laughingstock as Augusta's government is today.
The important thing, however, is that they got over it. Grovetown today is a model of harmonious government. The only complaints we hear sometimes are from sob-sisters upset with how much they were fined for speeding.
The lesson for Columbia County is twofold. Despite the hard feelings over consolidation's demise, harmony will once again return; and, as Augusta well knows, what goes around, comes around.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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