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Consolidation study postponed
Councilman seeks more diversity, more participation from other cities in county
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    The Statesboro city council reversed itself at Tuesday night’s meeting when they voted unanimously to rescind funding for a study to look at consolidation of city and county governments.
    The motion, offered by Councilman Will Britt, removed funding for the city’s half of a consolidation study, which would have been performed by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia. The council originally allocated funds at their July 7 meeting. Britt said he made the motion because other local governments had not been involved in discussions about consolidation and that the committee formed to look at consolidation was not diverse enough and did not reflect the variety of interests in the city.
    “Brooklet, Register and Portal have not been involved in this at all,” Britt said at the meeting. “The committee is not representative of our community based on age, race and sex. We have a diverse community and the committee that’s looking for us to be the fifth consolidated government in the state of Georgia I think should be representative of the area.”
    The Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce has formed a committee to investigate consolidation, which is co-chaired by Billy Hickman and Terry Reeves.  Over the past two weeks, both men have met individually with most county commissioners and city councilmen to encourage them to vote to fund the study and they have given presentations in front of both the council and the commission.
    If Statesboro and Bulloch County consolidated, it would be only the fifth consolidated government in the state. Columbus/Muscogee, Cusseta/Chattahoochie, Athens/Clarke and Augusta/Richmond are the others.
    Chairman of the board of commissioners, Garrett Nevil, said he thought the city didn’t have to withdraw its funding since no money will be spent until an official agreement is drawn up with the institute.
     “I thought their action was not necessary. The reason I say that is that (the commissioners) have not agreed to a study and we have not signed a contract,” Nevil said. “All we’ve done it to have the funding in place in case we want to proceed further. This was just the first step.”
     Britt said he decided to offer the motion after looking into the some of the reasons behind the sudden interest in consolidation.
    “After learning more about it and researching more about it, I found out that this was not put together in a manner that was representative of the city of Statesboro and the city’s wishes,” Britt said. “The biggest concern people have about consolidation is that business owners that live in the county want to be heard and want to control some things inside the city. And I can understand that.”
    After the motion to rescind passed, Britt offered another motion that would approve funding for a consolidation study provided that representatives from the city, county, Brooklet, Register and Portal meet in a forum and that the consolidation committee be more representative of the city in regards to age, race and gender.
    Nevil said that Harry Hayes, a project manager from Carl Vinson, will come down in the next two weeks to give a presentation to the city and county and he plans to invite representatives from the other three municipalities in the county. After that Hayes will prepare a contract which, Nevil said, the county will look over very carefully.
    “We want all the information we can possibly get before we make a decision,” Nevil said.
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