Rep. Jeff Jones, who lives on St. Simons, has withdrawn a piece of legislation that would have set up something awkwardly called the Villages of St. Simons, a vast overreach by some citizens agitated that they don’t always get their way.
So the Georgia General Assembly will not grant the charter for the proposed city now. Instead, it will create a study of whether dividing communities from the county or city is viable throughout the state.
And the residents of Glynn County can take a deep breath while they think about the ramifications of the proposed town.
When they do, they will receive the results of a study conducted by a think tank at Georgia Tech that has been ordered by the Glynn County Commission. It is the Tech group’s task to quantify the financial implications for not just the new town but also for the rest of the county.
Instead of creating a mayor, city council and whatever else the supporters wanted, voters now will have facts to guide their decisions.
Jones and the other local legislators had been under intense pressure from some island residents to push the enabling legislation. Jones relented--until he read the wording of the legislation.
The charter had been lifted largely from one used to create Milton, a suburb of Atlanta. It didn’t really address the needs, and maybe not the desires, of people who live on St. Simons.
Jones said, “It’s a bunch of legalese that you have to go through to see what it says...After I got into the specifics, it was pretty clear to me that it was an overreach. I’s pretty obvious that the pro-incorporation group was accepting the word of their leadership that this was a good piece of legislation, and it’s not.”
The proposed charter had all kinds of junk in it. Want your pets licensed? The mayor and city council would have had that power. Want to pay for repairs to sidewalks in front of your house? Suits the proposers of the new town.
Want to pay more taxes? Your property taxes could be raised two years after the new town was incorporated. Want new bureaucracy? That’s in the bill, too.
The supporters claim they could have avoided new property taxes by adding hotel bed taxes, alcohol sales taxes, and something called franchise fees. Maybe so. Or maybe new propery taxes would be needed to pay an extra set of local politicians.
Okay, I’m being rough with George Ragsdale and other supporters of the Villages of St. Simons. They are good people. But they got in a hurry to do something before it had been hashed out thoughtfully and carefully. The result was a very scary proposal that hadn’t been vetted.
Sure, they have a right to be hopping mad that the county government has allowed stands of trees to be cleared for housing. You can’t blame them for worrying about over-development. We all worry about that.
Anybody who has been caught in the traffic mess caused by the installation of sewer lines under Sea Island Road would like to vote for better planning. (There is no telling how much productivity was lost because of traffic backups. I heard of children being stranded on a school bus for more than two hours.)
Pete Correll, a Brunswick native whose philanthropy has done much for the area, has pointed out that the entire community needs to be considered when thinking about a new government entity.
While the pot is boiling, why not inject another thought about the county?
The real need is to consolidate Brunswick and Glynn County to take advantage of pooled resources while eliminating duplicated services.
Yes, it would take a lot of persuasion to bring Brunswick residents into such an alliance.
Those voters value their ability to choose a set of public officials (think city council, police, fire and other personnel) from amongst their neighbors.
And yes, a consolidation proposal would need the same kind of discussion, close reading and voting that was needed in the St. Simons case. It neither should nor could be rushed without proper consideration.
But we need look no farther than Macon to discover that consolidation can work. Lots of old-timers said it couldn’t be done because the minority population inside the Macon city limits would never agree. Yet it did happen last year when Macon and Bibb County residents approved it.
So we have some breathing room. Let’s use it to think clearly and thoughtfully.