With the issue of consolidation having been brought forth by Upson County Commission Chairman Rusty Blackston, who is seeking citizen input on the question of consolidation, during the public participation portion of the Thomaston City Council meeting on November 19, Mayor Hays Arnold was asked for his view on consolidation, and if it would work with a town and county the size of Thomaston and Upson. Below is his response:
“I have spent some considerable research on that subject in the past, and my discovery has been that the greatest number of the consolidated governments in our 50 states has been that there are some 40, or maybe a few more by now – I would not think many more – consolidated governments as a total. Of those, there are somewhat in the total of 90 percent or so that have populations of 100,000 or more. An example is Louisville, Kentucky. Another would be Kansas City. Jacksonville/Duval County is another. Athens is another. Augusta is another. Columbus/Muscogee County is, of course, another one. And now with Macon/Bibb County. If you look at those, they have a common thread. That common thread is all of those larger communities have extremely strong governmental economies. I would point out, Macon certainly enjoys the payroll and the monies that are expended at Warner Robins (Air Force Base). Columbus, Georgia has Ft. Benning. Augusta has complexes of both state and federal offices in that locale. What would Athens or Clarke County basically be with the University of Georgia and related offices – the things that go along with the school? So there are common threads and good things that go along with all of that.
“The other end of that is that we in Georgia have more of those (consolidations) than any other state. But as I pointed out, you know what the big cities are. Then you go down to Webster County, and you get into some of those type communities that are consolidated, where the populations are 3,000 or 4,000 people total – I’m not talking about the city, but total population. So it would make sense that if you don’t have anything, that you might want to look at doing something like that. Or it might be that you’ve got such an enormously strong economy and things of that sort, it might make sense if one particular government were providing everything. That they would simply consolidate their everything into somebody else’s nothing, and that might be a practical solution.
“In our particular instance, I have found nobody, nowhere in any of those, that shares the same socio-demographic type conditions we do. If it’s out there, I’m certainly happy to have anybody show it to me, but I haven’t found it. Not in a community our size. And there are none, at last count, that involves a municipality as sound as we, who own their own electric utility. They are just not there.
“That being said, I think that I can comfortably speak for this city council in saying we have no interest whatsoever, at this particular point in history, of pursuing a consolidation issue. We don’t feel like it would best for our citizens. We don’t think that we would be doing anything that would be appropriate for their best interests, and that being said, we don’t intend to go down that avenue.”
Later on in the meeting, Mayor Arnold added:
“One other thing I neglected to say. Let’s keep in mind that during a lesser time frame, in a period of somewhere in the last three to five years, there have been five new cities formed in the State of Georgia. There are others that are petitioning the legislature for municipal status, but there have been five. When you look at that, if you’re going to be fair about the whole situation, you’ve got to scratch your head and say, ‘ Why?’ Of course, there are answers to that. Cities are formed for purposes, and they are continuing to form for purposes.”