On the upcoming November 8th ballot a very interesting question about local government in Hall County will be presented to voters. It is a question that sparks fear in hearts many city politicians and administrators. It is a simple question, do the voters think a study should be conducted on consolidating local government in Hall County. Basically, does merging the cities in Hall County (Gainesville, Flowery Branch, Oakwood) and the Hall county government into a unified organization make sense. The item was proposed by Hall County Commissioner Scott Gibbs and gained enough support from the commission to make it to the November ballot. As you might imagine, local city leaders are wholly opposed to consolidation and their eventual roles being eliminated. If you look back into the area’s history this is not the first time the idea of consolidation of Hall County and the City of Gainesville has been contemplated.
A similar nonbinding referendum in 1992 indicated that voters were in favor of such a consolidation, but efforts to carry out the residents’ wishes failed. As Hall County in general, and South Hall specifically continue to grow the need for efficiently delivered and coordinated local government services continues to increase. The costs of operating a small city or town, with its’ own administrative structure and salaries, is simply inefficient to operate, and for residents to access.
The City of Flowery Branch has focused much of its’ recent efforts of developing “Historic Downtown Flowery Branch” – not on providing services to Sterling on the Lake, Newberry Point, and other large residential areas making up the majority of the city’s tax base. The city has tremendous drainage issues in the older parts of the city, and addressing those are simply an after thought. Flowery Branch recently spent 2.1 million dollars on the Lights Ferry Connector (a roundabout with over twenty high-end street lights) and is in the process of spending over 6 million dollars on a city hall. The back and forth between the City of Flowery Branch and Hall County over the re-paving project on McEver Road at Jim Crow Road is a shining example of the inefficiency of the current system and how it negatively impacts residents.
The recently completed Lights Ferry Roundabout, and the currently underway City Hall are examples projects that are not aligned with the needs of the tax base.
What are your thoughts about a consolidated city/county government for the residents of Hall County?