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Lula mayor criticizes Hall Countys merger push
Milton Turner 0708
Lula Mayor Milton Turner

Lula’s mayor didn’t pull punches when it came to the topic Monday night of a merger of Hall County governments.

“Hall County is just going to spend a lot of taxpayer dollars to do another one of those studies and shelve it,” Milton Turner said.

Calls to merge the Hall County and Gainesville governments have been echoing for years, with voters across Hall overwhelmingly passing a ballot referendum in March 1992 that approved a study of how merging governments and services might benefit taxpayers.

With the Hall County Board of Commissioners bringing up the issue again last week, Turner said, “I am not in favor of any consolidation of any governments. It’s not a benefit to the taxpayers.”

Turner made the comments following a meeting of the Lula City Council, which had a brief discussion of the issue with City Manager Dennis Bergin.

During the discussion, Turner said Lula cannot be part of consolidation because it’s in more than one jurisdiction. Part of the northeast Hall city is in Banks County.

Bergin agreed, then added “the concern for everybody is we want the public to be as well educated on this matter as they can be.”

“If the county took over sewer, their rate is almost $4 to $5 more per 1,000 (gallons) treated for sewer,” he said. “It’s one of those (issues) that truly needs to be looked at and weighed out.”

The Hall Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 Thursday night to put the question of a merger study to voters this November.

If voters approve a study, county officials said they would contract with an independent agency, such as the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia, to conduct it.

Commissioner Scott Gibbs has said he brought up the issue because the county is losing revenue as cities continue to annex unincorporated lands. And with about 73 percent of Hall unincorporated, Gibbs said, the likelihood of continued annexations is very real.

Commissioners Billy Powell and Jeff Stowe voted against the proposal, but each said they support the concept of consolidation.

Powell said he doesn’t believe city governments will get on board to make it happen, however, and that the study “will just sit on the shelf.”

Stowe said while consolidation could bring benefits to local taxpayers, he is concerned that an improving relationship with Gainesville officials could be harmed in the referendum process.

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