Bibb County Commissioner Elmo Richardson attempted to dispel rumors of his opposition to city-county consolidation at a Macon Rotary Club meeting Monday.
I know some people have been saying that I am against consolidation, Richardson said. I am 110 percent in support of consolidation.
Former Mayor C. Jack Ellis told The Telegraph several weeks ago that he was circulating copies of a letter written by Richardson that voices opposition to consolidation. Ellis himself has spoken out against consolidation.
Richardson, however, said he maybe jumped the gun, with his letter from several months ago. He said many of his concerns with an earlier version of the bill have since been addressed.
I didnt oppose consolidation at that time. I just wasnt in favor of the bill the way it was written, he said.
Richardsons opinion of the bill is free of re-election concerns, as he is giving up his commission seat this year.
State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, was the guest speaker at Mondays Rotary meeting, and he also spoke in favor of consolidation.
Peake said the dysfunctional and fighting government currently in place is harmful to the Macon-Bibb community.
Theres a constant, inherent conflict between city and county government, he said. Its clear that what we have now is not working.
Peake discussed what he thinks are some of the positive aspects of the bill. A consolidated community would be eligible for more federal grants, since consolidation would mean a community of more than 150,000 residents, he said. He also said the community could be safer with a consolidated law enforcement team.
Peake stressed the importance of a new start for Macon and Bibb County.
More than anything, we get a chance to start over ... we get a reboot, he said.
Peake also addressed concerns about pensions for government workers.
Existing pensions will be protected, he said. They would all be transferred to the new consolidated government.
Peake said a consolidated government would unify the community with a common goal of moving forward.
He said he is optimistic the consolidation referendum will get voter support, based on recent polling.
All indications show that the community is ready for this move, he said.
Calder Pinkston, a local lawyer and strong advocate of consolidation, asked Rotarians to support the July 31 referendum.
If you find the position were in now unacceptable ... you dont like being in the ditch ... if you want things to change, we have some work to do, he said.
Pinkston said many who oppose consolidation are spreading lies, particularly about government pensions.
He echoed Peakes opinion that a consolidated government would help bring unity.
Were going to decide on July 31 if this community is going to remain divided or if were going to speak with one voice, he said.
The bill must be approved by a majority of voters in Macon and in Bibb County. If the bill passes, partisan primaries for mayor and commissioners will be held in July 2013.
To contact writer Liz Bibb, call 744-4425