McIntosh Co. would struggle against consolidation efforts | Local News
Reviving a concept of county consolidation in Georgia could create friction in this region of the coast.
Losing 23% of its population over a 10-year period would make McIntosh County a prime candidate for consolidation. According to the 2020 census, the county’s population fell from 14,333 to 10,975, a loss of 3,358 people from 2010 to 2020.
It is one of 67 of Georgia’s 159 counties with declining populations, according to new census figures.
Although its loss was much smaller than that of McIntosh County, Brantley County also found itself on the negative side. Its official workforce fell to 18,021 from 18,411, a decrease of 390 residents, according to the census.
State Rep. Darlene Taylor, R-Thomasvile, is the lawmaker behind efforts to form a committee to study county consolidations, an idea first mooted by Republicans in the 1980s. is the population loss of rural counties.
Those close to the issue recognize the political battles that are sure to start over any General Assembly decision to merge two or more counties together. County elected officials, including sheriffs and commissioners, would not be keen to relinquish their duties or power.
Expect at least two officials representing the interests of McIntosh County One Another — Commissioner Roger Lotson and State Rep. Buddy DeLoach, R-Townsend — to reject any proposal to merge their county with another.
When asked for a comment, Lotson simply replied, “I will object vehemently.”
The opposition base of DeLoach, also a resident of McIntosh County, understands the distrust of the numbers provided by the census.
“I don’t trust the 2020 count,” he said. “I believe McIntosh County is growing. In the small housing estate where I live, there are a number of new houses being built. Property values have increased rapidly over the past two years.
Another factor that must be considered is the large amount of state-claimed land in McIntosh County.
“The State of Georgia owns over 66,000 acres in McIntosh County,” he said. “Most of these properties are valuable beach or river land that is not part of the county summary and does not provide any economic benefit to the county.”
Historical significance also plays into its opposition.
“The county seat of Darien is Georgia’s second oldest city,” DeLoach said. “It was settled the year after Savannah.”
In any case, DeLoach is a firm believer that if a county consolidation plan survives a vote by the legislature, McIntosh County should be banned.
“There may be declining rural counties in Georgia that could benefit from consolidation, but McIntosh is not one of them,” DeLoach said. “There can be advantages in sharing the costs of services between several counties. Some of this is already happening and I would encourage more.
Former Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak, who retired from state duties in 2020, said the issue never arose in his 10 years in the legislature, but that he knew enough about politics and government to envision a Mount Everest in his way.
“You would see a lot of the same issues that you would see talking about consolidating a city with a county,” Ligon said.
“I see a lot of problems. We have to see how they will be merged. Maybe the bigger county doesn’t want to absorb it and maybe the smaller county doesn’t want to be absorbed.
There would be a benefit in reducing the number of counties and county governments in the state.
“The advantage is that there would be a lot more resources,” Ligon said.
Providing funds to fewer school systems and fewer sheriffs, among other things, would free up more funds for consolidated entities.
Only Texas has more counties than Georgia — 254 out of 268,820 square miles of land.
A state with roughly the same land mass as Georgia, Illinois, has only 102 counties. The slightly larger state of Wisconsin has only 72 counties. Georgia is 59,425 square miles; Illinois is 57,915.
At one time, the merger of two or more counties had the support of the Association of County and City Governments. In 2008, the organization stated that it had a permanent policy of “supporting the consolidation of certain Georgia counties”.
ACCG noted that Georgia has reduced the size of its once larger counties by creating new ones to allow horse-drawn carriage farmers to travel to and from the county seat on the same day.
ACCG is not involved in the recent proposal to study county consolidation.
“The CACG does not currently have a position on this issue but will participate in the study committee if it is passed,” said Schuyler Harding, CACG communications director.