Meeting held to discuss future of the islands community

WHITEMARSH ISLAND, GA (WTOC) - Georgia lawmakers are looking to end the drama over services between the city of Savannah and Chatham County by asking the state to fund a study. The study will look at the benefits of consolidating city and county governments, which could include reducing the tax burden for everyone in the county.

But parts of unincorporated Chatham County aren't interested in a consolidation study. Some residents are ready to create their own city.

Residents of Oatland, Talahi, Whitemarsh, and Wilmington Island residents discussed asking state lawmakers to fund a $30,000 study to look at whether it would be feasible for the islands to form their own city.

Residents are frustrated because they don't feel they are getting what they are paying for when it comes to taxes and the services they receive. But state lawmakers are already looking to eliminate this very problem by conducting a consolidation study that will look at the benefits of merging city and county governments within Chatham County.

"We don't know whether incorporation is the right way to go. We don't," meeting organizer Dave Sheuerer said.

Rep. Ron Stephens, who is also dean of the Chatham County Delegation, said earlier this month that taxpayers do not need the burden of another municipality in the county.

"Drawing a line in the sand saying, 'This is my city, this is your city,' but the consolidation of services, if we put two more cities in here, and there's talk of that, there will be 11 city and county managers. It's throwing taxpayer dollars up in the air when consolidation of services is what we ought to be talking about," Rep. Stephens said.

However, Skidaway Island is already headed in that direction after a study was already privately funded. And during the upcoming session, Representative Jesse Petrea will sponsor a bill to incorporate it.

If the Skidaway bill passes, it would be on the ballot in 2018. If the state approves funding for the consolidation study, Chatham County voters will have a say in 2019.

But these island residents are hardly interested in the results of that study.

"Are we going to go down the road when the city of Savannah and the state legislature and the unincorporated Chatham County say you know what? We're going to merge and we're going to become one government. Those crime numbers that are turning in the city of Savannah will become your crime numbers," Sheuerer said.

It's unclear if their last-minute request for this additional island study will be fulfilled but Rep. Stephens says he's confident the state will fund the $200,000 consolidation during the 2018 legislative session.

"The city of Macon, they cut their taxes five percent per year and they eliminated their city tax altogether. That's our end goal is to save taxpayer dollars," Rep. Stephens said.

Island residents are hoping to get the money during the upcoming session but again they are competing against the funding for the consolidation study, which has the support of the majority of our delegation.

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