Islands raise 3/4 amount of money needed for feasibility study

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A move to incorporate the Islands as a city of its own is gaining momentum.

On Tuesday, March 13, a meeting to discuss moving forward with a feasibility study will be held on Wilmington Island.

It's going to cost $30,000 to have the study done. So far, more than $20,000 has been collected, and community leaders are confident the $30,000 will be there in time for the feasibility study. The deadline to have the money is April 1, nearly three weeks away.

The incorporation would be for Oatland, Talahi, Whitemarsh, and Wilmington islands. Some residents are still on the fence about moving forward with this process. However, some community members feel this would be the best decision when it comes to governing the islands.

One of the top reasons there's a push for this process is because of the lack of representation from the islands on Chatham County Commission.

On the Islands, there's said to be about 24,000 residents. If the Islands were to incorporate, there could be one representative for every 4,500 people versus the one person on Chatham County Commission representing all of the Islands together.

"County commissioner doesn't really have much sway in dealings with day-to-day government that we have to deal with, so with minimal representation, when we become a city, we'll have our own representation, then we can look inwardly to find out how to make city ways go better," said James Beisel, Business Community of the Islands Association.

However, District 4 Commissioner Patrick Farrell says all eight commissioners represent approximately this amount of people, and the districts have been divided equally.

"All the commissioners represent approximately 35,000 people," Farrell said.

The pros community leaders are looking at when it comes to incorporating is improved and increased public safety, better city services and control of building and zoning issues, just to name a few.

Although the perks of becoming a city seem interesting to community leaders, the first step must be passed.

"We cannot get into too much cityhood. We can discuss it, but we'll need to have the feasibility study to know for sure if we have the financial grounds to form a city," said Marianne Heimes, Chairman, Islands Community Association.

The meeting held was to clear up some misinformation and claims in an editorial by a local newspaper some residents say are downright false.

"We've not had any pitchfork mobs, it's not dirty politics, there's no fear-mongering, we're not a group of pro-incorporation zealots. We're regular citizens concerned about our community and keeping it the way we like it," said Talahi resident, Chris Acker.

Heimes says she has not seen pitchforks and doesn't plan to, but the article did lay out the naked truth.

"What it said at the end is that we all need to get educated, and we can all agree with that," she said.

As of 6:30 on March 13, the communities had already raised $22,340, leaving $7,660 left to raise. Commissioner Farrell says he is fully confident the Islands will come up with the rest of the money in time.

The goal is to have the study completed by October 2018.

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