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Official keeps pushing for consolidation
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Commissioner Gary Pichon may have just two more months as an elected official, but that isn't stopping him from pushing for a consolidated government in Dawson County.

"As a citizen, I'm going to keep raising the issue," he said last week. "We need to reduce cost to government. We need to figure out how to do that. Consolidation may offer us a window."

Last month, Pichon asked the county commission to begin looking into the process of a unified government with Dawsonville.

"My recommendation to the board is that we go get Carl Vinson [Institute of Government at the University of Georgia] to help guide us through the exploratory phase of this thing to see if it warrants drafting new enabling acts," he said.

He estimates the cost could run between $15,000 and $20,000.

"What if it saves us a whole lot of money? What if it protected the different entities? Then I'd say it's worth doing," he said.

According to Pichon, it was the recent flurry of requests to annex into Dawsonville that prompted his stance.

"At the heart of this problem is this constant annexation by the city," he said. "We've got another three coming up now. If you look at the map, we're slowly going to be consumed by the city and we're not going to have any say in that.

"It would certainly get rid of these conflicts over zoning and planning we have with the city right now. It would get rid of the annexation issues."

County Attorney Joey Homans has been reviewing the codes and looking at the process, according to Pichon.

"I would think the commission's job is to try draft a suggested structure and enabling act after we have public hearings and had the guidance study the issues," Pichon said. "The goal is to start to get some help to see how some of these other places work in Georgia. Where has consolidated government [worked] well? What have been the pitfalls? What are the things you have to think about with consolidated governments?"

City officials have said they aren't interested in a combined government, while the county commissioners voted 4-0 to look into the process.

"I would assume my council would vote against it. I certainly would be against it," said Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan.

County Commissioner James Swafford, whose district includes the city, supports the change.

"I think this board is ready to go with a unified government, but it takes the city to come along," he said. "So if they want all the county to be annexed into the city, then we need to have a unified government from that."

Dawsonville Councilman Chris Gaines said he sees the level of competition between the two governments as healthy.

"I've been in big corporations and I've been in small businesses," he said. "Small business can react quicker to markets and have less layers of bureaucracy and get things done."

According to Pichon, consolidation could save taxpayers as much as $2 million per year that currently goes toward municipal projects.

"I think we need to do it. Other people may not. The board may think I'm crazy. The board may not want to do it," he said. "I'll bring it back up before I leave office, later this year."