House Bill 598, or the Harlem city limits expansion bill, passed in the House and Senate and is currently on Georgi’a Governor’s desk.
State Representative, Barry Fleming, says, “it allows people to have a closer government to them that represents them.”
Representative Fleming wrote the bill that will double the size of Harlem, taking some land that currently belongs to Columbia County.
“I sat down and met with the County Manager and County Chairman face-to-face,” says Representative Fleming.
However, Columbia County leasers are asking the governor to veto the bill, so NewsChannel 6 wanted to clarify.
NewsChannel 6 reporter, Jenna Kelley, asked, “so ,you sat down with Doug Duncan?”
“And Scott Johnson, yes,” says Representative Fleming.
He says he sat down with them some time last year and told State Senator of District 24, Lee Anderson, who also signed off on the bill, that Columbia County was in agreement.
“I was told by the attorney of the City Harlem and city officials that the county was fine with the annexation,” says Senator Anderson.
We should note ehre that Barry Fleming is the City Attorney for Harlem.
So, we reached out to city officials. In fact, we reached out to them muiltiple times and received no response. Senator Anderson says, if he would have known about the disagreement, well…
“I would have never signed the bill,” says Senator Anderson.
Representative Fleming says the bill will provide water and sewer to people south of I-20.
“Columbia County does a great job providing services north of I-20 but it’s limited on the south of I-20,” says Representative Fleming.
He says the annexation does not include land that homeowners currently live on, but some homeowners told NewsChannel 6 that they don’t want to raise their taxes.
“You do pay a city property tax, but your water rates and sewer rates go down if you’re inside the city limits,” says Representative Fleming.
He refers to this as a trade off. He says the county is working with the city to provide water. Cooperation doesn’t stop there. He says the county will still help cover the costs of public facilities, like the new library and recent renovations to the theater. Cooperation continues with First Responders.
“The Sheriff and the Police Department has always worked cooperatively. The Fire Department has worked together, they have responder ability to help each other in times of crisis, so I think that continues relationship of working together will continue,” says Representative Fleming.
Senator Anderson says nothing will happen until both parties talk it out, but Fleming says the governor can sign whenever he wants to.
We reached out to Governor Brian Kemp’s office. The spokesperson says the governor is reviewing the bill and has until May 12th to decide whether to sign it.