By D.L. BENNETT
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Fulton County leaders clashed Tuesday on whether the county should be split up to create Milton County. Those for and against the controversial proposal refused to give any ground.
Many north Fulton residents and officials want the county to be torn apart, with Milton County being created from the suburbs north of Atlanta and Fulton taking everything from Atlanta south. Meanwhile, county and south Fulton officials argued there’s no reason to shred Fulton.
“There’s a problem I leave here frustrated with. I’m sad,” said John Sherman, president of the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation, which called Tuesday’s forum at 103 West in Buckhead.
Sherman wants Georgia’s largest and most populous county to remain whole. He organized the session Tuesday to praise Fulton as well-run and seek common ground with its critics. Sherman praised the county’s libraries, sheriff’s office and tax assessing operation as model programs.
“To criticize with a broad brush the professionalism of these departments is unfair,” Sherman said.
But that didn’t sway Mayors Jere Wood of Roswell, Eva Galambos of Sandy Springs or Mike Bodker of Johns Creek who said they’d prefer the re-creation of Milton.
Wood compared the proposed split to a divorce that’s come after years of hard arguing.
“It may be costly,” Wood said, but it’s the only choice we see.”
Before he was elected mayor, Bodker served on a citizens panel that was convened to look at ways to improve Fulton government. None of its recommendations ever went anywhere.
“I have no trust in Fulton County,” Bodker said.
Fulton Commission Chairman John Eaves defended the county. He argued the critics make a lot of noise but rarely provide specifics. Eaves said the county-owned property in the new Milton County would cost the new government $1 billion.
“The creation of Milton County is a lose-lose proposition,” Eaves said. “All entities involved will get the short end of the stick.”
Rep. Roger Bruce (D-Atlanta) agreed. He chairs the county’s legislative delegation.
“The notion that the county is not functioning properly is not true,” Bruce said.