THOMASVILLE — The Thomas County commissioner who represents the Meigs-Ochlocknee district thinks the Georgia attorney general’s office dropped the ball in a Meigs matter that should have been dealt with long ago.
Commission Vice Chairman Ken Hickey places some of the fault in the Meigs dilemma on the attorney general’s office for not ruling on the city’s charter — “whether she (the mayor) had powers or whether she didn’t.”
Said Hickey, “I think if they had ruled on this, a lot of what is going on now would not be going on. They kind of washed their hands of it.”
The Meigs city government situation and questions about mayoral powers have escalated and are of control, Hickey explained.
The commissioner said he referred Mayor Linda Harris to the attorney general’s office for an opinion on her powers.
“I know she was not successful in doing any of that,” Hickey explained.
Eventually, some Meigs residents told Hickey he had no authority in the town. “Therefore, I stepped back and did not try to do anything else unless I was called,” Hickey said.
Hickey was accused of getting Sid Perry, former Meigs city manager, to withdraw his first resignation. Hickey said he heard about the resignation and went to city hall to tell Perry he had enjoyed knowing him and to wish him luck.
Hickey said he and the county manager, Mike Stephenson, have discussed what to do if Meigs “went under.” No plan is in place, but a new taxing district under county government authority could result.
“We could do nothing unless the council disbanded and the charter dissolved,” Hickey said. Any debt looming over the city would have to be paid by the city.
“It’s not the county’s responsibility to pay their outstanding bills,” Hickey added.
Under the plan, Meigs would mesh into unincorporated Thomas County. The portion of Meigs in Mitchell County would cease to exist as far as Thomas County government was concerned.
“We can’t collect taxes in another county,” the commissioner said.
The taxing district would have to provide Meigs services — water, sewer — now provided by city government. “It would be taxing district services, not city services,” Hickey said.
“I feel like we need a plan, just in case,” Hickey said.
A tax district is not planned, and the commission vice chairman hopes it does not happen.
If Meigs were no longer an incorporated city, the Thomas County Sheriff’s Office would assume law enforcement responsibilities.
Meigs would still be part of Thomas County, said Sheriff Carlton Powell, and the sheriff’s office provides services to all citizens.
“Ultimately, if a city dissolves, the responsibility falls on the sheriff’s office,” Powell explained.
The sheriff’s office provides policing services to the small Thomas County cities of Ochlocknee and Barwick, which do not have police departments.
Said the sheriff, “We’ll do whatever needs to be done.”
“There are a lot of good people in the City of Meigs,” Hickey explained. “What’s going on up there, they don’t deserve this.”
Hickey said that if his help is needed, Meigs people know where he lives and have his phone number.
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.