Dalton and Whitfield County, which also have separate school systems, are weighing consolidation now through a charter commission.
Rome City Manager John Bennett and Floyd County Manager Kevin Poe shared war stories with the group on Wednesday, but returned from Dalton without any answers for the home folks.
“We came to the legal conclusion that there wasn’t a way to do it as long as you have two school systems,” Poe said. “They have a legal opinion that there’s a way around it, but you hear different things from different people and I don’t know if it would stand up in court.”
The idea is that combining the two governments, like Athens-Clarke County or Columbus (Muskogee County), would result in cost-savings and more efficient delivery of services.
A 2004 study showed strong opposition to merging the Rome and Floyd County schools.
Poe said he’s watching the Dalton-Whitfield County actions with interest, but there’s no sense in re-starting talks in Rome and Floyd County until the school dilemma is resolved.
“We went through hours of meetings,” he said. “Personally, I’d hate to go through that whole process again, knowing we can’t get past this one issue.”
The last round of consolidation talks, which lasted into 2006, were part of an agreement that set the formula for dividing revenue from the local option sales tax among Rome, Floyd County and Cave Spring.
The LOST agreement expires in June 2012, and negotiations are expected to start up after the first of the year.
In the intervening years, however, the governments have continued to combine operations in a “functional consolidation,” to get more bang for the buck.
City and county fire protection, land-use and transportation planning, building inspection and environmental services are essentially consolidated into single departments.
There’s also some crossover in other areas such as recycling and solid waste disposal.
Each government still maintains separate police and public works departments, which are among the most costly to operate. But, even then, there is cooperation.
Poe said Rome and Floyd County police train together and share an evidence room.
They also have a joint SWAT team, investigative task force and bomb unit. The two public works departments also coordinate efforts.
“The city bought a milling machine to use on city and county streets, and we have the fleet of trucks to haul (the ground asphalt) off,” he said. “We help each other out.”
Poe said full consolidation may not provide many more efficiencies, although “there is still the perception there might be benefits to a single, consolidated government.”