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Augusta commissioners support possible split of three-county court district

Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 8:19 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 12, 2021 at 5:10 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Legislation to split Columbia County from the Augusta Judicial Circuit could be presented to state leaders within the next few days.

On Tuesday, Richmond County took the first step towards preparing for what might be in store if a split does happen.

“It’s something that another county wants that we’re going to honor, respect their wishes, and give them a chance to recalibrate. They have to recalibrate just like we are, so everybody’s in the same position. Nobody’s at a disadvantage,” District 6 Commissioner Ben Hasan said.

In a meeting on Tuesday, Augusta city leaders unanimously agreed to support Columbia County in their wish to split from the judicial circuit.

“The first step today was to draft the resolution,” Hasan said.

City Administrator Odie Donald prepared a memo for the commission, citing some struggles the city may face during the process of separating.

“Some of the challenge is around budget and decision. I think the other piece is you know fleshing out what the caseload really looks like,” Donald said.

In his memo, he found the cost of a split for Richmond County would be just less than $1 million.

Also, Richmond County would need a 5th judge once three of the current circuit judges join Columbia County. Donald believes a little more time would make the process smoother.

“But through those conversations with Columbia County, I would say, their position is that, you know, they are pushing to move forward with the split,” he said.

Commissioner Hasan just hopes all three counties can work together through the process.

“I’ve heard one say it can happen as late as July 1, but as early as May and in the time in between those two. So that’s pretty fast for something of this magnitude. So obviously, I hope that gives a better incentive to work together to make even make sure everyone is whole,” he said.

Hassan tells us he expects Richmond County’s resolution to be ratified next week.

The commission also expressed a desire to keep Burke and Richmond County together, and to obtain the county fiscal year report from the state to get a more detailed picture of how much a split would cost.

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