WHITEMARSH ISLAND, Ga. – ‘Twas the night after Christmas and Island neighbors poured into the Frank Murray Community Center to wage their concerns about their future.
“A peaceful place, a family place and a special place,” Marianna Heimes said of the life on the Islands, which includes Whitemarsh, Talahi, Oatland and Wilmington Islands. “There are a good many people out here who prefer not to be a part of Savannah. We like our rural way of life.”
Heimes is working together with Dave Sheuer to bring about awareness about a growing issue she says is happening back on the mainland.
“Stay unincorporated, which we may not be able to do, be annexed by Savannah or incorporated into municipality,” Heimes said.
These options the two took before curious and concerned neighbors on Tuesday. A public display of action not seen in the area in decades.
“It comes down to finances,” Sheuer told the room.
“Savannah, folks. Do we want to be apart of the city of Savannah” he asked. Many in the crowd answered back, ‘No.’ “But I bet you they want us,” Sheuer said.
WSAV reached out to Aldermen Johnson and Miller of Savannah City Council. Both men said there is no currently agenda or legislation to annex the Islands and any possibility of county consolidation is up to the state, ultimately to be brought to the desk of Governor Nathan Deal.
Still the organizers say the want to know exactly where their tax dollars are going. “Can we do it better,” Sheuer asked the room.
Sheuer told the crowd the next step to turn concerns into action is to obtain support and funding to the tune of $30,000 to pay for a professional Feasibility Study. In the state of Georgia, the study is required by law to achieve incorporation and can only be conducted by the University of Georgia or Georgia State University.
Recently, The Landings Association published its findings from its self-funded GSU study in order to move one step closer to possibly incorporate Skidaway Island. The Landings’ action and ability to gain state legislators’ attention has piqued the interest of Heimes and Sheuer and hopes the Islands can ride the coattails of their neighboring island to make it in time for the 2018 Georgia General Assembly Legislative Session set to begin on January 8th.
Sheuer read a resolution to the crowd to send to legislators to,’ Ask the state legislators for the state of Georgia to fund an authorized study to determine whether it is feasible or not to be incorporated as a single municipality.’
Not all in the room were sound fans of being incorporated.
“Are you kidding me, it’s time we join together,” Islands resident Steve Aldrich said. “Everything you’re talking about, the police department, the first department are on our backs. We have very little industry out here.”
“We just need more information,” Another woman said about incorporation. “I know Tybee does just fine. Thunderbolt does just fine. We just need more information.”
Many in the crowd requested more facts about the economic impact and if the resolution would include broader language to include other options for the study to explore other than incorporation.
While questions remain, Heimes isn’t giving up and looks to the next generation for answers.
“I’ve got my little backyard here that I can enjoy but I think the people who are young and living here need to decide whether they want to control their own destiny or whether or not they want someone else to control it,” she said.
Again the meeting acts a first step in a possible change but one that would take potentially years to get back in front of Chatham County and Savannah voters.
WSAV was unable to reach state legislators Ben Watson and Jesse Petrea on Tuesday for a comment.
We will keep you updated on any developments.