The News-Enterprise: Councils Uniting Against Unification

Radcliff ready to pass ordinance opting out of commission; E’town nixes HCU presentation

The following article by Marty Finley first appeared in The News-Enterprise on September 11, 2011. You can view the full, online version here: www.thenewsenterprise.com/content/councils-uniting-against-unification

Backlash against creating a unification review commission designed to study the framework of a unified local government has grown from a simmer to a boil.

Radcliff City Council called a special meeting Monday afternoon to hear a resolution rejecting unification while Elizabethtown City Council has canceled a meeting with Hardin County United scheduled for the same day.

Radcliff Mayor J.J. Duvall on Friday said the city was waiting for City Attorney Michael Pike to finish crafting a resolution so it can opt out of the commission, which would draft a charter to present to voters.

Hardin Circuit Judge Ken Howard, chairman of the HCU Governance Subcommittee, has said the commission would consist of 20 to 40 members appointed by the participating municipalities. It is unclear how many representatives each municipality would have until all interested parties have authorized participation in the commission, however, each municipality would have at least one representative.

Howard confirmed Radcliff had not scheduled a meeting with HCU but was reserved when informed Radcliff plans to opt out of the plan Monday.

“Hardin County United has offered to come and speak with Radcliff City Council and provide them reasons why they should consider unification,” Howard said Friday. “For whatever reason, they have chosen not to do so and that’s their prerogative.”

Elizabethtown Mayor Tim Walker on Friday said the meeting with HCU was nixed because five of the six council members attended an earlier forum for elected officials and already are familiar with the presentation planned by HCU.

Walker said he asked council members if they have more questions for HCU, but no one indicated a need for additional information.

Howard said he respects the council’s decision and HCU remains willing to meet with Elizabethtown officials if desired.

“We’ve told them we’re available if they have any questions,” he said.

Howard said the cancellation was advantageous for HCU officials because presentations also are scheduled Monday for Vine Grove and West Point city councils.

Elizabethtown and Radcliff officials have been heavily critical of unification in recent weeks and have shown an increasing disinterest in participating in forming a unification plan. Representatives from both cities have voiced concerns about loss of identity through a government consolidation and have criticized a lack of information and series of unknowns tied to the concept.

Howard has said HCU does not have the authority to dig deeper for answers about unification because the law stipulates a plan for unification must be molded by a unification review commission.

Another concern raised by both bodies is a lack of legal clarity about the credibility of a majority city vote. HCU has said it needs to approach the legislature and ensure a city would remain independent if the majority of its residents voted no, even if the county as a whole voted in favor of unification.

HCU has said the clarification should be an easy fix and urged Hardin Fiscal Court to place safeguards on any ordinances authorizing creation of the commission, which would limit the ability of the commission to function until clarity is obtained.

HCU consultant Luke Schmidt said the volunteer organization will abandon the unification idea entirely if the state refuses to provide clarification.

But some local officials have said HCU should shelve the idea entirely while such a large question mark remains.
An additional snag is the potential impact on Upton should the city unify with the county because a portion of the city and its residents are in LaRue County.

Howard said HCU plans to meet Sept. 20 with Upton city officials and he wants to hear their thoughts on what should be done before he starts throwing out options.

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