The News-Enterprise: Radcliff Mulls Unification

City council expresses wariness, hostility

The following article by Marty Finley first appeared in The News-Enterprise on August 8, 2011. The full, online version can be seen here:

The concept of unifying governments within Hardin County fell flat with Radcliff City Council and Councilwoman Barbara Baker said Monday the idea has caused “uproar” in northern Hardin County.

Council members weighed in on the plan to unify local cities with Hardin County government during Monday afternoon’s work session. Each member expressed wariness or hostility about the idea.

Councilman Edward Palmer attended an elected officials forum last Wednesday at Hardin Memorial Hospital where Judge Ken Howard, chairman of the Hardin County United governance subcommittee, and consultant Luke Schmidt discussed issues such as the reduction of duplication of services and a higher level of clout at the state and federal levels. Palmer said he left the meeting dissatisfied and wanting more information. Councilman Stan Holmes also attended the elected officials forum on behalf of Radcliff, but he was absent at Monday’s work session.

Palmer, who broached the subject to the council, said he felt the positives were explored in detail during the meeting, but HCU did not adequately explore the negatives of such a merger. The downsides of unification in certain communities was covered with anecdotes, Palmer added, but he wants to see concrete data and statistics of how these communities have fared after they are unified. Likewise, he said he wants to see statistically how communities that opted out have been affected since these unifications.

“I’m not convinced it’s right for Radcliff,” he said.

Baker said she has heard nothing but contempt for the idea from Radcliff residents who fear unification with other local governments would shatter the city’s identity and leave residents swallowed up into a much larger entity. Baker said residents also are concerned their tax money would be funneled away from Radcliff.

One woman, she told the council, stopped her car to approach Baker expressing opposition to the plan.

Councilman Jack Holland said he has heard from retirees who purposely moved to Radcliff for the small town atmosphere it provided, which they feel would be lost if a larger city emerges. Holland also said some view unification as nothing more than an outlet to drain money from Radcliff to Elizabethtown.

Councilman Don Shaw said he still has questions about the concept of unification and he feels HCU has failed to explain how taxes would be disseminated once collected by a metro government.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty out there,” Shaw said. “That’s what I see.”

Howard has said the tax structures previously set by the cities largely would remain the same initially unless a unified government changes them.

Shaw also said he is not convinced the current structure of government in the county is flawed.

“I’ve always worked on a maxim of don’t fix it if it’s not broken,” he said. “It may be broken, but it has to be proven to me that it needs to be fixed.”

HCU plans to approach Hardin Fiscal Court and city councils individually with formal presentations in September to pursue the creation of a unification review commission, the members of which would be appointed by the participating municipalities. The commission, which would consist of 20 to 40 members, would draft a charter to place before voters, possibly by November 2012.

Howard and Schmidt have said the county would need to unify with either Elizabethtown or Radcliff, preferably both, to make a consolidation viable.

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