The News-Enterprise: Radcliff to Opt Out of Unification

Residents, council say process is not beneficial for city

The following article by Marty Finley appeared in The News-Enterprise on August 16, 2011. The full, online version can be seen here: www.thenewsenterprise.com/content/radcliff-opt-out-unification

Radcliff City Council plans to draft a resolution opting out of plans for a unified local government in Hardin County.

A majority of the council provided vocal support to the resolution, proposed by Councilman Don Yates, after several residents urged the council Tuesday night to reject unification efforts. Councilwoman Barbara Baker and Councilman Jack Holland were absent from the meeting, but both have expressed opposition to unified government.

Radcliff resident Al McDonald said he is concerned about the concept of a government merger because he feels the majority of Radcliff prefers the current method of government and would be opposed to a larger bureaucracy.

Resident John Flanagan, who opposes the idea, supported McDonald’s sentiments. Flanagan said making a government more efficient is not always favorable, specifically if the effort does not save money.

Hardin County United, the agency that initiated the concept of unification, has said unification of local governments would remove duplication of services and improve efficiencies, but HCU officials have said it is unlikely to lead to cost savings or tax reductions.

Flanagan also argued Radcliff could get swallowed into a much larger entity, muzzling local residents in the process.

“The more you consolidate local government, the more the individual’s voice is diminished,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan said he has been calling people throughout the city to drum up support against unification, and he asked the council to reject participation in the creation of a unification review, the body of 20 to 40 members appointed by participating municipalities that would draft a charter to present to voters.

“Once you take that step, it’s all over,” he said. “It’s absolutely all over.”

Resident Yvonne Lauterbach said she attended a forum held by HCU to learn more about the concept and was terrified to learn a unified government would absorb each city’s debt. Lauterbach said that means Radcliff residents could potentially be shouldering part of the financial burden for the multi-million dollar Elizabethtown Sports Park.

Councilman Edward Palmer said he has heard arguments in favor of unification, studied the data and remains uninterested.

Palmer said he was convinced local governments are not ready for such a life-changing decision once he learned the county was unwilling to place a recycling bin in Radcliff despite having two in the Elizabethtown area.

Additionally, Palmer said he has spoken to officials in areas affected by the Louisville-Jefferson County merger and found resources are redistributed and reallocated as a unified government sees fit, which Palmer said has left some in the lurch with less fire and police protection.

Should unified government proceed, Palmer continued, he expects a reduction in police and fire protection in certain areas with no discernible cost savings or lower tax rates.

“If it doesn’t affect my wallet in a positive way, you can take your government unification and your efficiency and I’ll keep what I’ve got,” he said to applause from those in the packed council chambers.

However, Palmer said he would like to see local governments work on non-unifying partnerships to combine resources on things such as recycling and salt acquisition, which would maximize resources.

Councilman Stan Holmes said he attended an elected officials forum at Hardin Memorial Hospital to learn more about unification, but he feels the plan is unnecessary and detrimental to the course Radcliff is taking toward improvement. Holmes said he sees great things going on in Radcliff, but unification does not fit into the city’s future.

Councilman Don Shaw said HCU is unlikely to change his mind, but he said the council should allow the organization to present its findings before completely dismissing the notion.

“We owe it to them to listen to them,” he said.

Mayor J.J. Duvall said he wants to hear a fair and balanced account of the pros and cons of unification.

You sell the idea with positives, Duvall said, but you can only have a serious discussion if you weigh the negatives.

“If it’s not going to work, it’s not going to work, no matter how much you fluff it up,” he said.

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