‘Unified government’ group wants Somerset’s organizational, financial data
Group’s consultant filed open records request with Girdler
by Bill Mardis Commonwealth Journal
The consultant for an ongoing study about the feasibility of a united city-county government in Pulaski County has mailed an open-records request to Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler asking for information about the organization of the city’s government and its financial data, tax structure and revenue sources.
Luke B. Schmidt, president of L.B. Schmidt and Associates, says he wants a snapshot of Somerset’s government. Somerset and Ferguson have opted out of the unification study and Mayor Girdler has refused to meet with Schmidt to discuss the plan.
“I expect to get the information,” said Schmidt. “He (Girdler) is bound by law to provide that.”
As for the study, Schmidt said he is still in the process of assembling data. He said he has met with officials of other cities in the county and with county government officials. “They all have been very gracious and helpful,” he said.
Will it be possible to form a united city-county government in Pulaski County if Somerset, the largest city, refuses to participate?
“If Somerset says ‘no,’ it obviously will be more difficult to put together a plan,” Schmidt said. He suggested that if he were a citizen of Somerset he would want to know why, because it would be a commission that would come up with a form of government and voters in the city and county who would eventually decide if a united government is what they want, Schmidt responded.
Somerset has rejected a unified government and refused to participate in financing the $35,000 study. From the onset of the study, Girdler and Somerset City Council have strongly opposed the idea of merged governments and directed the city’s legal department to get whatever help is necessary to protect the integrity of its boundaries.
The $35,000 cost of the study was initially suggested to be paid with a third of the money from Somerset, a third from Pulaski County government and a third to be paid by Somerset-Pulaski County United members. Pulaski Fiscal Court greeted the request more warmly and granted $11,667 to pay its share of the cost of the study. Two thirds of the cost apparently will be paid with contributions from members of Somerset-Pulaski County United (SPCU).
SPCU, chaired by developer Brook Ping and composed of more than 80 of the county’s movers and shakers, has made it clear from the start it is not advocating merged governments, only a study to determine the feasibility.
The completed study, if favorable toward a unified city-county government, would be presented to local governmental bodies. Eubank, because its corporate limits straddles the Pulaski-Lincoln county line, would not be eligible to be a part of a merged city-county government, according to state law.
Upon receipt of the completed study, according to state law, Pulaski Fiscal Court, Somerset City Council and governing bodies of Burnside, Ferguson and Science Hill by ordinance would create an official Unified Government Commission made up of between 20 and 40 members to plan a structure for a unified city-county government. With Somerset and Ferguson not participating, the answer is not clear as to how the process will unfold.
Pulaski Fiscal Court would appoint half the members of a Unified Government Commission and the remaining members would be appointed by participating cities prorated on population. Any type of merged governments must be approved by voters of Pulaski County.
Schmidt say he hopes to have the study completed by the end of September.