The consultant for the current study to determine feasibility of merged city and county governments in Pulaski County says he will soon request a meeting with Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler for permission to study the infrastructure and operational methods of Pulaski County’s largest city government.
“I hope we can meet ... that he (Girdler) will allow us to get a good look at the city’s operation,” said Luke B. Schmidt, of L.B. Schmidt and Associates.
Schmidt was responding to a question from the Commonwealth Journal:
“With Somerset opting out of the merger study –– and, knowing Mayor Eddie Girdler like we know Mayor Eddie Girdler, we think you’ll find he traditionally stands strongly behind his positions –– Question: “In what direction does the study go without Somerset?”
Responded Schmidt: “It’s obvious that Somerset has elected not to participate in the terms of funding the study ... we are disappointed but we respect that.”
Schmidt concedes a study of this type is often controversial “ ... and that’s a good thing,” he said. Merger of governments is not to taken lightly, he added.
Schmidt said he will soon be in contact with Mayor Girdler.
“I hope we can meet and that he will allow us time to get a good look at the operation and infrastructure of Somerset’s government,” Schmidt said.
Highly publicized and sometimes criticized was Girdler’s negative reaction when Somerset-Pulaski County United (SPCU) announced plans for a study to determine if merged city-county governments would be more efficient and feasible for Pulaski County’s more than 63,000 residents. Girdler was not available for comment about a possible meeting with Schmidt when this article was written.
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 $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 SPCU members.
Somerset City Council not only refused to pay anything for the study, but directed the city’s legal department to get whatever help its needs to defend Somerset’s current status in court.
Pulaski Fiscal Court greeted the SPCU 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 SPCU.
Mayors of Burnside, Ferguson and Science Hall all said they wanted to learn more about the study. These entities were not asked to help pay for the study.
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.
Existing boundaries of incorporated cities in a merged city-county government would disappear and the cities would revert to communities without governments. For example, communities like Nancy, Faubush, White Lily, Colo, Mt. Victory, Sugar Hill, Sloans Valley, Tateville, Possum Trot, Bear Wallow, Mintonville, Tick Ridge ad infinitum.
“We’re right at the front end of the study,” said Schmidt. “I think it is a very interesting study.”
Schmidt said the study at this point has three goals:
(1) Do a good and thorough examination of local government infrastructure in the five incorporated cities in Pulaski County; get a good understanding of how each is organized and funded; and how they do things.
(2) Study other governmental jurisdictions that have merged; find out how it works.
(3) Look at potential benefits of merged governments in Pulaski County.
The completed study, if favorable toward a unified city-county government, would be presented to local governmental bodies.
Then, 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.
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.