Commonwealth Journal

April 17, 2013

SPCU team grows 123% in face of resistance

Staff Report
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

Somerset–Pulaski County United’s (SPCU) quest to study the potential of a city-county consolidation may have received a less-than-welcome recep-tion from Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler and City Councilors, but that has not deterred growth among the group’s ranks.
SPCU yesterday announced that its Steering Committee has grown from 58 members back on April 2, 2013, to 128 members, a growth rate of 123 percent in just 11 days.
On April 2, SPCU announced its form-ation and its first initiative — a study of the potential benefits of unified (consolidated) government in Pulaski County. Since that announcement, the issue has garnered significant interest in local media and on the part of com-munity leaders who would like to learn more about the concept.
“SPCU is gratified by the enormous response to our first announcement,” said Brook Ping, SPCU Chairperson and CEO of Stonebrook Development, LLC. “We cannot recall when an issue has energized so many community leaders so quickly as this study as. Clearly, our citizens want to learn more about how unified government might positively impact our community,” said Ping.
Ping stated that SPCU is not endorsing unified government and is not asking local governments to endorse unified government.
“We need to learn more about the benefits and how this will impact Pulaski County before any of our SPCU members will be ready to endorse the concept,” said Ping. “We do think, however, that we owe it to our fellow citizens to study the issue. If the benefits outweigh the negatives, then we believe that we should move to the next step in this multi-step process, but we’re not there yet. And, in the end, it is important to remember that only the voters of Pulaski County can decide if unified government should be adopted—not the members of SPCU nor any of our elected officials. This is democracy at its best.”
Ping said SPCU plans to make a final presentation on the issue before the Somerset City Council during its next meeting on Monday, April 22, and to the Pulaski County Fiscal Court on Tuesday, April 23.
"We are encouraging Interested citizens to call their elected officials and voice support for conducting the study," Ping said.
However, the Commonwealth Journal has learned that chances of SPCU's request being discussed in open session at Somerset City Council appears to be slim. Instead, it appears any information will have to be submitted in written form. During SPCU's last attempt to discuss its proposal with City Council in open session on Monday, April 8, SPCU representatives not only were not allowed to speak, but they also received a scolding from Mayor Girdler who characterized their activity as "dirty work." Somerset Councilors then unanimously resolved to give Mayor Girdler and City Attorney Carrie Weise broad legal power to fight any effort to consolidate city and county governments.
Since then, Mayor Girdler has terminated at $10,000 World Class program with Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce—Chamber of Commerce members have joined SPCU—and also demanded that Pulaski Fiscal Court, which has agreed to entertain SPCU's presentation, return $65,000 to be used to purchase property from Ping for a development project. Somerset police also cordoned off property owned by Ping contending it posed a public safety issue, but which the SPCU chair contends was intimidation, and Charles Dick, manager of the City of Somerset Water/Waste Water Department has notified Pulaski County Industrial Foundation, whose chairman Martin Shearer has joined SPCU, that it may not include utility negotiations involving Somerset with any potential industry hoping to locate a factory here.
Despite the actions he has characterized as "intimidation," Ping said he and SPCU are resolved to move forward. Both Pulaski Fiscal Court and Burnside Mayor Ron Jones have expressed a willingness to at least listen to SPCU's presentation, and the City of Science Hill has already entertained SPCU representatives. However, Somerset's participation would be critical to any future hope of a consolidated government.
SPCU was formed for the purpose of improving the community, with an initial focus on identifying the benefits of unified government in the community. Members of the Steering Committee include representatives from just about every sector of the community, including: agriculture, business and industry, education, elected officials, health care, law enforcement and public safety, professionals, religion and transportation.
SPCU believes that several potential benefits of unified government could have a positive impact on the community, including:
• Speaking with one voice in Frankfort and Washington, D.C., thereby targeting community grants and appropriations more efficiently
• Streamlining local government and eliminating unnecessary duplication of services
• Managing public resources (tax dollars) more efficiently and help to hold down the increasing costs of providing government services
• Creating Kentucky’s third largest community with a population of over 63,000 people, which will result in the community getting more “looks” when it comes to economic development and creating new jobs
SPCU proposes to conduct a study on unified government and seeks to raise a total of $35,000. SPCU also intends to pay for 1/3 of the cost of the study and has proposed that the City of Somerset and the Pulaski County Fiscal Court, the two jurisdictions which will be most impacted by any potential unified government in the future, each consider paying for 1/3 of the cost (approximately $11,667 each).
Somerset–Pulaski County United (SPCU) is an organization which represents community leaders from Somerset and Pulaski County, Kentucky. SPCU’s members represent all segments of the community: agriculture, business and industry, education, elected officials, health care, industry, law enforcement and public safety, professionals, religion and transportation.
SPCU was formed for the purpose of improving the community, with an initial focus on determining the benefits of unified government in the community. Brook Ping serves as the Chairperson of SPCU and Luke Schmidt provides consulting services to the organization.