Debates Continue as Merger Vote Draws Near
By WestKyStar Staff
PADUCAH, KY - Election day is now less that one month away. As people across the country prepare to vote on numerous offices and issues, the debate on whether or not to merge Paducah and McCracken County governments continued Wednesday in Paducah.
Retired doctor David Thomas spoke at the Paducah Rotary Club meeting, saying he's not in favor of the merger, while businessman John Williams Jr. spoke on behalf of those in favor of merging.
The doctor said he's lived in Paducah for nearly forty years, and during that time, built two homes in the city. But he decided to move into the county for a number of reasons.
"I wanted a little more quiet living. I wanted to have a little less ordinances and control. The most important factor is I cut my taxes in half by moving to the county."
But taxes aren't the only reason he's in favor of keeping the governments separate. There's also the issue of employment and population density.
"The PMU will tell us that the magic number if 50,000. So if we can merge and have 65,000 we can have an increase in economic development. Well, first of all, we don't feel that's true."
He went on to say that when employers are considering an area, they don't just look at the city or county population, but rather the entire picture, including taxes and infrastructure. Also, if the city and county merged, the population density would go down considerably, from around 1,250 people per square mile to 250 people per square mile. The current density numbers are similar to those of Hopkinsville and Owensboro, but Bowling Green leads west Kentucky, with 3,100 persons per square mile.
Speaking in favor of the merger was John Williams Jr. who said the city of Paducah hasn't grown in 35 years, either in population or industry. He said the status quo isn't good enough anymore. Williams did acknowledge that McCracken County hasn't lost population, but it hasn't gained much either, even though surrounding counties are seeing people move away. Williams said the problem is that "we're the economic hub...that's a sad statement on our jobs. It's not a point of pride. It's embarrassing." He said an estimated 2.2% of jobs in Paducah and McCracken County have been lost in the last decade, and that since Van Newberry took office, three million dollars has been spent in economic development. Williams stated, 'It isn't working, and merger is a bold effort to reform it."
The issue will be decided by registered voters soon.