Newberry Opposed to City-County Merger
By Bill Hughes
PADUCAH, KY - A group of people hoping to merge the governments of Paducah and McCracken County launched a website last week, and has started running advertisements. That makes some ask what the opposition has planned.
County-Judge Executive Van Newberry was Chairman of the Merger Study Group for two years, but he is opposed to the plan. He says it's not about keeping his current job, because if the merger is approved, he could run for the new County Executive office, which would be chosen by voters in 2014. That job would basically be the same,
"The only difference is that you'd have the city a little more under your wing than I do now. You know, city residents are my constituents right now, and they vote one way or the other right now," Newberry said.
As far as Newberry's position on the merger, he explains that after two years of study, he's found no real benefit or good reason for it, and in spite of what some people say, merging governments is not a fast-growing trend. He says only 30 mergers in more than 3,000 counties in the U.S. proves his point.
Proponents of the merger say money is wasted by having separate governments, and that's part of their current radio advertisement. Newberry says that was discussed, and he disagrees.
"From the get-go, we was something we looked at in the study group. There's very little duplication of services in between the city and county. For example, we have a jail, they do not, things like that. And what we saw was probably the end result would be a larger government, and very well could cost you more money," Newberry said.
Newberry adds that a larger government would typically not be perceived by the public as being more efficient, and uses the federal government's bureaucracy and supposed waste as an example.
Some opponents have said that county residents might have to swallow tax increases to help the city, or vice versa. Newberry says he's not sure about that, but he adds that once a merged government is in place, "they can do anything they want."
Newberry says there are groups organizing to have a public presence on the internet, TV and radio, but that it's more likely the opposition will tend to be more of a grass-roots orientation.
Newberry says his conversations with people have led him to believe that about 90 percent of county residents are opposed to the merger, and that city voters seem to be split down the middle. He finds the city response odd, because he thinks some of the city's special interest groups would see a negative impact from a merged government, with county representatives voting on their ideas and proposals.
On the Net: Related Story: Website Launched For Fans of City-County Merger