City-county merger talks heating up
PADUCAH — The volunteers with Paducah McCracken United are taking their message to the airwaves.
"The waste caused by duplicate governments is ridiculous. No wonder we're having a hard time getting companies to move here," a woman's voice announces in part of the latest one-minute spot.
"We haven't grown in well over 20 years. It's not working," said John Williams Jr., a volunteer with the group.
The group is pushing for folks to eliminate two governments with one vote. Paducah McCracken United believes the merger will attract business and create jobs (a merger would make Paducah the third largest Kentucky city) and help regulate taxes. Many people who live in the county but work in the city pay city income tax.
It is also, Williams said, about making informed, fiscally responsible decisions.
"Whether it be a soccer field for our youth or emergency response or how we do law enforcement, we need one answer."
Former Paducah Mayor Gerry Montgomery is also a part of Paducah McCracken United. She remembers conducting city and county meetings together several times a year while she was in office.
She said it worked and that's why she supports the merger.
"It was just a start because it was so necessary to talk to each other," she said. "I think the community will grow. It won't just be Paducah. We'll all grow together."
And growth, according to Williams, has been the problem. Census numbers show the county's population is up just 4.2 percent, 2,600 people in two decades.
"It's not the growth that will have my kids wanting to come back to McCracken County to work," he said.
"Vote for democracy and efficiency, vote yes for merger," the radio ad says and Williams is hoping voters will.
"This is right up with the day they decided to put USEC here. This will be the moment we look back on and say something changed. Its something again that was moving forward."
McCracken County Judge Executive Van Newberry served as chairman of the merger study group for two years. He tells Local 6 the group found no reason to merge.
He says doing so would likely create a larger, less efficient government and cost taxpayers more money. He also worries about communities like Lowertown and downtown Paducah not getting as much attention.
Van Newberry also thinks the minorities would lose power in numbers. They currently make up 25 percent of city voters but if the merger goes through, they would be just 10 percent of the vote.
A yes or no question will appear on the ballot Nov. 6.