Commissioner suggests study of metro gov't

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Marshall County commissioner on Monday suggested that metropolitan government be studied as a management system here.

Commission Chairman Mike Waggoner placed the subject on the commissioners' Oct. 24 agenda as requested by Commissioner Don Ledford.

An informal poll of commissioners immediately after this month's regular meeting of the panel found no opposition to the concept, although all those contacted said they wanted to know more, so they effectively endorsed Ledford's request.

Ledford asked Waggoner to "form an exploratory commissioner committee to study metropolitan government for Marshall County.

"The discussion," Ledford said, "should not be if metropolitan form of government will work, but how can it serve Marshall County citizens better?"

Lower operating costs were clearly on Ledford's mind when he decided to place the issue on the table for study.

"Although our area has recently received some encouraging news," the commissioner said, in an apparent reference to planned GM vehicle production in Spring Hill, "it appears economic challenges are going to be with us for some time."

Reactions were obtained from Commissioners Anna Childress, Mickey King, John Christmas, Rocky Bowden, Nathan Johnson and Kevin Vanhooser.

During the 1990s, "one commissioner who was new, brought it up," Childress said. "It was discussed. We didn't pass it.

"Now, I'd have to see what all the stuff is," she said. "Things change.

"We have several strong communities," Childress said, naming Cornersville and Chapel Hill.

King "hadn't thought about it," but the idea of consolidating governments "is worth looking at," he said.

"Lincoln County voted it down by a very few votes," King said.

Nashville and Davidson County, and Lynchburg and Moore County, consolidated county and municipal governments. Maury County and Columbia are exploring the idea. It requires a successful vote by residents in the city and across the county.

"I wouldn't be opposed to it," said Christmas who's employed by Lewisburg as a police officer. "I'd look at it."

Like other commissioners, he was without an opinion for or against the idea of proceeding toward a vote by the public. None of the six commissioners interviewed after the meeting were against studying the idea.

"I'd have to study it real close," Bowden said. "I've never really given thought to it.

"It'll not happen real quick," he said, adding that his remarks should not be taken as anything negative toward Ledford who, "obviously put a lot of thought to it."

Johnson said, "I don't think Marshall County is a Nashville."

While indicating he didn't see a comparison, Johnson said he would "keep an open mind on the subject."

Vanhooser said, "it's a good idea."

He understood Ledford's proposal is to have a committee to explore the idea.

"I'm all for that," Vanhooser said. "If it's a good thing, we'll pass it. If not, we'll vote it down."

Ledford proposed the study committee saying that consolidating government may prove to be a way to maintain the levels of service it provides.

To do so, it "will have to be smarter in the future," Ledford said. "Marshall County has one of the highest tax rates in the state. The citizens of the 5th District are not anxious to see any kind of property tax increase.

"In order to prevent tax increases, we will have to evaluate every dollar spent for every program. We will have to be creative and look for ways to be more efficient. This will require cooperation, serious evaluation and being open minded. We owe it to the taxpaying citizens of Marshall County to do our very best.

"We are a small county in terms of population and land area. It is imperative that we evaluate how we do things and not duplicate services," Ledford said.

"After all, the taxpayer pays the tab."