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5/8/2012 12:01:00 PM
Evansville-Vanderburgh County merger looms as top question for fall

Arek Sarkissian II, Evansville Courier & Press City Government Reporter

—Today's primary marks one of the last political milestones the community will face before voters are presented with the consolidation plan on the November ballot.

In the coming months, bands of educational campaigns will be launched, which has led community leaders to urge residents to filter out polarized viewpoints to come up with their own solid decisions.

Vanderburgh Sheriff Eric Williams, who is in favor of a consolidated county and Evansville government, said proponents of the plan will launch educational campaigns in the coming weeks and those in opposition will do the same.

"What I really ask the people to do is to research it themselves, listen to all the thoughts and ideas and make an informed decision," he said. "What I'd hate to see is people who base their decision on bad information or false information."

Vanderburgh voters will be presented with the consolidation referendum in November. If it passes, consolidation will take effect in 2015. If rejected, it would end the latest of several attempts to mirror communities such as Nashville, Tenn., and Louisville, Ky. A committee made up of government and community leaders completed Evansville's latest merger plan last year.

The Rev.Adrian Brooks, a 4th Ward resident, said he attended consolidation committee meetings and could not find anything positive. He urged residents to consider whether the current plan will spur economic development. He also told them to question whether it would dilute the political influence of minority and rural voters.

Brooks also asked if consolidation would offset sagging property values faced by the city as homes fall into disrepair and are abandoned. Latest trends show building new in the former farmlands spanning the unincorporated county has dropped as fuel prices skyrocketed.

"Commuting has become a prohibitive cost for some folks," Brooks said. "We feel that some of the folks, eventually will come back to the city."

Councilman Al Lindsey, D-6th Ward, said voters also should consider how a unified government would save money. Many civic departments already had been merged, he said.

"You have to think, are we just doing consolidation to do it?" Lindsey said. "I just don't know if there's a point, and you have to think about that."

Williams said he only hopes voters make an informed independent decision in November.

"That's all I can hope — that they make their own decision," Williams said.

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