Proponents of a merged government in Hardin County hope to put the issue on the ballot this year.
Advocates say combining Elizabethtown, Vine Grove and Radcliffe with Hardin County’s unincorporated areas and other cities would be a boon to economic development. The governments can merge under the same state law that allowed Lexington and Fayette County to consolidate in 1974. (The law that allowed the Louisville-Jefferson County merger applies only to first class cities.)
But, to assuage any concerns from residents, merger proponents are championing legislation in Frankfort that would allow individual cities to opt out of the merger if a majority of residents oppose consolidation. If that happens, the cities would seemingly either fall under the governance of an entity they opposed or exist without a county. Before the public can vote on the matter, officials will have to figure out how an independent city would interact with the merged government that surrounds it.
“At this point, it’s kind of hard to say exactly,” says Hardin County United spokesman Luke Schmidt. “For example, how would emergency medical services be provided? Today, county government provides emergency medical service throughout the county.”
Schmidt says the merger agreement should spell out any questions about independent cities.
“We’d like to have it on the ballot this November,” he says. “This being a presidential election, we’ll have a high turnout of voters to begin with and we think that’s important. But we want to do the plan the right way. If that requires more time and we can’t make it, we’ll push it to the next election.”
He expects the document to be finalized in time to have it on the ballot in November, but says there’s no official deadline, and the vote could happen in a following year.