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Louisville’s Merger 2.0 Task Force Submits Final Recommendations

A final report from Louisville’s Merger 2.0 Task Force has been handed to Mayor Greg Fischer.

The task force was created last January to review the 2003 merger between city and county governments. Five subcommittees met regularly the past several months to discuss what changes Metro Government should consider. Several recommendations address long-standing issues in the county, such as what exactly Urban Service District includes and how much residents within USD pay for services.

Fischer said he plans on discussing the recommendations with officials over the next couple months. Changes to merger law must be made at the state level and Fischer wants to prepare any such legislative requests by the end of the year, he said.

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Merger Report Recommends Metro Government Consider In-Depth Review

The government consulting firm that released last week’s Metro Government merger report says the city may benefit from a more in-depth audit.

Public Works, LLC came into Metro Government’s $30,000 grant-funded project with an open mind, said senior consultant Marion Reitz. After 100 hours of research, the report affirmed many issues already being discussed in some Merger 2.0 Task Force subcommittees. But the report should be used as just one of the tools to direct Metro Government to areas it should study further, said Reitz.

Certain topics subcommittees discuss are not new. Fire and EMS talk about whether a merger is necessary, solid waste knows its current system allows five different waste collectors to drive all over the county in a less than efficient way. This is why Mayor Greg Fischer appointed the task force.

The report goes further to recommend the county consider merging fire and EMS, re-working its solid waste system by re-contracting and creating more competition among service providers, and keeping better city and county records.

The report should be considered a positive thing, despite recommending the consideration of a fire and EMS merger, said Jeffersontown Fire Chief Randy Lawson. And he said he hopes that the fire and EMS subcommittee can have dialog about what the data shows.

“And we can ask intelligent questions because we’ve had some time to look at it and then say, hey we really think this information is useful let’s build on it or we think this one has a flaw let’s go correct those numbers and we could use it to,” said Lawson.

It has been difficult to collect data on fire and EMS, organize it, and then determine how the two agencies can operate more efficiently. That’s the issue Lawson brings up after determining that the report should be considered one of many pieces of information used to make recommendations to the full task force and then finally to Fischer.

The report further compares Jefferson County suburban and urban fire departments and its EMS to the Nashville, Davidson County merged system, which covers a similar size population. Davidson County spends around $23 million less, the report shows. But many members of the fire and EMS subcommittee have said it’s difficult to compare counties and each should be considered independently.

Among other recommendations, the report says Metro Government should consider a “performance review”, where an outside firm could get into the weeds of how city services are operating, said Reitz.

“We go in and we challenge we what services are being provided, why, why they’re begin provided the way there are and if there are ways to do them more efficiently,” she said.

A performance review is a non-monetary audit that dissects each Metro Government service in depth by working closely with employees in certain service areas, said Reitz. Unlike the current report, there are strong reasons and data backing up recommendations from a performance review, she said.

“There’s really a blue print for what needs to happen in order to achieve the savings. In those instances we have a very high percentage of implementations of recommendations,” she said.

Performance reviews can range in cost from $200,000 to more than $1 million, but it could save Metro Government three to five percent of the general fund, said Reitz.

With less than a month before the full panel is expected to make its recommendations to Fischer, subcommittees will be trying to pull together months of information and data to show how the county has operated since its 2003 merger.

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Jewish Hospital Eliminates 155 Jobs

Jewish Hospital has cut 155 jobs at its Louisville facility.

Officials have not returned a request for comment, but have issued a statement saying about 45 of the positions were already vacant. The company blames the cuts on market trends.

The statement goes on to say the reductions won’t affect care and the nurse per patient ratio will not change. This is the second round of layoffs at the hospital. Last year, its parent company cut 500 positions, 250 of those were layoffs.

The statement does not say whether the cuts are in anticipation of the merger with University of Louisville Hospital and a division of Catholic Health Initiatives. The merger is expected to create a number of redundancies in the healthcare system.

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Merger 2.0 Task Force Meets for Progress Reports

The Louisville Merger 2.0 Task Force met in full on Friday. It brought together the five subcommittees for progress reports.

The task force was formed in January to review the 2003 merger between county and city governments.

The public safety and data and communications subcommittees reported a good response from public surveys that were sent out earlier this month. A phone survey about the merger was organized through public works research. Almost everyone that was called wanted to participate, said officials.

The subcommittees will continue to meet until Sept. 1, when a first round of suggestions are expected to be reported.

Subcommittees would not comment on any recommendations they have prior to Oct 1, when the Task Force is expected to report to the mayor.

The mayor’s office says actions on Merger 2.0 Task Force recommendations are tentatively scheduled for Dec. 15.

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Two Sides of Hospital Merger Debate Represented in Newspaper Ads

Several pages of the Louisville Courier-Journal will be dedicated to the pending University of Louisville hospital merger this weekend, but not editorial pages.

Two groups have paid for ad space to defend their positions on the merger between U of L Hospital, Jewish Hospital and a division of Catholic Health Initiatives.

The first group is representatives from the hospitals. They say while doctors will follow Catholic health directives, banned procedures such as vasectomies and contraception counseling will continue at other U of L facilities not under the merged hospital.

But a group of local women is concerned that the services may not truly be protected, or will be too difficult to access. They’ve collected more than 400 names on a petition and will run the list as an ad this weekend. Four state lawmakers and three Metro Council members have signed the petition, which calls for the merger to be changed.

U of L officials say details of the deal are still being worked out. If federal approval is granted, the merger could begin in the next year.

Representatives with the hospitals did not return a request for comment.

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Fire Departments Merge in Southwest Louisville

Mayor Greg Fischer formally approved the merger between two southwest Louisville fire departments on Monday.

The all-volunteer fire station Dixie Suburban will now become Lake Dreamland Station 3. Increased costs and a decrease in volunteers led to the decision, said Dixie Suburban officials.

Dixie Suburban covers about 1.5 square miles in southwest Louisville, and it previously responded to calls alongside Lake Dreamland Fire Department, which covers around 17.5 square miles, including Rubbertown and its nine chemical plants. Now they’ll share resources, said Fischer.

“It’s not so much about saving money; it’s about better response time and increasing coverage. So they’re going to be doing more with the same amount,” said Fischer.

A merger has been discussed for almost a decade, said Lake Dreamland Fire Chief John Wilkinson, Jr.

“We already respond to everything together on all incidents,” he said. “So it was nothing more than getting a piece of paper signed, changing the name on a building and now the same resources we have are provided to their district (and) their community.”

Lake Dreamland Station 3 will continue to be an all-volunteer unit, said Wilkinson. But redundancies, like an extra receptionist, will be eliminated. No fire fighter jobs will be lost for now, he said.

This merger is the fourth that the Jefferson County Fire Service has seen since the city and county governments became one in 2003.

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Final Merger 2.0 Public Hearing is Today

Louisville Metro Government’s Merger 2.0 task force will hold its last public hearing tonight.

The panel was assembled earlier this year to assess the first eight years of merger and recommend changes to city operations and to the state law that allowed merger to happen. There have been three public hearings so far to allow residents to sound off on merger. But Mayor Greg Fischer says nearly a decade after the government consolidation, many residents are seeking clarity, rather than suggesting reforms.

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First Merger 2.0 Public Hearing Is Tonight

The first public meeting of Louisville’s Merger 2.0 Task Force is Monday.

The task force was formed earlier this year to study what has and has not worked since the 2003 city-county merger. Two key issues are urban services and fire protection. Currently, residents of the old city pay higher taxes and receive extra services. The panel will likely figure out whether those services could reasonably extended to the suburbs, where they are currently provided by small cities or private companies.

The task force includes several members of urban and suburban fire districts. They will likely discuss whether suburban districts should consider merging to save money. Several districts have already joined together, but others are facing significant budget shortfalls.

The public meeting Monday is meant to give the task force the chance to hear citizen accounts of merger’s successes or failures. It will be held at 7 pm at the Kentucky Center for African-American Heritage. Three more meetings are planned for the following Mondays:

  • 7 p.m. April 11th at Southwest Government Center, 7219 Dixie Highway
  • 7 p.m. April 13th at Central Government Center, 7201 Outer Loop
  • 7 p.m. April 18 at  East Government Center, 200 Juneau Drive
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Merger Critic Joins Fischer’s Task Force

Among the 23 citizens, elected officials and public safety officers appointed to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s Merger 2.0 task force is state Representative Darryl Owens.

Owens opposed merger, and he says many of his constituents are critical, too.

“As I’ve talked to a lot of folks, they haven’t seen any change in what existed before and after, other than the merger of the governments and the merger of the police departments,” he says.

The task force is meant to find the problems and successes of the consolidation and recommend changes. Owen says it’s too early to say what exactly the task force will do, but there are several issues he hopes it will take on.

“There are some areas we could look at,” he says. “I think we need to look at the economic development area, we may need to look at the structure of the government. I don’t know if that’s going to be part of the charge to this group. What I would like to look at and what we will look at might be two very different things.”

The panel will hold four public hearings next month:

7 p.m. April 4th at the Kentucky Center for African-American Heritage, 18th and Ali
7 p.m. April 11th at Southwest Government Center, 7219 Dixie Highway
7 p.m. April 13th at Central Government Center, 7201 Outer Loop
7 p.m. April 18 at  East Government Center, 200 Juneau Drive

Here is a full list of task force members. The panel is chaired by former Mayor David Armstrong and former County Judge-Executive Rebecca Jackson.

  • David Allgood, citizen at large
  • Metro Councilman Rick Blackwell
  • Ish Burks, citizen at large
  • Charlie Clephas, Greater Louisville Central Labor Council
  • Dolores Delahanty, citizen at large
  • Todd Eberle, the Mayor of Prospect
  • Chief Greg Frederick, Louisville Fire
  • Col. Yvette Gentry, representing Chief Robert White
  • Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton
  • Julie Hardesty, representing the County Attorney
  • Ellen Hesen, chief of staff for Mayor Fischer
  • Councilman Dan Johnson
  • Anchorage Fire Chief Walter Lage
  • Jeffersontown Fire Chief Randy Lawson
  • Kristen Miller, chief of staff for Louisville EMS
  • Codes and Regulations Director Jim Mims
  • State Rep. Darryl Owens
  • Councilman James Peden
  • Ted Pullen, Director of Public Works and Assets
  • Businessman Ben Ruiz
  • Tierra Kavanaugh Turner, Greater Louisville Inc.
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Merger 2.0 Task Force Named

The 23-member panel tasked with finding ways to improved Louisville’s merged government has been formed.

Mayor Greg Fischer created the task force earlier this year, and said he planned to have representation from local government, law enforcement and urban and suburban fire districts. His appointees include the Mayor of Prospect, the Anchorage and Jeffersontown Fire Chiefs and members of Fischer’s administration.

The panel also includes critics of merger, including State Representative Darryl Owens.

The task force will consider several issues, but two concerns have dominated most merger conversations. The first is whether to expand urban services such as garbage collection outside of the old city boundaries. The other is how to manage cash-strapped suburban fire districts. Many have merged to save money, but the city cannot force a merger on the autonomous districts.

Here is a full list of task force members. The panel is chaired by former Mayor David Armstrong and former County Judge-Executive Rebecca Jackson.

  • David Allgood, citizen at large
  • Metro Councilman Rick Blackwell
  • Ish Burks, citizen at large
  • Charlie Clephas, Greater Louisville Central Labor Council
  • Dolores Delahanty, citizen at large
  • Todd Eberle, the Mayor of Prospect
  • Chief Greg Frederick, Louisville Fire
  • Col. Yvette Gentry, representing Chief Robert White
  • Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton
  • Julie Hardesty, representing the County Attorney
  • Ellen Hesen, chief of staff for Mayor Fischer
  • Councilman Dan Johnson
  • Anchorage Fire Chief Walter Lage
  • Jeffersontown Fire Chief Randy Lawson
  • Kristen Miller, chief of staff for Louisville EMS
  • Codes and Regulations Director Jim Mims
  • State Rep. Darryl Owens
  • Councilman James Peden
  • Ted Pullen, Director of Public Works and Assets
  • Businessman Ben Ruiz
  • Tierra Kavanaugh Turner, Greater Louisville Inc.

The panel will hold public meetings on:

  • 7 p.m. April 4th at the Kentucky Center for African-American Heritage, 18th and Ali
  • 7 p.m. April 11th at Southwest Government Center, 7219 Dixie Highway
  • 7 p.m. April 13th at Central Government Center, 7201 Outer Loop
  • 7 p.m. April 18 at  East Government Center, 200 Juneau Drive