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Radcliff withdraws from unification process

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Duvall: City will not be involved in further discussion

By Marty Finley

If a unification review commission is created locally, it will operate without the inclusion of Hardin County’s second-largest city.

Radcliff City Council voted unanimously Monday to withdraw the city from further discussion about unification with the county and its five remaining cities.

“The city of Radcliff respectfully declines at this time to enact any ordinance to initiate the formation of a unified local government commission,” the resolution stated. 

The council opted out of the plan after weeks of opposition from the northern Hardin County city.

Mayor J.J. Duvall, who has criticized the plan, opened the floor to discussion, but the council was largely silent.

“(The resolution) says it all, mayor,” Councilman Stan Holmes said.

Hardin County United, a volunteer organization charged with examining the strategic goals of the 2010 Hardin County Vision Project, initiated the conversation based on a 2006 law that allows a county government to merge with one or more incorporated cities.

HCU has argued unification would remove duplication of services, improve the county’s clout and allow the area to “speak with one voice,” but opposition to the plan has galvanized in recent weeks with Radcliff being the first city to formally denounce the plan. Elizabethtown City Council has been heavily critical of unification and cancelled its Monday meeting with HCU, but the city has not opted out.

Radcliff emerged as the first wave of dissent as city officials and residents alike decried the plan as disastrous. Council members have said they hear little to no favorable comments about unification and have had few positive comments of their own. Councilwoman Barbara Baker has said the city may get sucked into a larger government that would ignore the northern Hardin County area while Councilman Jack Holland said he viewed the plan as a platform to benefit Elizabethtown at the expense of other cities.

But no one has been more critical of unification than Councilman Edward Palmer, who said he is not convinced the plan would reap any benefits because it would not lower taxes or provide any money back to taxpayers. Palmer also confronted HCU consultant Luke Schmidt and Circuit Judge Ken Howard, chairman of the HCU governance subcommittee, at a recent community forum in the city, urging the two to release demographic data on a survey conducted by Schmidt’s firm.

The survey was conducted as part of the Hardin County Vision Project and Schmidt said he sent the survey to more than 100 community leaders with a roughly 73 percent response rate.

Through the survey, Schmidt found the majority of respondents felt unification should be studied, but Palmer said he wanted a breakdown of where those surveyed were located to ensure Radcliff was properly represented. Palmer asked for demographics and specific names of respondents, but Schmidt declined to release either. In response, Palmer said the survey was useless without substantiation.

Howard did not return calls seeking comment for this story, but said Friday he attempted to schedule a formal presentation with Radcliff City Council. The city, he said, did not show interest in the meeting.

Duvall on Monday said the issue is now dead with the council.

“We will be opting out of any further discussion of unified local government,” he said.

On another note, the council placed One Knox under its magnifying glass again Monday and expressed verbal consent to pull funding to the organization.

Councilman Stan Holmes broached the issue and said he does not see how the city benefits from the service and could be invested elsewhere. The majority of the council supported Holmes’ assertion.

Councilman Don Shaw said One Knox benefited the city during the Base Realignment and Closure initiative as it courted military civilians to the area, but Shaw said circumstances have changed.

“BRAC is over now. Let’s get on with it,” he said.

The city had budgeted $10,000 this year for One Knox, and Chief Financial Officer Chance Fox said the city has supplied One Knox with $82,000 since the 2005-06 fiscal year.

Councilwoman Barbara Baker said it is time to pull the plug.

“I don’t see $82,000 coming back to us,” she said. 

Brad Richardson, executive director of One Knox and the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce, was not pleased with the decision.

“I’m very disappointed,” Richardson said. “They have been an integral part of One Knox since it was formed in 2006. There have been many infrastructure improvements that have benefited directly Radcliff and northern Hardin County.”

Richardson said One Knox helped lead the initiative to secure $251 million in BRAC-related road, water and sewer projects and about $45 million in direct projects in Radcliff, including wastewater improvements, Radcliff Elementary School, the Bullion Boulevard connector and improvements to Wilson Road.

“(It’s) pretty clear that One Knox has been valuable,” Richardson said.

Richardson also said Fort Knox officials have indicated they prefer a single point of reference for various governments and business organizations, and it has benefited local interactions with state government.

Palmer has questioned One Knox’s impact, but he told the council it should thank the organization for its contributions and cut ties.

Fox said the city is billed quarterly by One Knox, so he would need to speak with the Lincoln Trail Area Development District, which oversees the organization, about the city’s plan to pull funding.

The council also has scrutinized the $30,000 provided annually to the North Hardin Economic Development Authority, also directed by Richardson. However, it did not indicate immediate plans to strip money to that organization Monday.

IN OTHER NEWS

Councilman Edward Palmer has scheduled a town hall forum at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Sign of the Dove Church, 1189 Sunset Drive, in Radcliff. Palmer said the forum is an opportunity for residents to directly engage him with questions and concerns about the city and its future.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.