The Honorable Ken Howard
Hardin Circuit Court Judge
Luke B. Schmidt, President
L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC
Hardin County United Launches Unified Government Initiative
Effort Will Create Kentucky’s Third Largest Community, New Clout in Frankfort and Washington, and Streamline Government;
HCU to Request the Appointment of a Unification Review Commission
Elizabethtown, Kentucky (July 29, 2011) – Hardin County United (HCU) today launched an initiative to develop unified government in Hardin County by announcing the findings of its year-long examination of the issue.
During the past year, HCU commissioned a study of unified government which was conducted by Louisville-based consulting firm, L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC. HCU’s Governance Subcommittee, chaired by Hardin Circuit Court Judge Ken Howard, conducted community leadership meetings with groups representing law enforcement, fire protection, Fort Knox, state elected officials and federal elected officials. HCU also received presentations from former Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson and former Lexington-Fayette Urban County Mayor Foster Pettit on the issue of government unification.
Upon review of the issue, both HCU’s Governance Subcommittee and Steering Committee reached consensus and agreed that Hardin County would be well served with unified government, citing the following benefits:
- The ability for the community to speak with one voice and more efficiently target grants and appropriations which will benefit the entire community while improving the community’s standing and stature in Frankfort and Washington, D.C.,
- The attainment of a new level of clout that will assist the entire community with economic development, the creation of new jobs and which will create Kentucky’s third largest community,
- Streamlined government which will result in the more efficient delivery of government services to all citizens, and,
- The achievement of economies of scale which will result in the more efficient use of public resources (tax dollars)
“Hardin County is fortunate to have good local government in place,” said Ken Howard. “The real opportunity here is to take local government to the next level, to capitalize on the growth opportunities presented by base realignment and ongoing Army restructuring at Fort Knox and the Glendale mega site.”
“Unified government won’t necessarily save money, but what it will do is organize government more efficiently and eliminate duplication of effort,” said Howard. “Our research indicates that the rate of growth in the cost of public services has been shown to be reduced in unified governments, thereby reducing the need for frequent tax increases.”
The Hardin County Unified Government Study examined Hardin County’s existing local government structure along with five communities in Georgia and Kentucky that have been through the unification process. Some of the key findings from the Study include:
- Hardin County, a community of 105,000 people, is governed by 94 government jurisdictions, county and municipal departments, utilities, boards and commissions
(By comparison, In the case of Columbus and Muscogee County, Georgia prior to unification, the community was governed by 44 jurisdictions and departments; with unification, that number was reduced to nine primary departments)
- Significant duplication exists between County government and the six municipal governments in terms of workers and budgets
- In spite of the fragmented manner in which the community has developed, a significant urban core has emerged in Hardin County between the three principal cities – Elizabethtown, Radcliff and Vine Grove – and the rapidly developing unincorporated areas of Cecilia, Glendale and Rineyville
- If this area had no immediate boundaries, its population would total 85,000 people and it would easily be Kentucky’s third largest city (see map which accompanies this release)
- Competition for support of issues, grant/appropriation requests, etc., exist in counties with more than one local government jurisdiction – would this process be better served with one request from a unified government speaking with one voice?
- In the case of each of the five unified communities which were examined, the communities were able to streamline government, mitigate future cost increases and increase their standing and stature (clout) in their respective state capitols and in Washington, D.C.
“Unification has provided major benefits to the communities that have been through the process,” said Luke B. Schmidt, consultant to HCU. “In every case, communities came together through unification and began speaking with one voice and the net result has been increased clout with state and federal governments, expanded economic development and increased representation for all citizens through unified government councils.”
“Unified government leads to less parochialism and forces government to conduct a ‘big picture’ analysis of issues with more progressive outcomes,” Schmidt continued. “We found out that economic development prospects like to deal with one government, and in the case of Lexington, unified government is one of the four cornerstones that help to sell Lexington as a place to do business.”
Going forward, HCU plans to take the leadership role in educating and informing the Hardin County community and each government entity about the facts of unified government by speaking to various groups and interested parties.
HCU is hosting an information session open to all elected local government officials on Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at Hardin Memorial Hospital’s fifth floor conference room beginning at 5:30 PM.
Citizens are invited to HCU’s community forum which will be held on Thursday, August 4, 2011, at the Hardin County Performing Arts Center at John Hardin High School, 384 W.A. Jenkins Road, Elizabethtown, and beginning at 4:30 PM. Interested citizens are encouraged to attend.
HCU also plans to approach each local government entity beginning in September and request the passage of an ordinance which will create a Unification Review Commission (pursuant to Kentucky Revised Statutes Chapters 67.900 – 67.940). Members of the Commission (which will include between 20 and 40 citizens) will be appointed by those local government entities that choose to participate. The Commission will be charged with the task of developing a specific plan of unified government which will be presented to the voters to approve in November 2012.
Additional information on this issue can be found on HCU’s Web site (www.hcu.lbschmidt.com).
Hardin County United (HCU) was established for the purpose of examining the various strategic goals which were established by the Hardin County Vision Project in 2010. The intent of HCU is to prioritize the goals and to develop implementation strategies. HCU’s leadership team includes Hardin County Judge/Executive Harry Berry who chairs the Steering Committee; Hardin County Chamber of Commerce President Brad Richardson, who chairs the Community Development Subcommittee; North Central Education Foundation President/CEO Al Rider, who chairs the Education Subcommittee; and Hardin Circuit Court Judge Ken Howard who chairs the Governance Subcommittee. Luke Schmidt, President of L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC, provides management and consulting services to HCU.