By Michael Davis
The Rev. Bernie Miller, who is running for the Hamilton County Commission’s District 5 seat, said Wednesday that he would like to see the consolidation of some Chattanooga and county services.
“I’m not in favor of a metro government, but I think that certain services like even the police department … and the sheriff’s department could merge,” he said during an editorial board meeting at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “They could still have their own chiefs.”
Commissioner Lou Miller said Dr. Miller’s ideas are “somewhere to start,” but ultimately she would like to see a metro government formed in Hamilton County.
Such a system, like that of Davidson County and Nashville, would be more efficient and a more representative form of government, she said.
“It would unite the city and the county,” she said. “You wouldn’t have to take away any power from anyone.”
Dr. Miller, who is running as a Republican against Democratic Commissioner Greg Beck in the Aug. 3 county general election, also said he would like to see some utilities consolidated in hopes of getting better prices for consumers.
Mr. Beck could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Dr. Miller said later in an e-mail that while there should be one chief in charge of a consolidated city/county law enforcement entity, he would like to see a deputy chief responsible for jails and a deputy chief handling Hamilton County.
Possible mergers of other services have been discussed recently in Hamilton County. In the wake of high rates of unanswered calls by dispatchers, local leaders are looking at the consolidation of the county’s 911 emergency call system.
Commissioner Richard Casavant said combining some services could lead to more cohesion and greater government efficiency.
Dr. Casavant said he would not advocate for metro government in Hamilton County, but he would like to see consideration given to merging certain services, such as sewer services.
While he said he would be willing to consider merging police and the sheriff’s department, Dr. Casavant said towns such as Signal Mountain, which he represents on the County Commission, should have the option to have their own law enforcement services.
Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said in a statement that “there is more cooperation and coordination between the city, the county and the private sector than we’ve ever had previously.”
He also said he believes “everyone is agreeable that whenever merging interests makes financial and organizational sense it is a consideration.”
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