Mayor proposes consolidated city, county government

Mayor proposes consolidated city, county government

October 7th, 2009 by Cliff Hightower in News

Mayor Ron Littlefield said Tuesday he would suspend annexation of residential areas if the county "comes to the table" to talk about consolidation of city and Hamilton County government.

"We need to simplify, and I hope the county would join us," Mr. Littlefield said.

Mr. Littlefield made his remarks at the end of the regularly scheduled business meeting for the City Council. After the meeting, when asked if that just meant certain parts of government need to be consolidated, he said he meant a complete unification of city and county government and services.

"All of it," he said.

WHAT'S NEXT

The Chattanooga City Council and Hamilton County Commission will have to approve similar resolutions setting up a charter study commission to look at unified government. In the meantime, Mayor Ron Littlefield said annexations would continue on commercial areas in Summit and along Highway 58.

HOW THEY VOTED

The Chattanooga City Council voted 7-1 Tuesday night to annex areas along Hunter Road, Relocation Way, a strip north of Interstate 75, Old Lee Highway near Green Shanty Road and a revised section of Summit. Councilman Russell Gilbert voted against all proposals. Councilwoman Carol Berz was absent.

AREAS AFFECTED

Residential areas that would be suspended from annexation include:

* Hurricane Creek

* Stonewall Farms

* Windstone

County Mayor Claude Ramsey and County Commission Chairman Curtis Adams could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Mr. Littlefield said he would continue with commercial annexation of areas in the Summit area, along Highway 58 and small parcels in North Hixson. He told council members it was time for them to "take a deep breath" and move forward toward consolidated government.

Earlier in the meeting, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution asking the County Commission to follow state law and create tax districts for fire service in an attempt to make taxation more fair and equitable among city and county taxpayers. The council also voted to annex several areas in the vicinity of Summit and Interstate 75.

Council Chairman Jack Benson said after the meeting he thought it was a good strategy on the part of the mayor.

"I think it's a beginning," he said. "We'll see how much groundswell we have. It at least brings us to the table."

During the meeting, Mr. Benson asked the mayor if he was talking specifically about "metro government."

Mr. Littlefield replied he was talking about a complete consolidation or unification of services.

"Call it what you will," Mr. Littlefield replied.

Councilman Manny Rico said after the meeting he thought a consolidated government would be the best for everyone, including those being annexed.

"That's the way to go," he said. "People would rather see metro government than going the way we've been going."

Mr. Littlefield said he wanted to start setting up meetings between the County Commission and the City Council to start talks on consolidated government. He stressed Tuesday he only is "suspending" annexations.

"We might pick up the process very quickly if it appears that the county is not interested," he said.