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Ward 3 councilman lobbies for metro government'

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
Aug. 31, 2001
Ward 3 Councilman Barbara Henson says Meridian and Lauderdale County could have a consolidated "metro government" within 10 years if city and county are willing to "give up some turf."
She said she was in Knoxville, Tenn., when the issue was put to a vote.
Henson said she would give up her position tomorrow if other elected officials would agree to it.
Combining city and county government would take a lot of time, she said, because enabling legislation must be written and the issue might have to be put to a vote. Henson said a step in the right direction has already been taken combined tax collection, for which the city pays the county $35,000 a year.
Henson said economic development in both the city and the county would benefit from metro government.
What's in it for the people?
From what she has seen in Nashville, Tenn., Jacksonville, Fla., and in Georgia, Henson said combined city and county governments don't "cut taxpayers' obligations as much as provide better services."
She said the parks and recreation and the public works departments would be better. She said it would create a larger, countywide law enforcement and fire department.
Sorting through the details
When it gets down to it, Henson said, legislators will "do it as they please," but she likes the idea of an elected law enforcement department head.
Henson said council members have not lobbied legislators on the idea, but over the last 12 years, she has not heard a council member say he wouldn't be in favor of a metro form of government.
County leaders may be of another opinion.
With younger people full of new and different ideas taking the places of "those of us that are older and maybe not so open to it," Henson said metro government is a definite possibility.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.