Group submits papers seeking vote on merger

By MICHELLE PERRY State Journal Staff Writer Published:

Abraham Lincoln walked into the Franklin County clerk's office Wednesday with a stack of papers carrying the signatures of more than 3,700 residents ready to consider a merger between city and county governments.

Cliff Howard, dressed as Lincoln, was accompanied by his son Douglas Howard, Mary Lynn Collins and C. Michael Davenport as he delivered the petition, after more than a year's worth of work by the grass roots organization Urge to Consider Merger, formerly known as Urge to Merge.

The county now has 60 days to verify the signatures and appoint a charter commission, which is selected by the Fiscal Court and City Commission. The charter commission will be responsible for creating "a description of the form structure, functions, powers and name of the proposed charter county government; a description of the officers and their powers and duties of the proposed charter county government; and the procedures by which the original comprehensive plan may be amended," according to a state law adopted in 1990.

The statute requires a petition to be signed by 20 percent of voters from the preceding regular election, or 3,433 registered voters from Franklin County. Howard estimated Urge to Consider Merger acquired between 3,700 and 3,800 signatures.

"This is a relatively untapped statute," said Collins, noting this is only the second time this type of merger has been attempted in Kentucky. Taylor County voted on the issue last fall, but the proposition failed.

Debbie Wallace, deputy clerk, said the petition pages were boxed up and put into a safe until Monday when Guy Zeigler, Franklin County clerk, returns from vacation. Then the signatures will be verified to assure each signer is a registered voter in Franklin County, and there are no duplicates.

"It's quite a bit of work," said Wallace, "but we don't anticipate it taking the 60 days."

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