While residents of Ashland and Catlettsburg were re-electing most of their governing bodies Tuesday, voters in a sister community as far west in Kentucky as Ashland is east were voting on an issue that is quite familiar to longtime residents of Ashland and Boyd County. And just as residents of this corner of Kentucky have twice rejected proposals to merge city and county governments, residents of Paducah and McCracken County on Tuesday defeated a controversial proposal to merge governments.
Residents in Paducah and McCracken County reject the merged government proposal by a margin of more than two to one. More than 70 percent of those casting ballots Tuesday were opposed to merged government.
The measure had strong backing from business leaders, but a grassroots group called No to Metro that had support from community leaders such as Judge-Executive Van Newberry got a majority of the community’s support.
In the 1970s, voters in Ashland, Catlettsburg and the unincorporated parts of Boyd County rejected a unigov proposal by a margin of more than 5 to 1. A decade later a different proposal for one local government was rejected by a margin of two to one. While much closer than the first vote, it still was a long way from being approved.
Despite the resounding defeat for the merger proposal, Paducah McCracken United member John Williams Jr. remained confident the issue was not dead. He said the idea is around to stay and will get more support as people learn more about it.
“I think it’s an educational issue,” Williams said. “It will take a while to be able to communicate to all the voters what’s in it for them.”
Williams may be right, but we have our doubts. In the nearly 20 years since Boyd County residents last voted on a merged government proposal, there has been no visible sign of another effort being launched in this community. “Why kick a dead horse?” one supporter of a merged Boyd County asked.
The state’s two largest counties — Jefferson and Fayette — remain the only two with merged government, and the metro govenrment in Lexingon and Fayette County is much different than the urban government in Louisville and Jefferson County.
We remain convinced that having a single local government would help Boyd County grow and prosper; it is just that we don’t see it happening anytime soon, if ever.