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Any North Carolina cities considering consolidating goverments with their county?

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I have llived in Wilmington for 22 years. During that period of time consolidation of Wilmington and

New Hanover goverments have been on the ballot at least three times. Each time being turned down by the voters mostly those who live outside the city limits. Residents in the county fear the tax rate hike that would occur. Since the last time the idea was put a vote, the city has annexed several thousands people. It is now believed the intiative would pass because there are more people in the city limits than in the county.

The latest estimates by the US census put Wilmington reaching 100,000 people inside the city limits sometime in the month of October, New Hanover County 185,000 and the metro area (New Hanover, Brunswick, and Pender counties) at 325,000. Now that the City seems to have the upper hand population wise, the County Commisioners seem more receptive to a consolidated goverment. The city and county have already combined their transportation departments, expanding the bus system to cover most of the county and started bus routes into brunswick county, and an express route to Whiteville in Columbus county.

Other smaller departments have also been consolidated, and the two goverments are working on consolidating their water and sewer departments.

Heres the questions, Is it better to consolidate city and county goverments, or to let the city take the county by gradual annexation? When a city and county consolidate, can the city or consolidated goverment still annex areas in surrounding counties?

For the record, New Hanover County has a land area of around 198 square miles, with a density of around

925 people per square mile.

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When I said consolidate goverments I meant total consolidation, combining city council and the county commissioners into one body as well as all departments in both goverments.

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Heres the questions, Is it better to consolidate city and county goverments, or to let the city take the county by gradual annexation? When a city and county consolidate, can the city or consolidated goverment still annex areas in surrounding counties?

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It was discussed and studied in Charlotte on several occasions, going back decades. My memory is a little fuzzy on the exact time, but I believe a vote on Charlotte/Mecklenburg consolidation was unsuccessful in the 1980s.

In Durham City/County it came up more recently, with a study in the late 1990s. The city opted to not pursue the matter; Durham City/County schools were consolidated earlier in the 90s, and it did not go smoothly, with a racial divide and escalating acrimony in the subsequent consolidated school board (like shouting matches during meetings, and a board member being escorted out by police on one occasion).

Within the last year, I've read that it was being considered in Currituck County, which has no incorporated municipalities at the moment, but is wedged between Nags Head and Virginia Beach, and is picking up a lot of Tidewater Va suburban overflow. It's just being "considered" at the moment, if it was pursued, it would essentially be a county-wide incorporation.

I am certain that the idea has come up in many other cities/counties in the state; I just don't know all of them. It would make a lot of sense in New Hanover, given the compact nature of the county. However New Hanover might demographically run into some of the same issues as Durham County, so the idea would still need to be developed with a lot of careful thought and communication, especially in explaining the potential advantages. Given that Durham's experience with school consolidation has lead to unanticipated challenges and occasional bad feeling on both sides, Wilmington should look very carefully at other cities' experiences with this; good and bad. I think consolidations are - in theory - a good idea (they have really taken off in Canada and Japan as well); metros and the planning within can be streamlined, and ditto for services, if an area is serious about cutting out the fat after the merger. It just needs to be motivated by factors other than a numbers grab.

I'd like to see one of our Virginia forumers comment on the functionality of "independent cities" - some of which are consolidated cities (Virginia Beach, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Hampton & Newport News) where the county was abolished after consolidation, to re-incorporate the "consolidated city" as an independent, county-equivalent, with only one layer of government (instead of a dual city council and county commission). If this idea was imported into NC, and attached to consolidations it might make the idea more attractive - the tax blow would be (in theory) moderated a bit, if - for example - a Wilmington/New Hanover consolidation produced the Independent City of Wilmington, with a duplicated governmental level eliminated. I'm not knowledgeable enough about the Va experience to know this with any authority however...

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Wilmington actual did away with dual school systems years ago. The two biggest things that people living in the county didn't like was the fact that property taxes in now unicorperated area would go up and the lead law enforcment officer would be appointed by the new city-county council combo rather than popular vote the way a county sheriff is now. Under North Carolina law, sheriffs are only responsible for the jail and the courthouse in a consolidated goverment. All other law enforcement duties would be combined, like a metro police department. We would elect a city-county board of x amount of people, with district elections most likely, and a mayor. When entering the county a sign would say "welcome to Wilmington-New Hanover County.

The example we would follow would be like Miami-Dade County in Florida.

In years passed the measured has failed in the county by 4 to 1, but in the city it has passed by about the same measure. Since the last vote the city has out grown the city, by about 15,000 thousand peolpe,

so i think if the measure was put to a vote today, it would pass by a few thousand votes.

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Winston-Salem and Forsyth County have a unified Planning Department... regional planning?

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For anyone interested in this topic, you will find Jacksonville's example to be worth looking into.

Jacksonville (Florida) and Duval County merged into one entity in 1968, by voter approval. By almost every's opinion, it has been a smashing success.

Jacksonville was a trifling, backward city with major city corruption that was exceded by the many county agencies and sherriffs! The "county" was full of good old boy politics and overt corruption. The "city" was broke, was experiencing hemorraging populations and was extrememly dispirited.

Mayor Hans Tansler sold the idea to the people of Duval County and it started Jacksonville's entry into the New South.

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^ I can see how consolidation can save money where there are overlaps in public services and offices, and to some degree red tape, but how did it elevate Jacksonville from a trifling backward city to a smashing success?

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Some years ago, Greensboro City Schools, High Point City Schools and the county schools all combined to form Guilford County schools. It became the third largest public school system in the state. Greensboro, Guilford County and I think High Point will be combining their 911 systems so im not sure if we could see something like this happen at one point with Greensboro and Guilford County.

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As of June 1, 2006, apparently Camden County (NE of Elizabeth City) has become the first "unified government" in NC, essentially consolidating the county into one municipality. As Camden had no incorporated towns prior to this (the consolidation was essentially a full-county incorportaion, done through a countywide referendum (on May 2, 2006) and then approved by the NC legislature), I don't know if this would technically qualify as a consolidated city or not. The seat is still the previously unincorporated community of Camden, and the entire entity is still referred to as 'Camden County,' and I don't know how this would be reported in census data.

According to the state statute regarding consolidations, the county would act as a single municipal entity, excepting the provision of road construction and maintainence services, which will be retained by the state.

The specific ordinance can be read at http://www.camdencountync.gov/government/o...es-06-06-02.htm

This would give the "city" of Camden County a land area of 241 sq miles, and a population of just under 7,000.

Pure speculation, but the apparent smoothness of the process in Camden makes me wonder if the most easy or most likely consolidations in NC (given the ease of annexation for towns of over 5K in population) would be in geographically small counties with only one (or no) incorporated towns: Chowan and Currituck in the NE; or Clay, Polk Alexander and Alleghany in the W, as examples... Except for Currituck, I don't know that it's been considered in any of those other counties.

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As the state becomes more urban, you'll see more consolidations.

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as far as the major NC cities go, I think Durham and Durham County would likely consolidate

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Why is that? The most urban county in the state, Mecklenburg, shows now signs at all that it will consolidate. In fact, just the opposite has occurred as Charlotte and the 6 other towns in the county have an agreement amongst themselves on what land that each can annex in the future.

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Winston-Salem and Forsyth County have a unified Planning Department... regional planning?

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Charlotte and Mecklenburg county could still consolidate without the other smaller towns. Wilmington and New Hanover county have considered consolidating at least 4 or 5 times since the 1940's and each time the smaller beach towns of Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach did not opt to particapate.

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Well no it can't. County land that is in the 6 town's sphere of influence cannot be annexed or consolidated into Charlotte.

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as far as the major NC cities go, I think Durham and Durham County would likely consolidate

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Wilmington has a unique situation in that New Hanover is a very small county and the majority of the population leaves in the city limits. The city and county have started consolidating a few departments, transportation, water and sewer etc. The school systems were done years ago etc. The goal since the last annexation by the city is to start with smaller, easier departments and work their way up to full consolidation all though it will take years, if ever, to accomplish. The smaller beach towns are not taking part.

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If it was to happen, it wouldn't be soon - the idea was rejected circa 2000. The consolidation of school boards in the 1990s was extremely acrimonious, and the hostility hasn't completely gone away, and within the last few years a move to incorporate Rougemont (vast, sparsely populated area in N Durham Co) has arisen. The Rougemont incorporation failed last year, but a reorganizing campaign to make a 2nd attempt is already underway.

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I think the situation with Charlotte and Mecklenburg County is perfect at the moment. There were some consolidations, but it was not a merger of both city and county entities. There used to be a separate Parks and Recreations and Police departments for both Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, now all city parks belong to Mecklenburg County except of Marshall Park in Uptown. The police departments were combined into Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, CMPD does have jurisdistriction within the entire county however it just enforces the unincorporated areas of Mecklenburg and Charlotte. The other towns have their down police departments and they might also have their own Parks and Recreations, I know Mint Hill and Matthews does. The other departments that was consolidated was water and sewers, which Charlotte retained control over, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Utilites Department. Charlotte also retained control of CMPD with Mecklenburg County paying a fee to Charlotte to provide services to the unincorporated parts.

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