Warren County Commissioner Les Trotman has asked McMinnville Mayor Norman Rone about starting preliminary talks on metro government.
It’s an idea Rone says he will bring before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, although he says he no longer supports metro.
“I’ve been in favor of metro before, but over the years my opinion has changed and now I’m not very much in favor of it here because I fear McMinnville will lose its identity,” Rone said yesterday. “The city is doing things now with our road paving project and with parks and recreation, I don’t know if it will be a good fit for us anymore. But I will bring it before the board and see what everybody says. They may want to explore it.”
Trotman says he supports the idea of metro government because of it’s potential to save taxpayer dollars. The basic concept is city and county governments would consolidate into one and overlapping services would be combined.
“There’s a lot of controversy about this, but as elected officials, I think if we have the opportunity to streamline government and make it more efficient, we need to examine the possibilities,” said Trotman. “We’re negligent in our duties and haven’t done our job for the people if we don’t at least explore it.”
Warren County last considered metro government in 2000 when a referendum was defeated at the polls. Trotman says one of the biggest problems about metro is all the misinformation which gets spread.
One common example used to support metro is both road departments – the city’s Public Works Department and the county’s Highway Department – could be strengthened by the move to one road department.
“If you look at the county, there hasn’t been a tax increase in nine years and we’ve paved just about every road there is to pave,” said Trotman. “If not paved it, we’ve tarred and chipped it. The city is just now starting to pave after more than 10 years so that might have been something that could have been avoided under metro.”
Under metro, city and county fire departments could work together to help each other, Trotman says, along with city and county animal control. Trotman says metro helps relieve the perception of city vs. county and forms one government to work for the betterment of the community.
“Look at all the legal fees associated with annexation any time the city tries to annex more property,” said Trotman. “It’s always a legal fight. And look at the $800,000 in legal fees from the city-county lawsuit. All of that could have been avoided.”
By his estimates, Trotman says between $250,000 and $400,000 could be saved annually with metro. That may not seem like much, he says, but it would be $2.5 to $4 million after 10 years.
If the city doesn’t go along with exploring metro government, it would require signatures of 10 percent of registered voters who voted in the last governor’s race to get a metro referendum on the ballot.
If metro is given the OK, the first thing to be done would be to establish a metro charter commission. This would be made up of 10 residents from the county, five residents from the city, and one resident each from Viola, Morrison, and Centertown should those towns choose to participate. That setup is for the charter commission only, by Tennessee statute.
It would be up to the metro charter commission to determine how many representatives make up the county’s legislative body. There could be six representatives or there could be 30, Trotman says. It all depends on the decision of the metro charter commission.
All of those decisions, in turn, have to be approved by the voters.
“It’s a long process,” said Mayor Rone. “It’s something we could start on now and still not be done with in two or three years.”
Trotman says he likes metro because it gives voters a chance to approve all aspects of the plan. If voters reject metro, the charter commission must draw up another plan that’s acceptable.
“I don’t want to shove this down anyone’s throat,” said Trotman. “This is not payback for the lawsuit. It’s something I’ve thought about for a long time, but I was told not to bring it up until the lawsuit was settled.”