- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A private group’s proposal to consolidate Lincoln and Lancaster County government has drawn mixed reviews from city and county leaders.

Ann Post, legal counsel for the Lincoln Independent Business Association and chairwoman of the Consolidation Task Force, shared the report Tuesday with the City Council and county commissioners, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (https://bit.ly/1eDhI1I). The council and commissioners took no immediate action.

The task force’s original goal was to look for ways to save taxpayer money by possibly consolidating four types of departments: law enforcement, infrastructure, legal matters and clerical work, Post said. But in the long term, she said, task force members concluded the governments should examine total consolidation.

“The committee almost unanimously decided that really there should be a long-term focus on creating a municipal county government between Lincoln and Lancaster County,” Post said. “We also recognized that is a long process.”

Commissioner Jane Raybould backed the recommendations, saying they were “just a question of political will and support.”

Some other commissioners and City Council members said they supported some of the ideas in the task force report. For example, City Councilman Trent Fellers said he could back having joint firing ranges for city police and county sheriff’s personnel and a joint maintenance shop.

“I think there could be some savings there,” Fellers said.

Commissioner Deb Schorr raised concerns about what total consolidation would mean to other municipalities in the county, including Waverly and Hickman.

She wouldn’t support consolidation if its primary effect was creating yet another layer of government, Schorr said.

Commissioner Brent Smoyer said state law likely would have to be changed to allow consolidation of city and county governments. Nonetheless, he said, it was worth looking at how consolidation affected communities that have done it.

Raybould said she also supports a professional study of the idea and said she will talk to the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce about funding one.

“It’s the politicians that really need to engage and embrace the ideas that our citizens so readily came up with,” Raybould said.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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