Local Politics

Government merger talks heat up again in Durham

Posted January 23, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

— Local governments facing tight budgets are trying to cut back every way possible. Some officials in Durham say merging the city and county governments would save money and streamline operations.

"I think it's been about 10 years since we discussed it before, and I think it's a good time to revisit it," said Ellen Reckhow, vice chairwoman of the Durham County Board of Commissioners.

Durham bull, Bull City image Some in Durham bullish on city-county merger

City and county governments have combined in Louisville, Ky., Nashville, Tenn., and Jacksonville, Fla., among other places, and some local officials said a common city-county government could work in Durham as well.

"Looking at it holistically and working together even more than we do now, it might be very positive for our community," Reckhow said.

About 85 percent of Durham County's population already lives within the city limits, she said.

"Will it save money? Will our two governments run better as a result?" Durham City Councilman Mike Woodard said, raising two common concerns.

"It seems like every time we hit an economic crisis or there's another department we think might be able to merge, somebody will raise it as an issue," Woodard said.

The city and county currently operate a joint planning department.

Merger proposals have been floated several times over at least half a century. A 2000 study found that most city and county departments could realistically merge aside from law enforcement because the sheriff is elected and the police chief is appointed.

County and city officials plan to discuss the idea again at a March meeting. Any combination would require the approval of state lawmakers, as well as the City Council and the Board of Commissioners.


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  • this is fdup Jan 23, 2009

    the Sheriff will always be the head LEO no matter what. No Sheriff would give up his power to support this merger and would not have too, that is written in state law.

  • hawkydave Jan 23, 2009

    The law enforcement issue is not really an issue. What happens is the patrol operations and investigations of the Durham Police and Durham County Sheriff merge and become a county or metro area police. The Sheriff's office then remains by law for civil process, warrants, court security, and maintaining the jail. This is the case in Charlotte...hence Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police. In Florida, Jacksonville Police (Office of the sheriff). Miami-Dade Police in Miami, etc... I think Raleigh and Wake county should merge services as well.

  • jdag Jan 23, 2009

    I worked on the last commmittee studying this issue. This next time, don't appoint another committee. The issues have already been identified. The main issue that stoppped this was law enforecement. If that can be worked out and if the economics can be worked out, just do it.

  • yankee1 Jan 23, 2009

    Can you imagine the deals, payoffs and cat fights that will take place as the politicians maneuver to see which stars keep power and which ones don't??? Should be good entertainment though!!!!!

  • rayzer Jan 23, 2009

    Let's reduce everybody to the lowest common denominator.

  • meh2 Jan 23, 2009

    A merger would streamline the process of corrupting the entire county - instead of two entities, politicians could be more efficient in how they manage their graft.

  • mrduffin Jan 23, 2009

    You just have to look at what happened when the city and county school systems merged to see why the city and oounty goverments should not merge. The oounty school system went down like a rock and the city system came enought not to be taken over by the state. Now we have a school system that is failing everybody!

  • donnied1952 Jan 23, 2009

    This is something that has been talked about for along time. Money has been spent on studies, etc. Just do it!! Both the city and county officials know it will taxpayers money, they just don't want to give up their authority. Greed and control are now and have been making the decision on this for a long time. Now is the time to stop with all the control issues and get down to work on just getting this done and working together.