Cornelius criticizes consolidation
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS – Before supporting a merger between Mecklenburg County and Charlotte, Cornelius officials want to know how it would benefit their town.
“We need to understand what they’re trying to accomplish and what it means for the town,” council member Chuck Travis said. “One of my greatest fears is that we’ll see double taxation.”
In July, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and former mayor Richard Vinroot sent out a letter to local leaders, encouraging them to support a merger between the city and county governments. Other Cornelius town council members echoed Travis’ concerns, wondering why an idea tabled in 2010 was being brought back up now.
“This has been studied and was shelved,” Mayor Pro Tem Lynette Rinker said. “How many more areas can be functionally consolidated?”
Rinker pointed out that the city and county already use merged services for everything from fire departments to collecting taxes. She questioned what, if any benefit, would come to the local towns out of a merger.
“Services are best delivered at the local level,” Rinker said, also wondering why the topic was brought up in an election year, right before the Democratic National Convention comes to Charlotte in September.
“We’re open and listening, but with skepticism,” Cornelius Mayor Jeff Tarte said. “There’s a lot of devil in the details (of a merger). There’s some good and some bad. A total consolidation, that doesn’t tend to benefit.”
During the public comments section of the meeting, Cornelius resident Alden Smith voiced his own opposition to the idea of a merger.
“Again and again, this has been appearing,” Smith said. “I don’t want to be part of Charlotte.”
Council members decided not to send a formal letter announcing their opposition to the merger, opting to wait and see if the plans move forward.
Shrinking support for CONNECT
Council members also tabled a vote on the CONNECT program, in the midst of diminishing support. The “CONNECT Our Future” program started in the spring, with the idea of towns and cities working together to plan economic development on a regional basis.
Cornelius officials said much like Mecklenburg’s proposed merger, they saw the idea as taking away local authority.
“It cuts away our autonomy,” Rinker said. “This is just the beginning of other things, where the federal government could tell us what to include in our land planning. There is a bigger agenda at play here and we need to know what we’re buying into.”
Tarte agreed that now might not be the best time to take a vote on the idea, suggesting that the council wait and get more details about the program, so they know what they’re supporting.