Tri-Cities to discuss merger

Residents of Cumberland, Benham and Lynch are discussing the possibility of merging the three cities into one government, with a community forum to be held on Monday at 6:30 p.m. in Benham at the Betty Howard Coal Miner’s Memorial Theater.

The forum is being held in order for the Kentucky League of Cities (KLC) to present an interim report on its study of a possible merger of Cumberland, Benham, and Lynch.

Tri-City Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Wilder explained the study was funded late last year through a grant from the Frazier Foundation.

According to Tad Long, KLC’s Community Development Manager, the study will not offer an opinion on the advisability of merger, rather it is designed to look primarily at the way in which merger would be carried out in the three municipalities should it go forward.

According to a press release, the Tri-City Chamber of Commerce serves as grant administrator on behalf of the three cities. Citizens are urged to attend the meeting.

“Ultimately whether or not merger takes place be would determined by a vote of the people,” said Tri-City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director W. Bruce Ayers. “With that being the case, it is vitally important that citizens be at this and subsequent meetings.”

Wilder said a question and answer period will follow the presentation during which the public may ask any questions they have about a possible merger.

“There are a lot of mistaken assumptions about merger, which we hope can be cleared up at this meeting,” Wilder said.

“This study officially began on Jan. 1,” Wilder said. “What happened in the past is the past. We’re looking for the future with this. There’s been a lot of different ideas and misinformation in the past, and that’s one of the reasons we chose the League of Cities to do this. They’re looking at everything. How cities are structured, what their incomes are, everything involved.”

Wilder explained all information collected throughout the study will be presented in the final report at a later date.

Wilder pointed out should the cities eventually decide to merge, the individual cities will keep their identity.

“The names of Cumberland, Benham and Lynch will remain,” Wilder said. “They’ll always remain. The only thing that would change is the new government would have a new name. For example, it could possibly be called the Tri-Cities Merged Government. But, physical addresses – where you live – will always be Cumberland, Benham or Lynch.”

KLC is not expected to present its final report until early spring, 2018.