Posted on Courier-Journal – See article in original source

By  Sheldon S. Shafer on July 5, 2011

The task force appointed by Mayor Greg Fischer to explore possible changes in the structure and services of Louisville Metro Government is scraping together $37,000 to pay for a public-opinion survey to help assess the pros and cons of the merged city and county.

Pat Mulvihill, Fischer’s general counsel and the staff attorney for what the mayor calls the Merger 2.0 Task Force, said IQS
Research of Louisville has been retained to conduct the poll. He said 1,100 to 1,500 metro residents are expected to be called at random, probably within a week or so, to get their opinions about what they see as the pros and cons since merged government began in 2003.

Mulvihill said the money will include $10,000 from metro government, with the rest from the Transit Authority of River City, the Louisville Water Co. and Greater Louisville Inc., which serves as the metro chamber of commerce. The exact share that each of the three other entities will put up isn’t yet certain, Mulvihill said.

The results of the survey may be known by late July, but perhaps not before the full task force is tentatively next scheduled to meet on July 22. Mulvihill said the telephone questionnaire probably will include about 20 questions. It is expected to focus on what services people want and how well they think existing services are being delivered.

The 23-member task force has as co-chairmen Dave Armstrong, a Democrat who served as Louisville mayor, Jefferson County judge-executive and state attorney general, and Republican Rebecca Jackson, who had stints as both Jefferson County judge-executive and Jefferson County clerk.

The task force has created four subcommittees delving into these areas: fire and emergency-medical services; solid waste and recycling; public safety; and transportation and infrastructure. Each subcommittee has met at least twice, and the task force has held four public hearings since early April.

The subcommittees are in various stages of exploring their issues. The public safety committee, for instance, has crafted an online survey that aims to gather public opinion on what residents feel about the job police do and how safe their neighborhoods are.

That survey also is expected to be launched next week. City officials expect to promote the survey in several ways, encouraging residents to log on to answer several questions. More information about the content of the survey and a web address for taking it should be released soon.

Fischer has asked the task force to give him a list of ideas on how to improve the delivery of services and any other changes by Oct. 1, or enough time to propose any needed legislation to the 2012 General Assembly. The General Assembly had to pass merger enabling legislation that is subject to amendment.

Most officials don’t believe any drastic changes in the localgovernment setup are in store, but that some procedures and processes may be tweaked.

One big question is the status of the suburban fire districts, many of which are financially strapped and must deal with a state-mandated cap on their tax rates. Another issue is equity of services; the old city of Louisville has been designated as an urban service district in which residents pay additional taxes to fund some specific services, including professional fire protection and municipal solid waste pickup.

Reporter Sheldon S. Shafer can be reached at (502) 582-7089. Reporter Jessie Halladay contributed to this story.