Elko and New Market explore potential merger

By Patrick Fisher

The possibility of merging two communities into one brought members of the Elko and New Market city councils together on Tuesday, Feb. 1, at New Market Area Hall.

The two councils are serving as the steering committee to study the issues of a potential merger of the two communities. Rusty Fifield of Hoisington Koegler Group, Inc. of Minneapolis, led the meeting with the councils and city staff from both cities, as the group went over several items.

The first item was to review the steps in the process of the merger and the schedule for upcoming meetings. They also discussed plans for the first public meeting on February 28, and approaches for communication of news from the process, reviewed the initial findings from research and obtained the councils’ input on questions and issues to address through the process.

At the meeting was Elko council member Dennis Melgaard and Mayor Ken Hartzler, as well as Pat Nutt, city clerk, and Ed Shukle, interim city administrator. Members from the New Market council included Tom Michaud, Jason Ponsonby, Joe Molitor, Curt Sticha, Mayor Jim Friedges and Tom Terry, city administrator. Also present was Andrea Poehler, city attorney for both communities.

Fifield said there were several items to discuss, including what he should know about the communities that would help the process. Also, they would look at the demands growth will create for the communities whether or not there is a merger. As part of the merger study process the steering committee will explore the setting for the merger, analyze options open to them and decide on a course of action.

Meeting dates

The committee will hold five meetings and two public hearings. The other meetings are March 15, April 5, April 28 or May 5 and a final meeting in June. The first public hearing will be held Monday, Feb. 28, from 7-9 p.m. At that meeting, the committee will explain what is happening and receive public input into the process. The second hearing has not been scheduled.

Merger and the State

Fifield explained that there is state law governing consolidation, and while the state agency that oversees such mergers has moved from one department to another over the years, it still exists.

It’s up to the sole discretion of the state

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