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Mason can put Metro gov back on table

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By Cindy Simpson

The city of Harriman — the dealbreaker under the previous mayor when it came to government consolidation discussions — now may revive those talks.

City officials will discuss a resolution Harriman passed in 2004 agreeing to appoint members to a study committee to consider possible consolidation of metropolitan and county governments.

Former Harriman mayor Jerry Davis ignored the resolution and never appointed the Harriman representatives.

Harriman, as Roane County’s most populated town, had extra clout in the matter, and Davis’ lack of action put the issue in a long-term stall.

Harriman Mayor Chris Mason was elected to replace Davis this year.

Mason said he received a letter from Roane County Mayor Mike Farmer asking if the city still has any interest in exploring the pros and cons of consolidated metro government.

Consideration of that resolution is on the agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting.

“I feel it is the right thing to let council know we have another request,” Mason said.

Mason said if the city decides to participate, he will likely ask each council member to suggest someone to sit on the committee.

Mason said that while his mind is not made up on metro government, he believes it is something that should be studied.

“If it is not going to work we need to prove it. If it is going to work we need to prove it,” he said.

Mason said he believes consolidation in some areas might be good for residents, but he said he needs to see studies on the impact to different areas of service.

He believes that local utilities might benefit if they work together to buy electricity and gas in bulk, for example. That kind of partnership could save residents money.

Mason said there are other areas — such as police and fire protection — where he would like to see further study.

He said a 1993 study of police service done by a Roane Leadership class showed that, with consolidation, there would be a savings of $220,000 with an additional 10 officers on the road.

Farmer said he approached Harriman to revisit this issue because it is a topic that keeps coming up.

He said while he has no preconceived notions on the issue, he would like to see a study committee reach a conclusion.

“I think enough people want to see if there is any interest,” Farmer said.

One option he suggested that might save taxpayers money is a consolidated insurance pool.