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After decades of contemplation and debate, a group known as Better Together is recommending an end to the “Great Divorce” between St. Louis and St. Louis County.Better Together is proposing an ambitious plan to create a unified metro government and police department and limit municipalities' ability to levy sales taxes. The plan would be decided through a statewide vote.Proponents contend it will scrape away layers of local government that has been holding the St. Louis region back. Opponents believe the plan will create an unwieldy and large centralized government that could be implemented against the will of city and county residents.

Residents weigh merits and flaws of St. Louis city-county merger

Courtesy of Better Together

Discussions to merge the St. Louis city and county governments are underway by city residents.

About 100 people came out to a town hall meeting Monday night to express their support and concerns for a consolidation.

The nonprofit organization Better Together has organized a series of community discussions to encourage area residents to share their perspectives.

Marius Johnson-Malone is deputy director of community-based studies for the organization. He said he was encouraged by the crowd’s discussion.

“We thought it went really well. You know, we heard of different opinions about what people really value in their community, Johnson-Malone said. "What some of the things — the disadvantages to our current system versus the advantages — and trying to understand that aspect both from a residential perspective but also from a regional perspective.”

Supporters of this move say that by combining the city and county government programs will become more efficient and will reduce excess spending.

Critics argue that the consolidation will slow the response time for police and fire departments and hurt the individuality of smaller communities.

Eli Karabell, a 21-year-old St. Louis resident said that he would not support the merger until he hears a more detailed explanation about the economic impact to the region.

“There’s not enough clear, delineated roles for each body yet. We have so many varying government agencies in St. Louis, there needs to be different roles for each, of course, said Karabell. “But they haven’t explained to me properly what each role is going to be.”

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