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Residents stifle suburban merger plan, but cooperation efforts continue
Cuyahoga County officials believe smaller steps are key to more complex agreements to save money

by WKSU's KEVIN NIEDERMIER


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Kevin Niedermier
 
Courtesy of Cuyahoga County
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In The Region:

Residents of four Cuyahoga County communities have rebuffed an effort to merge into one municipality to save money. But, backers believe the plan is far from dead as the economically and racially diverse communities continue working toward more shared services.

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Officials in Pepper Pike, Moreland Hills, Orange and Woodmere say most of their residents believe merging is too big and complicated of a step to take without knowing what the benefits might be.

But, they still support studying ways to share services like fire protection, police and trash collection. The four communities already share schools, recreation programs and tax collection. Three of them share an emergency dispatch system. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald has pushed the effort to help communities work together.

Ed Jerse is head of the county’s regional collaboration department. He says sharing services can lead to bigger things.

“What I’m discovering in this role is that you need to learn to walk before you can run. And, that bringing people together in areas where they can find common ground and agreement is extremely important if you want to develop more complex collaborations down the road.”

The four communities are all on Cleveland's east side, but some differ significantly from each other. Woodmere is a town of fewer than 1,000 people, predominantly black with a median income of about $32,000. That's less than one-quarter the median income in Pepper Pike, which has about 6,000 residents.

Jerse says several other communities are exploring shared-service agreements, especially emergency dispatch. The cities of Lakewood, Westlake, Fairview Park and Rocky River have shared a dispatch center since 2006.

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