Residents of the northeastern Minnesota towns of Carlton and Thomson, on opposite sides of the St. Louis River south of Duluth, have discussed a merger for the past four years. Tomorrow, voters get to weigh in.
Both city councils support unifying. So do the mayors, including Lawrence St. Germain, mayor of Thomson. His town has only 159 residents and two part time employees now and would see improved service under a merger.
"You're going to have a city hall that's going to be open all day long, you'll have a maintenance crew that's there all day long, so it's a benefit for the people," he said.
Backers also say the new city would have a larger pool of candidates for elected offices and volunteer positions, and a larger tax base. A majority of voters in both cities need to approve the proposal.
Tracey Hartung, Carlton's city clerk and treasurer, says a merger has become almost a necessity because of declining local government aid from the state, although some Thomson residents have said they worry the city would lose its identity if the merger goes through.
"We incur a lot of the same costs, we have costs for city services that both cities have no matter what size we are. Auditors, city attorney, both cities have city clerk, public works department," she said.
If a majority of voters in both towns approve the merger, it would take effect on Jan. 1, 2015. The new city will be named Carlton, with Thomson becoming a neighborhood within the city.