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Our View: Merger is a good idea

It should come as no surprise to residents of Thomson and Carlton when they open up the mail-in ballot asking them to vote yes or no on a proposal to consolidate the two cities into one city. We hope those residents do their homework and vote with their heads as well as their hearts.

While it may seem sad to some to merge the two cities, the proposal will allow Thomson to remain as a neighborhood of Carlton that would elect its own city councilor. At the same time, it would save some money -- mostly on duplication of services and staff.

It seems like a wise step to take in light of the many challenges facing Thomson, especially.

The most recent merger talks were initiated when the city of Thomson suffered catastrophic losses from the 2012 flooding, on the heels of increasing cuts in Local Government Aid in recent years. The city also had concerns over the lack of residents willing to step forward to take leadership roles as current long-time staff and board members decide to step down.

State law requires consolidating cities to touch one another. Carlton, with 862 residents, and Thomson, population 159, share a boundary for a few hundred yards where the St. Louis River spills out of the Thomson Reservoir.

Looking at the example set by the Cloquet Area Fire District -- which consolidated with both the Perch Lake and Scanlon fire departments -- with strong leadership, this proposal should be a win-win for both cities.

The way for the merger has already been paved in some respects. The city of Thomson is already contracting with the city of Carlton for water, fire protection, ambulance service and most of its maintenance work.

A merger would save a little money and not affect property taxes much, Carlton City Clerk Tracey Hartung told Minnesota Public Radio recently.

One possible bonus if the two cities are joined is that the population would exceed 1,000. That, Hartung said in the same MPR interview, might help it get more attention.

Finally, it could help eliminate the confusion over Thomson Township (aka Esko) and the city of Thomson, although we doubt it.

According to Carlton County Auditor/Treasurer Paul Gassert, registered voters of both communities will receive ballots to vote on the referendum in the mail. Those who are not registered can vote by coming to the auditor/treasurer's office in the Carlton County Courthouse to register and cast their ballots. The voting will be administered and tallied by Gassert and his staff.

If you live in Carlton or Thomson, please vote when you get your ballot. You could be making history.

Jana Peterson