Merger: A tale of two reactions


Officials with the City of Westerville and Harlem Township made presentations on a potential merger last week, and there were decidedly different responses from their constituents.

The merger announcement was made in late February, and representatives from both sides said much work needed to be done. After making presentations, there would be votes from the Harlem Township Board of Trustees and Westerville City Council on whether to move forward. If both entities vote yes by a two-thirds majority, they will then craft a merger agreement, which outline services and other matters. That would also require a vote by the entities. If the agreement to merger was approved, it would then go to the voters in the November election. There, both municipalities would have to approve the merger agreement by majority vote.

It’s worth noting that a merger isn’t the same as an annexation, since Harlem and Westerville aren’t contiguous. However, it was explained that Harlem was seeking the merger to avoid annexation by communities interested only in development due to the nearby Intel plant, and not in preserving the township’s rural nature.

In Westerville, the first of three readings on the merger took place at the City Council meeting on March 5. Westerville City Manager Monica Dupee and Harlem Trustee Carl Richison spoke in favor of the merger in a brief presentation before a full council chamber at City Hall.

“We all want what’s best for all our residents,” said Westerville Mayor Kenneth L. Wright.

Council changed its public comment portion of the meeting for the three readings, having comments about anything other than the merger first. After each reading of the merger, the public could then speak. Nine people commented, and it was as Dupee said during her presentation, “sentiment appears to be good to neutral.”

The next evening, a second township presentation on the merger took place at the Harlem Road Church. Hundreds filled the worship space to hear from Richison and other Harlem representatives. At least three dozen Harlem residents had questions for the officials, and many were critical of the merger. Some said they felt “blindsided” by the announcement.

A common question was why Westerville was selected as a strategic partner for the merger, and it was said that other nearby unidentified communities were approached, but they did not meet the criteria that Harlem required to move forward.

Assistant Editor Gary Budzak photographs and reports on stories in eastern Delaware County and surrounding areas.

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