The Park Hills Package
Building on this upswelling of a grassroots momentum, the 12-member Consolidation Charter Commission - chaired by Mark McFarland - prepared the Park Hills government and tax package that was enthusiastically approved by area residents in April 1993.
Once area residents had made it clear that consolidation was to be made a dream come true, each of the four existing cities appointed three representatives to serve on the ad hoc Consolidation Charter Commission. This ensured that no single city dominated the merger. After much research, a mayor-council form of government was selected for the new city. An addendum was placed on the ballot, however, strongly recommending that a city administrator was appointed and employed immediately.
Based on a combined total population of 7,866, the new city was divided into four wards with two councilmen to be elected from each ward. The Southeast Missouri Regional Planning Commission then was hired to help the charter commissioners map the temporary ward boundary lines to be used in the August municipal election. By contrast, the permanent ward boundaries were to be set in place, after the election results have been certified, by the Park Hills City Council.
In an effort to dispel fear and rumors, the ballot package made it clear that all employees of the four cities on November 3, 1992, and who remain in good standing on December 31, 1993, would be retained as employees for the new City of Park Hills. All appointments such as police chief, city attorney, street commissioner, municipal judge, assessor, treasurer, and city collector were made by the new city officials prior to the January 1 change-over date.
Compromises were made so that the tax rate for the new City of Park Hills did not exceed the rates currently paid in all four communities. For example, while the .91 cents per $100 assessed valuation on real property remains substantially higher than Rivermines' 30-cent rate or Esther's 61-cent levy, both Elvins and Flat River showed 1992 tax rated higher than Park Hills - $1.18 and $1.17, respectively. Other concessions were figured into the tax plan, including the elimination of a personal property tax and the city sticker.
All this hard work paid off. In April, this first, and only, consolidation package passed by a nearly seven-to-one margin in some precincts. Had the issue failed, a second package would have been presented to the voters. If at that point both measures had been rejected by the voters, the one to have received the greatest number of votes would have been considered as having passed. But clearly, this was not necessary.
The name itself, Park Hills, originated with long-time resident Mildred Lee and was accepted by the Consolidation Charter Commission. The name to receive the second greatest number of votes was Heritage Hills while many community members favored Central City in tribute to the local school district. Other names had to be changed as well. With four cities combining services of all sorts, it was discovered that three Walnut Streets existed in the consolidated area and that this was just the beginning of the duplicate street names. Between the April and August elections, an ad hoc committee was established to change the many street names mapped in more than two of the four cities. Through this consortium, the city representatives agreed to retain those street names that affected the most residents, as well as those that posed a great deal of historical significance. Compromises were again made and non-duplicate names were approved by each of the four existing city councils.