CUYAHOGA COUNTY -- There are 59 communities including cities, villages and townships in Cuyahoga County. Critics say that's too many and too much redundant government.
Now, with the help of Cuyahoga County, leaders in four communities are actively studying a possible merger.
Mayors of Pepper Pike, Moreland Hills, Orange and Woodmere believe it is likely a study will find that a merger makes good economic sense.
Looming cuts in the state budget and removal of the estate tax heighten the economic logic of this.
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, who has been touting collaboration and cooperation between government, appeared with the mayors to launch the effort.
State law sets out a specific process that must be followed.
The County Planning Commission will crunch numbers on the possible merits of a merger.
If a decision is made to go to the next step, voters would be asked to approve a move to establish a merger commission to prepare a report. That could happen in November 2012.
If a merger plan is put before voters, it would be in November 2013 with a new merged community becoming a reality in January 2014.
Mayors Bruce Akers, Kathy Mulcahy, Susan Renda and Charles Smith claim voters don't care which city's name is on the side of vehicles as long as they get good service.
Woodmere's Mayor Charles Smith pledged the small community's identity would not swallowed up in a merger.
FitzGerald had appointed former state lawmaker Ed Jerse to work on collaborative, cost-saving initiatives like this.
The four communities have almost 12,000 citizens and a combined budget of about $20 million.
Three of the four communities were once part of an earlier township that split into different entities.
The mayors have been talking about this on their own. An earlier study was done by Baldwin Wallace to identify merger benefits. Hunting Valley, instead of Woodmere, was in that analysis.
FitzGerald thanked the mayors for their political courage and hoped this step might be an example for other possible merger discussions.