CLARKSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - A southern Indiana community that bills itself as the oldest town in the old Northwest Territory is taking a look at possibly moving to city status.
Clarksville was founded in 1783 in the Northwest Territory, which included present-day Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota.
After 230 years as a town, Clarksville's City/Town Committee recently met with an attorney who helped the central Indiana town of Fishers transition to city status. That panel could send recommendations to Clarksville's town council by August on what direction the Ohio River town should take.
Town council member John Gilkey tells the News and Tribune that voters in the town of about 22,000 residents have rejected four previous referendum measures seeking city status for Clarksville. He said the key to finally getting the proposal passed will be educating voters about the benefits of moving to city status.
"A lot of people are going to look at it from, 'Well, this is the way we've always done it, I don't see a need to change,' but they haven't really explored things to the point that this committee will," Gilkey said.
Another committee member, Jim Kenney, said surveys with specific questions about different issues that come with moving from a town to a city could give the committee a better feel for what voters think about the idea.
Cary Stemle, the committee's communication officer, said it will take a lot of coordination to get information to voters, but some of that could be made available online.
Doug Church, Fishers' town attorney for the past 33 years, said there are several paths to becoming a city. He said officials need to carefully explore whether they want and whether Clarksville wants to make the move based on its size or for more practical reasons. He said town officials also should closely study a state law that pertains to municipalities' government status.
"It is wrong to think that there is some structure within the statute that actually recognizes the values, the strengths or weaknesses of being a particular category of city or town," Church said.
But in order to go from town to city status, Clarksville officials would have to get another neighboring municipality to join them, he said.
Gilkey said Clarksville might consider partnering with Sellersburg or unincorporated municipalities of Jeffersonville if that's the route officials choose.
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