Wednesday, March 21, 2001

St. Bernard to appeal loss of city status

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ST. BERNARD — This city will appeal the U.S. Census Bureau's count, which shows it lost enough population to lose its status as a city and has become a village.

        St. Bernard has 4,924 residents in 2000, according to the official count, 76 short of the 5,000 needed. Its population in 1990 was 5,344.

        “We're all busy counting, checking records,” said Mayor Barbara Siegel. “Everybody is checking their data.”

        John Mahoney, deputy director of the Ohio Municipal League, said a handful of municipalities change their status every 10 years when the census is conducted.

        “We probably have a half-dozen municipalities which change status,” said Mr. Mahoney. Generally, he said, about four of those grow from a village into a city, while another two lose population and become villages.

        St. Bernard, though a village, could adopt a charter form of government — under which residents vote on the kind of government they want. A charter would protect and set the government, despite a population decline.

        Without a charter, a village's government structure is set by state law. St. Bernard would lose a council member, would have to elect all council members at-large rather than by wards, and would lose its board of health, the mayor said.

        “If you have a charter, then you follow the form of government that's outlined in your charter,” said Mr. Mahoney. Adopting a charter is “Plan B,” said Mr. Siegel.

        City officials have already placed Issue 5, called framing a charter, on the May 8 ballot. Residents would be asked if they wished to have a charter form of government and then to name a charter commission.

        The charter commission would draft a charter that officials hope could be voted on three months later, in August, said Mr. Siegel. But the commission would have a year to draft a charter.

        A change in status would not affect city taxes, or how much the city collects, but it could affect what money might be available from the federal and state government, the mayor said. How much, if any, hasn't been determined.


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