Council mergers on the drawing board... again

Interior Minister Meir Shetreet has again raised the subject of merging municipalities.

Interior Minister Meir Shetreet has once again raised the subject of merging municipalities, reports Yediot Hasharon. The minister's latest plan, which was presented last week to a public committee set up to discuss the issue, proposes merging Hod Hasharon with Kfar Saba, Herzliya with Ramat Hasharon and Kfar Shmaryahu, and the South Sharon regional council with the Sharon Beach regional council. As might be expected, opinions are divided on the idea. According to the report, 344,000 residents live in the Sharon in a total area of 90,000 dunams, compared with 380,000 people on 52,000 dunams in Tel Aviv - a population density of 3.8 people per dunam in the Sharon compared with 7.3 in Tel Aviv. But the report says that while the Sharon may be greener and less crowded than Tel Aviv, it is also less efficient. In the Sharon, five city councils vie with one another "in an expensive competition," with Hod Hasharon copying Herzliya in building a private college, Kfar Saba copying Ra'anana in building a large park, and each city building its own shopping mall - or two - and its own industrial area. Proponents of the mergers said they would remove duplications and allow for the creation of an overall district plan. The report said that Hod Hasharon Mayor Hai Adiv has already expressed opposition to the idea of his city being merged with Kfar Saba, but Kfar Saba Mayor Yehuda Ben Hamo has said he is reserving judgment and is asking only that he be made a partner to any move by the Interior Ministry. Proponents of the plan point out that the two cities already share a number of facilities, including a waste purification plant and train line, and that many government offices - such as the National Insurance Institute, employment bureau, local court, tax office, and the district hospital - may be located in Kfar Saba but already cover residents of Hod Hasharon. The report said that when the small towns of Kochav Yair and Tzur Yigal were joined in the last round of mergers in 2003, the process did not always go smoothly and even now is not entirely complete. But Kochav Yair and Tzur Yigal Mayor Ya'akov Maman says he supports the merger of cities and that such a move does save considerable sums of money in the long run.