By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Two Warren County communities bordering Middletown were taking the first steps toward a merger Tuesday.
In early returns, Franklin city and Franklin Township residents were approving formation of a commission to study a merger. The issue was leading with 75 percent approval in the city, and 59 percent approval in the township, with 49 percent of precincts reporting unofficial results.
The 10-member commission has nine months to either assemble a comprehensive merger proposal which would be placed before voters next November, or to recommend against a merger.
It is the second time in 15 years the issue would be studied here. Franklin residents approved a recommendation to merge - but the township rejected it - in 1988, before Middletown annexed Towne Mall and all development at the I-75/Ohio 122 interchange.
Merger talks rekindled this year after Middletown annexed the new Fenwick High School site in the township's Hunter community.
"There is no question this is the most important vote in the history of the township since 1988," said Trustee Rupert Ruppert. "The economic vitality rests on the issue being decided today."
Township and city officials cautioned that Tuesday's vote was only to examine a possible merger. Campaign signs stated: "Vote yes. It's only a study."
A merger would nearly double Franklin's 11,200 population, and triple its size. The 25-square-mile township exists in three chunks - west of Franklin near Carlisle; along Pennyroyal Road north of the I-75/Ohio 73 interchange; and south of Franklin to Hunter.
"This is an issue that needs to be studied. For years we've seen bits and pieces of Franklin Township nibbled off by neighboring cities," said Franklin Mayor Greg Sample.
In other Warren County issues, early returns showed Lebanon voters approving an additional 5.5-mill fire levy for a second fire station, which would be built off Nelson Road. The five-year levy was being approved 51 percent to 48 percent, with 68 percent of precincts reporting unofficial results.
Hamilton Township's five-year, 2.5-mill police replacement levy was passing, 64 percent to 35 percent, with 41 percent of precincts reporting results.
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