Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William I. Ward Jr., March 21, 1975. Interview B-0072. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Opposition to consolidation in northern Mecklenburg County

Ward discusses why the towns of Davidson, Cornelius, and Huntersville of northern Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, were opposed to county consolidation plans in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Ward argues that because of their distance from Charlotte, the most populous area of the county, the residents of these three towns worried that rural areas would be overlooked in the distribution of resources. Nevertheless, they did see the benefits of consolidation in terms of efficiency and were considering their own consolidation, apart from that of the county at large.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William I. Ward Jr., March 21, 1975. Interview B-0072. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
I understand there's some talk under way of perhaps at least Cornelius, Davidson, and Huntersville combining government in some way.
WILLIAM I. WARD, JR.:
Yes. To distinguish from consolidation…Perhaps about two years are, some of the people in the northern part of the county, extreme northern part, considered the possibility of seeing whether it would be wise to form one municipality. The study has been made. Number one, well, I think we have three possibilities. One was the strip unification of Davidson, Cornelius, and Huntersville. Davidson and Cornelius being contiguous and there being a several-mile span between Cornelius, gap between Cornelius and Huntersville. Whether to have a strip municipality, or whether to attempt to have one municipality in the northern part of the county beginning [unclear] roughly at North Mecklenburg High School and going northward, or whether to have a lease federation or, perhaps, a utility district consolidation. That study has been completed. The report has been made to, I guess you'd call it a de facto group that was created about two years ago called the North Mecklenburg Association and also to the three twon boards. I do not think as of yet there's been any official reaction from the three twon boards nor from the Association. Perhaps that will come in the next few weeks.
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
I'm interested in why the interest among the three towns in the possibility of some type of consolidation whereas that area went so overwhelmingly against the proposal to consolidate the whole county government.
WILLIAM I. WARD, JR.:
Yes. The…Those who…Perhaps there is some feeling that if they have one municipality in the northern part of the county they will avoid a consolidation of city and county government in the future. Many of us have told them that that is not true, and those who are realistic about it and actually know the facts know that that would not really prohibit consolidation or keep them from being included in consolidation of city and county. Davidson realises that they must upgrade their sewerage system by 1980-81 if it continues to grow and must have more capacity. They must meet higher standards, have a manned sewage disposal system that will have a greater capacity than what it has now. Cornelius is in… [unclear] , it has [unclear] a sewage system that is must be…and I think they are operating now I think, on borrowed time. They must have a sewage system that is updated now, but they're getting by simply by grace of the authority. So, they are up against it. Huntersville, I think, is in some-what the situation that Davidson's found itself in. They realise that the three together can cooperate in certain ways, and already some of them are cooperating with police departments. Particularly Davidson and Cornelius with contiguous boundaries. It doesn't make sense for them to each have a separate police department and separate water systems and separate utility and electric system, separate schools. They could put it all together and perhaps be more efficient. The people who live outside the three towns recognize that with growing development particularly in the lake area it would be advisable to have a sewage disposal system and the 201 plan only provides the main sewer lines. There will have to be connecting laterals to get many of the new residential developments on the lake to the main sewer lines that will be provided by the 201 plan. Then, if they were all in one community, Davidson has really a superior pumping system and water mains have a large line underneath I 77, as perhaps does Huntersville. They can provide water to the [unclear] easily. If the two systems, really three systems were put together with a connection [unclear] 115 between Huntersville and Cornelius, the water could be provided more easily to the area. Police protection is something that they, the rural residents of north Mecklenburg outside of the three towns find deficient. One county policeman is assigned to the northern part of the county. He does not stay there. He's simply on call. They have found that it takes a very long time to get that county policeman on call when an altercation takes place. Many of the residents feel that they don't really have police protection. Many of them, many of the property owners, large property owners are interested in getting into a municipality that's oriented towards North Mecklenburg to get adequate police protection. Also garbage disposal. People are throwing their trash beside the road. This makes for the roadside outside the municipalities a right bad appearance.
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
I guess really what I'm asking…A lot of these services seem to be ones which maybe would have been provided and, perhaps, would have been provided quicker under consolidated government than under this.
WILLIAM I. WARD, JR.:
The people…I can answer that. The people in the northern part of the county…Some of those areas are more than twenty miles from Charlotte. They do not feel with their small population compared with the Charlotte population and the representation that they would have that they would be treated in reality any differently from the way that they are treated now. Consolidation of city and county is no answer for them. I have felt that that is true. It is natural for it to be that way.
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
They would be ignored?
WILLIAM I. WARD, JR.:
They would be ignored. We feel that…There's a county police department, now. If only one policeman is assigned to that area and he is not physically in that area, how is that going to change with consolidation? You might consolidate city and county police departments, but we rather doubt that we'd have any more police protection in the rural areas than we have now. So, the feeling has been that we would gain perhaps nothing by that. There was an element on the faculty at Davidson College, perhaps because of education, a certain relationship they feel with people in Charlotte, that they would be able to throw their weight around enough to get the services up there. Perhaps they would. Perhaps the college itself would. So you found…There was a vote in Deweese #1 among the college people that favored consolidation of city and county, whereas the rural people and the people in Cornelius and Huntersville voted heavily, I think, against consolidation. Perhaps the people at Davidson College would have been able to influence consolidated government sufficiently. I don't know. I think that that is really what underlay the heavier vote in Deweese #1 for consolidation of city and county government.