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Three-County Merger Proposed for St. Cloud

A state senator from St. Cloud, Minn., introduced a bill on Tuesday that would merge three counties around the city, the Star Tribune reported.

Sen. Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, introduced legislation to merge Stearns and Benton counties and part of Sherburne County, which would put St. Cloud, currently divided by three counties, into a single county, the Star Tribune reported.

Rep. Larry Haws, DFL-St. Cloud, and Rep. Larry Hosch, DFL-St. Joseph, are in support of the bill, which carries the provisional name "Lake Wobegon County," but have not introduced any legislation in the state House, the Pioneer Press reported.

The idea is not new, but several officials in the affected counties have concerns about a merger, as they said that the process of integrating laws, services, and government of three counties would be costly, the St. Cloud Times reported.

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis said that benefits to a merger include proposal would make law enforcement more efficient in the long run, the St. Cloud Times reported.

The legislators view the legislation as leading to dialogue about the merger, the Pioneer Press reported.

Governor Tim Pawlenty has proposed the creation of 15 regional centers for human services, rather than the current 87 county centers, the St. Cloud Times reported.

Although several Minnesota cities are split between two counties, St. Cloud is the only one divided by three, the Pioneer Press reported. A public meeting to discuss the issue will take place on April 4 in St. Cloud.