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After decades of contemplation and debate, a group known as Better Together is recommending an end to the “Great Divorce” between St. Louis and St. Louis County.Better Together is proposing an ambitious plan to create a unified metro government and police department and limit municipalities' ability to levy sales taxes. The plan would be decided through a statewide vote.Proponents contend it will scrape away layers of local government that has been holding the St. Louis region back. Opponents believe the plan will create an unwieldy and large centralized government that could be implemented against the will of city and county residents.

Better Together? St. Louis City And County Look At Reuniting

An arial photo of downtown St. Louis. Employment rose in St. Louis this year, but not as much as it did nationally.
(Flickr Creative Commons User Daniel Leininger)
An arial photo of downtown St. Louis. Employment rose in St. Louis this year, but not as much as it did nationally.

A new coalition called Better Together launched an effort today Tuesday to study whether St. Louis city and county should re-unite.

Yet coalition members were quick to explain they’re not advocating for a merger.

"We are not advocating reentry. We’re not advocating merger," said former Ambassador George Herbert Walker III, who is chairman of the group. "We’re just saying let’s get all the data together and then as a group decide what is best for St. Louis and the city of St. Louis at this time."

The city voted to become separate from the county in 1876, in what came to be called the Great Divorce.

The city later tried to reunite several times but none of those efforts were successful.

Both St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and County Executive Charlie Dooley are involved in Better Together.

Dooley insists he does not want to see a merger, but rather the city becoming another municipality in the county.

"So they come into the city just like any other city in St. Louis County. They have their own pension fund, they’re responsible for it, so it has nothing to do with St. Louis County," Dooley said.

Several officials involved in Better Together point out that the city and county’s combined 1.3 million people are served by 116 local governments.

They say the cost of funding all those governments---which include the county’s 91 municipalities---costs $2 billion a year.

The plan is to have the studies complete by early 2015.

You can follow Maria Altman on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.