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State lawmakers proposing 3-into-1 county merger in central Minn.

ST. PAUL -- Three central Minnesota lawmakers are backing a measure to merge Stearns and Benton counties with a portion of Sherburne County. Lawmakers are expected to introduce a similar bill to the state House of Representatives.

The bill, introduced Monday by Sen. Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, also includes Haven Township. Rep. Larry Hosch, DFL-St. Joseph, and Rep. Larry Haws, DFL-St. Cloud, are creating a similar bill to present to the House.

According to a news release, the bill is focused at streamlining and enhancing services in central Minnesota, the only region that has a major city split into three counties and another city into two.

"With three counties in one city, two counties in another, and 47 different jurisdictions in a 30-mile radius, efficiently delivering services is something that is accomplished in spite of, rather because of, the political boundaries people in central Minnesota live with," Clark said.

"It could be a lot easier and less expensive if the three counties didn't have to spend so much energy on avoiding duplication."

Based on 2007 population figures, the proposed "Lake Wobegon County," as it has been dubbed, would have about 194,308 people, making it the seventh largest in the state.

The three lawmakers have scheduled an open meeting for noon April 4 at the Whitney Senior Center in St. Cloud to discuss the proposal.