Marble Hill celebrates anniversary of merger

Friday, April 2, 2010

MARBLE HILL, Mo. -- Once neighbors, Marble Hill and Lutesville have been combined for 25 years now. In April 1985, voters of Marble Hill and Lutesville chose to merge the towns. In Marble Hill the vote was 128 yes; 125 no. Lutesville's voters were more inclined to approve it, with a vote of 200 yes and 43 no votes. Today marks the 25th anniversary of the merger.

Marble Hill was founded around the Bollinger County Courthouse and thus the county seat; Lutesville was centered on a railroad line.

Both towns had a downtown business district, a post office, a city government and a marshal. Each town had its identity. Each had schools until they consolidated into the Woodland School District.

They existed independently on either side of Crooked Creek. But in the early 1980s, Marble Hill applied for and received a $100,000 grant for a water tower. Around the same time, Lutesville was turned down for a grant of $500,000 for a sewer system. The cities learned they had a better chance of improving their water and sewer systems if they were combined.

"It was more or less brought about because of the economy at that time," said Marble Hill administrative assistant Gary Shrum, who is also Lutesville's last city marshal.

So in April 1984, each town began the process of establishing an enterprise zone, which was not limited by municipal boundaries but could encompass an area that needed infrastructure development.

Both began the application process, which required documenting existing industries and businesses and showing how the two cities were working together to bring in more jobs to the area.

Even with declared support of the Bollinger County Commission and the Woodland School District, the Missouri Division of Community and Economic Development turned down the requests for an enterprise zone.

The only other choice was to merge. At the time the discussions were going on, Lutesville's mayor had moved out of town. By merging, the two cities would have enough population and resources to support any grant applications (Lutesville's population was 860; Marble Hill's around 600), and would also qualify to have a city administrator form of government.

"There was a lot of resistance to that," Shrum said. "Still today when you talk to people they say we should never have done that."

"A lot of people today will ask you, 'Are you from the Lutesville or the Marble Hill side?'" said Mayor Russell Masterson.

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