In the first major progress that administrative reform has seen in years, four southern municipalities surrounding the town of Viljandi shook hands on a merger this weekend.
The four municipalities - Viiratsi, Pärsti, Paistu and Saarepeedi – agreed to merge during local elections next year into a single Viljandi municipality, reported ETV. With a combined 10,000 residents, the new municipality will become one of the largest in the country, but Viljandi itself, which is administratively a city and has a population of 20,000, will not join the municipality until the distant future.
Providing for an interesting case study on political activeness, only 143 people showed up to vote on the decision for the new municipality, which passed with 100 votes.
The city of Viljandi plans to merge with its surrounding rural area by 2017 at the latest.
"It seems we have chosen the right path by allowing these four municipalities that face similar conditions to negotiate and merge. After that the town and the large municipality will in turn begin talks,“ said Viljandi city council chairman Tarmo Loodus.
Opponents of the merger were initially skeptical over the larger debt that some municipalities had incurred, but officials said they realized that those municipalities also have less work to be done.
Officials said they hope to cut down on bureaucracy and for greater efficiency in the areas of social outreach and construction. The biggest investment will be in roads.
"Our priority is that 20 kilometers of gravel roads be repaired within a year. But last year a total of only five kilometers of roads were fixed up by the four independent municipalities,“ said Kaupo Kase, head of the Viiratsi municipal council.