The city of Cleveland needs to compile a massive amount of information before it can decide whether to pursue a possible annexation, merger with or marriage to financially-strapped East Cleveland.
Council members started discussing their concerns in a Monday caucus session.
Council President Kevin Kelley said the city must get a handle on the city's finances, liabilities and infrastructure.
Kelley stressed that a merger would require million of dollars from the State of Ohio or other source to cover the cost of needed repairs and capital improvements in East Cleveland.
Once Cleveland Council would decide to appoint three members to a joint panel with East Cleveland appointees to study the issue, there would be 30 days to collect needed information, according to a blueprint drawn up by East Cleveland.
"You can't do it in 30 days, " Kelley said.
Cleveland residents are already expressing concerns about a possible merger.
Council Mike Polensek said his constituents are worried assuming East Cleveland's problems would hurt already deficient services in Cleveland.
"We can't deliver the kind of quality services we need to now...By taking responsibility for East Cleveland, what does that do? Pull us both down, " he asked.
Councilman Kevin Conwell's Glenville community borders East Cleveland.
He is getting the same residents' message.
"You can't even talk with them about merging with East Clevland until you build up Ward 9, make it a better place, " Conwell said.
All council members want to make sure they get a complete and accurate picture of how the merger would impact Cleveland and it's residents.
Councilman Zack Reed believes combining would ultimately be to the betterment of both cities, but agrees thorough information is needed.
"You can't let East Cleveland continue to wander out there in the wilderness. Cleveland has a responsibility to the region, " Reed said.
Cleveland is still waiting for East Cleveland Council to submit its resolution appointing panel members and terms to keep the process going.
Cleveland could begin gathering it's information before that happens, thereby getting more time for the study.
It's likely an accountant, engineer and lawyer will be among panel appointees.
The decision to merge or not would have to be approved by voters in both cities.
Meantime East Cleveland residents will have a December recall election deciding whether to keep their mayor and council president who are merger supporters as the long annexation drama plays out.