LTE: Municipal Merger

Dear Editor:

I believe the merger of local government entities would be extremely beneficial to our area of Clearfield Borough and Lawrence Township.

The merging of local governments occurred in Elk County. St. Marys and Benzinger Township merged into the City of St. Marys with good results. However, I would like to address Supervisor William Lawhead’s three major obstacles.

  1. Both entities need to stop managing the sewage system. In addition, the Clearfield Municipal Authority (CMA) needs to take over.

Currently, Lawrence Township is upgrading its sewer system due to a mandate from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Clearfield Borough has updated its sewer system.

When the DEP mandates are met and the sewer systems of both entities pass DEP muster, then and only then could the CMA take over.  If the CMA would chose to “take over” the systems, there would need to be some budgetary adjustments among the involved entities.

Both Clearfield Borough and Lawrence Township have budgeted for sewer system expenses.  These “sewer” dollars (possible manpower and defiantly dollar amounts) should be removed from their budgets.

Either a tax rate reduction or sewer funding should be directed to the CMA. The CMA would be incurring substantial increases in parts and labor due to being responsible for a much larger system.

The Clearfield Borough and Lawrence Township governments should not be allowed to keep the “sewer” funds and redirect them to other things while causing the CMA to raise rates to cover the larger system.  If allowed, this would amount to a hidden tax increase.

  1. The three Lawrence Township fire departments need to merge with Clearfield Borough’s fire department.
  2. The Lawrence Township and Clearfield Borough police departments also need to merge forces.

The four Clearfield fire departments officially merged into one with a centrally located fire station in January of 2009.  The Lawrence Township fire departments operate as three, separate entities with three, separate locations.

The separate locations for the current fire stations should not be the question. These separate locations are to reduce response times and to keep insurance rates lower.

The fire departments, however, are funded differently by each local government.  This would need to be addressed and clarified in the event of a municipal merger.

It is my opinion that expenses for fire suppression should be paid for by the local government.  The expenses to operate a fire department should not be another burden on the volunteers, just as that for the police department should not be the responsibility of the police officers.

With that being said, merging the fire departments and police forces should not be viewed as an obstacle. If Clearfield Borough and Lawrence Township merge, their fire and police protection should be grouped and merged into one.

However, a partial merger of either fire or police protection should not be attempted.  A merger of only parts of the system would cause those services to be guinea pigs for partial mergers. If Clearfield Borough and Lawrence Township did not merge or chose separate ways, what would happen to the fire and police protection?

Those services would be forced to approach two, separate local governments for funding and guidance. Police would have some leverage, as they are represented by a union body.  However, the volunteer fire service would have nothing to bargain with.

The partial merger scenario of service would only be a disaster waiting to happen. A complete merger of both Clearfield Borough and Lawrence Township governments should be the only scenario contemplated.

You need to put all of the egos and temperaments aside and do what is best for all of the constituents who elected you.

Ed Heberling

Clearfield

 

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