CLEARFIELD – Preparations continue for a critical step in the process of the proposed consolidation of Clearfield Borough and Lawrence Township into one municipality.
At Thursday’s meeting, members of the Clearfield Borough Council had the opportunity to question members of the Clearfield/Lawrence Consolidation Committee with any concerns they may have prior to the Jan. 19 meeting of the Consolidation Committee.
Committee Co-Chairman Bill Lawhead told the council that the committee has been working “long and diligently” on the consolidation process and that the committee is asking both the borough council and the Lawrence Township Supervisors to give the possibility of consolidating the municipalities serious consideration.
For the consolidation to move forward, members of both the borough council and the supervisors have to vote in favor of the consolidation. If both municipalities approve, a question will be placed on the ballot for next year’s election for the citizens of each municipality.
“Let’s let the citizens have a voice in this,” Lawhead said.
Randy Lemmo, another member of the committee, said that all the studies conducted indicate that consolidation will work and is the best option for both municipalities. He said he hopes both boards will vote in favor of consolidation so the issue can be put on the ballot.
Council member Jim Kling had questions concerning the compensation members of the new governing board will receive if the consolidation is approved.
Kling said in the proposed home-rule charter, the members of the new council will receive $200 per month. Kling said the present council members receive $75. He said with eight members on the council, plus the mayor’s salary, the new council would be a $19,200 increase from what the borough pays now.
Kling was also concerned that the home rule charter has only one meeting per month. The council presently holds a work-session meeting and a regular meeting.
Lawhead said the committee combined the compensation from what the present council and the present supervisors are paid per meeting. Lawhead said the council members are only paid if they attend the meeting. He also said the home rule charter only specifies one meeting, but the new council can hold more meetings, if needed.
Kling was also concerned about the fire departments. He said there was recent incident where the fire departments in Clearfield and Lawrence Township were called to a large fire in Glen Richey. While the fire departments were fighting the fire, there was a traffic accident on Race Street where three children were trapped inside a vehicle.
Kling said a crew from Mahaffey responded to the call. He said if the borough and township consolidate, they will still be responsible for coverage. He asked if fire coverage should be included in the home rule charter.
Deputy Fire Chief John C. Williams said the borough’s Squad and Rescue apparatus was still at the fire station and could have responded if they had been called. However, Williams said the call was in the township and it was up to the township’s fire officers to determine who responded.
Williams said the crew from Mahaffey had been called in as a stand-by crew for the fire station in Hyde. He said it wasn’t the borough’s call so the officers in the township’s fire department sent the crew from Mahaffey since they were already there and had manpower.
Williams said if the consolidation is approved, fire protection is something that the fire chiefs will need to discuss with the County 911 Center.
“We (the fire departments) have to work together every day, whether this (the consolidation) goes through or not. That doesn’t change. No one fire department can handle every single call on their own,” Williams said. He said all fire departments are having the same problems with getting people to volunteer.
Borough Operations Manager Leslie Stott said fire coverage is not something that has to be included in the home rule charter.
Kling said he was not condemning the fire department, but he said coverage issues are already happening. He said the new municipality will be responsible for providing fire protection and they will be responsible for an area that stretches almost into Elk County as well as into state game lands.
He said the police department will have the same issues and he wanted to make sure this is something everyone is considering when making the decision whether to approve the consolidation or not.
Also at the meeting, Solicitor F. Cortez Bell III said he believes there is a problem with a meeting the consolidation committee has scheduled for Jan. 19. Bell said at that meeting, the supervisors and the council were expected to vote whether to put the consolidation on the ballot.
Bell said the meeting is to be held at the Clearfield Area Junior-Senior High School, which is in Lawrence Township. Bell said he believes the council is required to conduct all business within the confines of the borough. He said the supervisors would be allowed to vote at the Jan. 19 meeting, but the council could not.
He said he would research the problem to be sure. If he is correct, the borough could still vote on the consolidation, but it would have to be held within the borough limits. The borough voted to move their regular meeting to Jan. 26 and could act on the consolidation at that time if necessary.