CLEARFIELD – Discussion about the proposed consolidation of Lawrence Township and Clearfield Borough topped last night’s township supervisors meeting with representatives of the joint committee speaking and a representative of the township fire companies expressing concerns about the proposal.
Brian Lytle, Randy Lemmo, Alan Walker and Jim Moyer came to address any questions or concerns and also asked the supervisors to vote in the affirmative for consolidation in January so that it will be on the ballot for voters in May.
Both the supervisors and borough council must vote to consolidate in order for the matter to be presented to the voters for the final decision.
Walker added that they could see the benefits from the consolidation of St. Marys and Benzinger Township forming the City of St. Marys. He said the taxes would be reasonable and consolidation would open the door to bring industry to the area.
The board then heard from Jeremy Ruffner, who attended the meeting with two other township firefighters to express concerns about the role of the fire companies in the consolidation.
He reminded the supervisors and committee members that the borough owns all of the equipment for the fire department and pays the bills while the three companies in the township—Hyde, Mill Road and Glen Richey—own their buildings and most of their equipment. He asked what the plan was for the structure of the fire companies for the proposed municipality.
Supervisor Bill Lawhead, who is also on the committee, said representatives of the fire companies told the committee they wanted things left alone until after everything else was settled. One reason is the debt of two of the township companies.
However, he emphasized several times throughout the conversation that the funding for the fire companies will not change. “The committee at no time completely ignored the fire companies,” Lawhead added.
Lytle also added that the millage rate enacted by the township for the fire companies was taken into account when structuring the budget for the new municipality and would remain.
The township has 16 mills in taxes, which is close to the limit the township can enact. There are also two other millages enacted under separate guidelines, and one of those was designated for the fire companies.
Lawhead and Lytle also noted a position was suggested in the joint agreement that would be a part-time position to oversee certain things within the fire companies, including maintenance records, serving as a contact person and so on.
Ruffner expressed concern that they would not be able to hire a well-qualified person for the position if it is only part-time. Lawhead responded that it would be up to the new council, but the committee had thought of the position as being one that would eventually become a full-time one.
Secretary Barbara Shaffner, who is also on the committee, added that the council would need to meet with the four chiefs and discuss what qualifications they would want for such a position.
The committee members agreed there are things that will still need to be worked out, and if the referendum passes, there will be three years to work on much of the questions.
If both municipalities pass the measure in January, it will then go to the voters on the May ballot. If it passes there, then the joint committee and municipalities will begin addressing various concerns towards consolidation. In November of 2019, a new city council will be elected and the new government will begin operation in January of 2020.
The supervisors then moved onto the rest of the meeting and several items were discussed.
The advertised budget for 2017, which includes no tax increase, was approved by the supervisors.
Roadmaster Ron Woodling reminds residents they cannot park on the township right-of-way during snow storms because it interferes with plowing. He added there is an ordinance in place regarding this and it will be enforced.
Someone was recently seen taking salt from the township storage and loading it into a private vehicle. Woodling said it appeared to be salt swept from the ground, but the supervisors are concerned it will happen again and approved erecting cameras the township already has to deter further theft.
Eric Rowles, a resident of Proud Road, spoke to the supervisors about Waroquier Coal trucks using the road and tearing it up. Lawhead noted the company was to have entered the road from Lawrence Grange road and then continue into the mining site.
Rowles said the company has used the entire road numerous times. Woodling said a letter was sent to the company about the matter and they responded and asked him how they could help fix it.
He said they would need one to two truck loads of gravel come spring, and the township would then use the gravel to fix the road, and Waroquier Coal agreed. Lawhead suggested Woodling also go and document the condition of the road and take pictures.