Clearfield-Lawrence Committee Answers Public’s Questions on Proposed Consolidation

GANT News collected questions from members of the general public regarding the proposed consolidation of Clearfield Borough and Lawrence Township into the “Municipality of Clearfield.”

The questions were submitted to members of the Clearfield-Lawrence Joint Consolidation Committee to review and answer. The questions and answers are provided below.

Municipality of Clearfield

After review from the borough and township solicitors, it was agreed to step away from the title of “City” of Clearfield and instead adopt the title of “Municipality of Clearfield.” 

There was fear that the term “city,” which was being used in name only, would cause confusion at some point in terms of recognition and classification situations by state or federal government entities. 

The necessary changes to the title of the consolidated government have been made in the relevant documents, but all other language remains unchanged.    

In 2007, a study indicated there were three feasibility studies prior to it.  Why has consolidation not taken place in prior years? What has changed since the last feasibility study? 

The idea of a consolidation has been discussed a handful of times over the last few decades.  Prior to the current process, there was always a barrier or two that existed in each case. 

For example: There is a financial reality to this process.  A $100,000 grant obtained through DCED took that burden off of the borough and township this time. 

Prior discussions hit roadblocks on various issues, such as wanting a particular name for the new consolidated entity or wanting to regionalize only the police departments.

The members of the current committee have remained open-minded, patient and motivated by the big picture of a proactive, long-term vision for the stability of the community of Clearfield.

Also, the Early Intervention Report completed as part of this process projects financial difficulties where both entities will be running deficits and without a fund balance within a handful of years. 

Those financial realities are not here yet but will be very soon. Both are in stable financial situations currently, which make this an ideal time to discuss consolidation where one entity is not seen as having to “rescue” the other but that picture will change soon.

What was the process for selecting members for the Clearfield-Lawrence Consolidation Committee?

The grant money had to be secured first and then a committee of residents from the community was assembled. These positions are voluntary and members have put countless hours into meetings, research and discussions.

An attempt was made to ensure that the committee had equal representation from the borough and township.  The experience and base of knowledge of the members is diverse. 

They live in the township and work in the borough or vice versa. They own businesses in this community.  They grew up in Clearfield and are raising families in this community now. 

Some have prior experience in a consolidation process.  Some members served or are serving as elected officials. Some members are very familiar with the day-to-day operations of the township and borough. 

Some members are early in their professional careers and have ideas, energy and enthusiasm to offer.  Others have reached retirement age and have decades of experience and stories from the past. 

In both cases, the members have a shared desire to see Clearfield grow and prosper for future generations that will live here.

Where does each committee member reside at? How many reside in Clearfield Borough? How many reside in Lawrence Township?

The committee has 13 members. The committee is composed of six residents of Lawrence Township and seven residents of the Clearfield Borough.

  • Mark Breakey, lives in township; works in borough, finance
  • Bill Lawhead, co-chair, lives in township; semi-retired and works in township; township supervisor
  • Randy Lemmo, lives in township; works in borough, insurance
  • Brian Lytle, co-chair, lives in borough; works in township; borough councilman
  • Joan McMillen, lives in borough; works in borough; former Clearfield County Commissioner
  • Jim Moyer, lives in borough; owns business in township; former mayor/police department
  • Jim Schell, lives in borough; business/mayor/police department, fire department member
  • Barbara Schaffner, lives in borough; works in township; Lawrence Township secretary
  • Joan Shimmel, lives in borough; owns business in borough, real estate
  • Leslie Stott, lives in borough; works in borough; Borough Operations Manager
  • Terry Struble, lives in township; works in township; Superintendent, Clearfield Area School District
  • Alan Walker, lives in township; works in Bradford Township, business/economic development
  • Jeff Williams, lived in township; retired Clearfield Municipal Authority; fire department member

What was the process for establishing the electoral districts for the proposed “City of Clearfield?”

State law requires that each district have similar populations. Census numbers within certain smaller pre-established boundaries provide the data that must be used to determine those overall numbers of a district. 

After a great deal of deliberation, the concept being offered is that four districts will extend from the downtown core to the outer boundaries of the current township. 

Each district will contain a wedge of urban downtown and extend into rural areas of the township on the outer edges.

This ensures that each district has similar make-up rather than an urban core district that would differ greatly from multiple rural districts that might surround the downtown.

The boundaries of a previous borough and township would dissolve.   

What is the approximate population of each electoral district in the proposed “City of Clearfield?”

The four proposed districts have populations of 3,398, 3,468, 3,478 and 3,552. 

Can you provide a detailed map and explanation of the new electoral boundaries for the proposed “City of Clearfield?”

(Provided image)

(Provided image)

If the consolidation gains approval, what would the salaries be for the new mayor, council members and any other officials? Please provide a complete list.

The following is taken directly from Page 5 of the Home Rule Charter…

Section 206—Compensation

(a) City Council shall, by ordinance, establish the initial monthly compensation of the Mayor, President of Council and each Council Member as follows:

(1) Mayor $250.00.

(2) Council Member $200.00.

(3) The President of Council shall receive an additional $50.00.

(b) A Council Member or the Mayor shall attend at least one regular or special meeting during a calendar month to be compensated, otherwise, said Council Member or Mayor shall forfeit their monthly compensation.

(c) City Council may, by ordinance, provide for the adjustment of the compensation received by the Mayor, Council Members or the President of Council except that any such adjustment shall:

(1) Not be greater than ten percent (10%) at any one time, provided that, City

Council may approve an amount greater than ten percent (10%) upon the

affirmative approval of six (6) members of City Council;

(2) Not be made more than once every two years;

(3) Not be effective during an elected official’s term of office; and

(4) Be approved by City Council no later than February 1st of the year prior to the adjustment becoming effective.

(d) The Mayor and all Council Members shall receive no other compensation, direct or indirect, for the performance of their duties. They shall not participate in any employee

pension plans or insurance programs for the benefit of City employees or other forms of fringe benefits; provided that, nothing in this subsection shall preclude the City from

providing errors and omissions insurance or liability insurance coverage for all members of City Council when on municipal business or in the performance of their official duties.

(e) The Mayor and all Council Members shall be entitled to reimbursement for reasonable expenses incurred in the performance of their duties as subject to the provisions of the City’s Administrative Code.

If approved, would any existing employees – full-time or part-time – lose their jobs?

It is the recommendation of the committee that all full-time employees will be maintained. With the consolidation of services, and therefore, better schedule coordination, it is anticipated that some, but not all, of the part-time employment hours will be reduced. 

Those hours in the police department alone are estimated to result in $150,000 annual savings. It is also anticipated that pending retirements that will occur between now and the time that the consolidated government goes into effect (Jan. 6, 2020) that current part-time officers could be serving as full-time officers by that time. 

If the municipalities are consolidated, what would be the process for selecting/filling management positions?

Positions would be advertised, interviews would be conducted and hiring would be done by the elected officials.

Has the committee already selected a city manager or would this position be advertised, if the consolidation is approved?

Positions would be advertised, interviews would be conducted and hiring would be done by the elected officials.

In regards to police departments, what would be the process for selecting a new chief, assistant chief, sergeants, etc., if the municipal consolidation is approved?

Positions would be advertised, interviews would be conducted and hiring would be done by the elected officials.  However, if union contracts dictate any portion of that process, it must and will be honored.

In regards to police and street crew pensions, the township pensions are underfunded and the borough pensions are sustained.  How would this be handled, if the consolidation is approved?

Under a consolidated government, there would no longer be separate borough and township pensions.  That shortfall must be addressed through the budget.     

Who served on the consolidation committee to represent the surrounding fire departments? What knowledge did he/she possess regarding current fire department operations?  When was the last time, if ever, he/she responded to an emergency incident?  Also, if applicable, please list the fire department the member is from.

Past and present members of the fire department are on the committee, including Jim Schell and Jeff Williams. 

More importantly, the larger committee also served as members of more concentrated sub-committees, such as public works, authorities, administrative, police and fire. 

These subcommittees sought input from individuals who are currently involved in the day-to-day operations in those particular areas. 

The fire department sub-committee consisted of Jim Schell, Jeff Williams, Joan McMillen and a representative each from Clearfield Borough Fire Department, Hyde, Mill Road and Glen Richey. 

A report was submitted by the fire sub-committee to document concerns and suggestions that were discussed. 

How are you planning to consolidate the municipalities (i.e., road crew) and police departments and not the fire departments?  By not consolidating fire companies (i.e., Station No. 1, 5, 6 and 7), how would they operate and receive state and federal funding?

It is widely agreed that the current departments are in important/strategic locations and that none of those locations should be eliminated. There is a degree of specialization that already occurs in some cases and it is planned for that to continue. 

The amount of funding received from state and federal should remain the same because the land area, number of departments, etc., will remain unchanged. 

It is being proposed that a position of public safety officer be created and they will have the responsibility of certifying equipment, scheduling inspections/maintenance of the vehicles, assisting in the strategic planning of long-term public safety goals, coordinating responses during disasters, etc.

By becoming the City of Clearfield, you have taken away the boundaries of Lawrence Township and Clearfield Borough. Currently, each department responds via a set of boundaries put in place by Clearfield 911.  You are essentially setting each department up for arguments over territory and how each department responds. What “plan” does the consolidation committee have as far as fire department names?  Are you going to consolidate both police departments to become – The City of Clearfield Police – yet still going to have – Lawrence Township Fire Department and Clearfield Borough Fire Department?

The titles of township and borough will disappear with the consolidation. We live and interact as a community of “Clearfield” and the new government would reflect that reality in title, as well. 

There would be a Clearfield Fire Department just as there is a Clearfield Police Department, and both would protect and serve the community of Clearfield. 

The fire departments are made up of individuals who volunteer to protect the residents of the entire community of Clearfield. They respond to calls regardless of the “territory” if they are called to that location by County 911. 

The outer boundaries of Lawrence Township will remain the boundaries of the Municipality of Clearfield. Those individuals in the chain of command qualified to coordinate with 911 to establish the response process will work to update any changes necessary in the area of the former borough/township line. 

However, the locations of the current stations are recommended to remain unchanged and the amount of area that needs to be covered remains unchanged. Therefore, a majority of the process should remain familiar unless those in the fire department chain of command determine any major changes should occur. 

Those response boundaries will be coordinated by emergency management/fire department officials.  Most members of the committee do not have the necessary qualifications or desire to be involved in dictating those procedures, just as current borough or township officials have limited input in those details.

If approved and the two municipalities become the City of Clearfield, how would these “separate” fire departments receive funding?

Currently, Clearfield Borough Fire Department is paid for via the borough residents’ tax dollars. The department has not needed to fundraise (i.e. boot drives, gun raffles or bingo) as it has a budget. Their facility has electric, water, sewage, cable and Internet, all paid for again by the taxpayer.

The Lawrence Township fire departments all struggle to pay for their services – water, sewage, heat, etc.  They receive a check each year from the Lawrence Township BOS for approximately $10,000 to cover bills, which hardly covers operational costs.

Secondly, all borough fire apparatus and equipment are owned by Clearfield Borough. This includes buildings, apparatus, air packs, tools, etc. 

Buildings for the Lawrence Township fire companies are owned by the members themselves and not the township. One department is a 501(c)3 and the others are not. Essentially, all the Lawrence Township Supervisors own are the apparatus.  Almost all of the equipment on the fire trucks was purchased by fundraising of the members and not with help from the municipality.  

What is the fire committee’s plan for providing equal funding to all departments and ensuring one department is not favored over the others?

The Clearfield Borough Department does fundraise through the fair booth and other fundraisers throughout the year.

Elected officials will designate a budget to be spent on the Clearfield Fire Department.  Elected officials, along with the public safety officer and fire chiefs, would determine the priorities on an annual basis.

The consolidation committee had placed in the charter the need for a Public Safety coordinator, or as some may call a fire administrator.  What prerequisites are required to apply for this job? And, if employed by the City of Clearfield, how would this employee interact with the “separate” fire agencies?  What office would this employee work out of and what responsibilities or power would that employee hold? 

The public safety official position is an outcome of the Fire Sub-committee meetings. The following statement is taken from the Fire Sub-committee report dated Feb. 23, 2016:

“All fire departments should report to a part-time employee that coordinates equipment and regulations.  This person will be responsible to keep all maintenance records on all equipment and make sure that each station is maintained to the highest standard.  This person will also be expected to be the contact person for any dealing with reporting to the PA Fire Marshal.  In a cooperative chart, this employee will be under public safety and ultimately the Manager.”

The members of the Fire Sub-committee will be tasked with creating the recommended specific duties of the new position.  The position would be advertised, interviews would be conducted and the individual would be designated by the elected officials.

In regards to Public Works, has the consolidation committee consulted with union representatives concerning street crew and police? 

All union agreements that have been signed must be honored.  In the transition period, the employees of each department will work together and vote on which union to be a part of.  Both police departments are already with the Teamsters.  Currently, the Public Works departments differ and would need to vote on union affiliation. 

Under section 508 of the final consolidation agreement, it states that the city manager has the power to appoint, promote, discipline, etc., all city employees.   Do you think this is too much power for one person and should be left to the discretion of the street crew, foreman and chief of police?

As in all organizations, there is an established chain of command.  Ultimately, the act of hiring, firing and discipline will be overseen and approved by the elected officials as it occurs now.  The elected officials will hire a city manager and designate heads of departments to carry on the day-to-day operations. 

The discussions that occurred in the public meetings concerning the responsibilities of a city manager and heads of departments made it clear that the final responsibilities should rest with elected officials in coordination with the day-to-day individuals. 

If the purpose of consolidation is to cut costs, etc., and there won’t be any job losses, how does duplicating services between Lawrence Township and Clearfield Borough save money?

The idea is to consolidate services and better coordinate them so that duplicate, unnecessary expenses are minimized or eliminated. 

Operating costs will continue to rise and revenue to the township and borough remain stagnate.  Therefore, eventually both governments will be forced to make decisions about whether to raise taxes to meet expenses or to eliminate services in the form of police positions, public works positions, etc. 

Realistically, it will probably be a combination of both. If the waste of heating, insuring and maintaining multiple buildings can be eliminated, it will stretch the current budget further and therefore delaying and minimizing the amount of tax increases in the future. 

Likewise, there is likely duplicate equipment between the township and borough inventory.  When those pieces meet end-of-life, they may not need to be replaced if it is a duplicate. 

The committee is recommending that all full-time workers be kept on board through the consolidation.  Years from now, if the better coordination of schedules and equipment permits the same level of services with fewer expenses, positions may be able to be absorbed through attrition. 

This is a model used with the school district, and while employees experienced a period of adjustment, the district has established a new effective, more efficient model of operation.

Can you explain the debt owed to the Clearfield County Fair Board for the purchase of land in 1988 and how that would be handled if the consolidation goes through?  

A management agreement exists between the borough and the Fair Board for the area known as the “Driving Park.”  The money being referenced is often referred to as “paper debt.”  It is an amount that does not show up on any financial statement.  As long as this management agreement remains as it is, no money will be due to Fair Board. 

How would the Lawrence Township and Clearfield Borough codes be consolidated? Would entirely new codes be created for the new municipality, if approved?

There are obvious differences that exist between densely populated areas like downtown, Goldenrod or East End versus more rural areas of the township.  Those differences would be taken into consideration as ordinances were updated.  The timeframe and process is addressed in the Joint Agreement.

Section 902—Continuation of Ordinances

All ordinances, resolutions, rules and regulations in force when this Charter takes effect shall continue in force and effect until amended, repealed or superseded or expired by their own terms, and shall continue to apply within the territorial limits of the former Borough of Clearfield and former Township of Lawrence, respectively. Council shall, within eighteen (18) months of the Effective Date of this Charter, repeal and replace all of the said existing ordinances and resolutions of the Borough and Township with ordinances and resolutions that shall be effective throughout the territorial limits of the Municipality, except that the time for adopting a zoning ordinance shall be extended to four (4) years of the Effective Date of this Charter.

The big question is in regards to taxes.   Can you provide a scenario for millage based upon these incomes?

Ultimately, elected officials will need to set a tax rate.  For the purposes of the Consolidation Committee, analysis assumed a consolidated municipality resident will see an earned income tax rate of .5 percent and a property tax mill rate of 18. 

Using these two rates, neither the residents of the borough or township would realize a tax increase above their current rates. 

For comparison purposes the levels of 18 and 25 mill rates are provided, which are the current levels in the borough and township. 

Tax-Assessed Property Value $5,000 $10,000 $20,000 $30,000
25 Mills $125 $250 $500 $750
18 Mills $90 $180 $360 $540
  $35 $70 $140 $210

As a reference, the average residential tax-assessed property value in 2016 in the township is $8,949.  The average residential tax-assessed property value in 2016 in the borough is $9,563.                                     

If the proposed consolidation is not approved, what is the financial outlook for both municipalities? Are there any other viable options other than consolidation?

Both municipalities are in a stable financial position at this moment but the Early Intervention Program study projects that each government will have gone through its fund balance within five years. 

Costs will continue to rise in future years and both governments will have to make decisions on how to balance their budgets.  That will mean an increase in taxes or a decrease in police and public works services. 

It is believed that a combined government can best address the desire to control tax increases and maintain the current level of services.   

This is a perfect time to consider a consolidation because it allows the community of Clearfield to prepare for future difficulties before it they are upon us. 

The concept of consolidation would be less likely if one entity was being asked to rescue the other.  To date, this process has been able to be slow and deliberate without the cloud of a distressed municipality creating additional difficulties. 

It is a proactive move to attract growth, development and opportunity to Clearfield.  We live, interact and identify as being from Clearfield yet we operate as a fractured community in terms of the local government structure. Ultimately, the committee believes Clearfield will be stronger working together.   

Will the Clearfield-Lawrence Joint Committee hold additional public meeting(s) regarding the proposed consolidation? Does the committee or its members have any other outreach plans?

The committee is willing to meeting with any individual or group that would like to discuss the proposals of the Consolidation Committee.  Over a dozen meetings have been open to the public and all documents are available for the public to review.

Final Draft: Municipality of Clearfield

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