CLEARFIELD – The Joint Committee for the consolidation of Clearfield Borough and Lawrence Township met last night at the Clearfield Borough offices, along with members of the Pennsylvania Economy League, to discuss the next steps to take before a referendum is placed on the ballot for voters of both municipalities to make the final decision.
Gerald Cross, executive director of PEL, noted that a timetable needs to be created to give the committee a goal to work towards. He suggested aiming for a referendum vote at the November of 2016 general election.
However, for that to happen, the work has to be done by the end of July so that the two municipal governing boards—the township supervisors and borough council—can formally vote on consolidation and then send the matter to the county election office to be placed on the ballot.
According to state law, the county needs to be notified 13 Tuesdays before the election to place the referendum on the ballot.
Co-chairman Brian Lytle presented the board members with a list of sub-committees made up of borough and township employees and other stakeholders. The committees include: Public Works with Alan Walker, Lytle, Todd Kling, Rod Woodling and Chris Bohley; Authorities with Jeff Williams, Mark Breakey, Jim Moyer, Bill Lawhead and Lytle; Police with Randy Lemmo, Terry Struble, Vincent McGinnis and Mark Brooks; Fire with Jim Schell, Jeff Williams, Joan Robinson-McMillen and the chiefs from the borough, Hyde, Lawrence Township and Glen Richey; and Administrative with Leslie Stott, Barb Shaffner, Joan Shimmel and Robinson-McMillen.
The sub-committees will work to answer questions on how combining the two entities will work. For example, how the structure for police will look after combining the two departments.
This is true for all the sub-committees, except fire. The joint committee agreed the fire companies will be left alone for the most part, though they will need to look at the different relationships the municipalities have with their fire companies and what assets are available.
After some discussion, the committee agreed that the regular meeting for the joint committee will be suspended in December while the sub-committees hold initial meetings and get to work and create momentum.
Then, the joint committee will meet on Jan. 26 and begin working on the agreement between the municipalities and hammering out the details of the home rule charter.
Some of the things the sub-committees will look at include existing service levels, routine functions, services, etc., how they are currently provided by each municipality and what services will look like once the consolidation occurs. For example, in what order and how often will streets/roads be plowed?
Cross noted the charter will have to be approved by the solicitors as well as the municipal governments. He said it is important as they move forward that the residents of both municipalities understand that the goal is for everything to remain the same or improve if consolidation moves forward.
To that end, the public is encouraged to attend the public meetings on the fourth Tuesday of each month (except December) and to contact committee members with questions, suggestions and concerns.
“There should be nothing left to doubt for the public when it comes to a vote,” Cross said.
The joint committee will also need to make decisions on how the municipality will be governed, how the finances will be handled, work out a transition plan and also what the name of the new municipality will be. Part of consolidation means that a new municipality will be created out of two old ones.
Co-chairman Bill Lawhead asked if it would be possible to have the referendum on the May of 2017 ballot if needed. He said he agreed they should aim for the November ballot, but if something unexpected should happen, he wanted to know if the primary election date was an option and Cross assured him it was.
At a previous meeting, PEL presented the committee members with copies of other charters in order to give them an idea of what a home rule charter can look like. Cross suggested that if the committee members have an idea of what they want in a charter, he can start outlining one for them.
Some members voiced the opinion that they liked the one used by St. Marys, and others noted there were items in the one for Carlisle they also liked. Cross also suggested they look at the new home rule charter Altoona recently adopted and also look at how DuBois operates, even though they are not technically a home rule municipality.
The next meeting for the joint committee will be Jan. 26 from 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.