CLEARFIELD – Talks continue in the process of turning Clearfield Borough and Lawrence Township into one consolidated municipality.
A public meeting was held Tuesday night at the Clearfield Borough Administration building.
The meeting was held with Joe Boyle, Gerry Cross, Harry Miller and Lynne Shedlock of the Pennsylvania Economy League and a specially-appointed committee consisting of Barbara Shaffner, Jeff Williams, Mark Breakey, Joan Robinson-McMillen, Randy Lemmo, James Moyer, Jim Schell, Joan Shimmel, C. Alan Walker, Terry Struble and Co-chairmen Brian Lytle and Bill Lawhead.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss reports from each of the five sub-committees, which were appointed to examine the various areas of both municipalities, which will be impacted if the consolidation moves forward.
Cross and Miller emphasized several times that the sub-committees were in the very early stages of their work and nothing in the reports and recommendations was permanent. Cross and Miller said as work toward the consolidation progresses, these recommendations will most likely change several times before a final decision is made.
“We don’t want people thinking that any of this is set in stone,” Miller said. “This is a very long process, and we’re only in the very beginning phases.”
The Police Sub-committee met with both police chiefs to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of consolidating the two police departments.
The sub-committee reported that it feels the consolidation will increase operational efficiencies to enhance service to the residents. The sub-committee said there are many details, which need to be addressed, such as where to locate and the organization of the new department.
Both departments are presently very similar and frequently work together which will make consolidation easier. However, the borough utilizes Civil Service procedures for their staffing, while the township does not. The sub-committee recommends not using Civil Service procedures to allow for faster and more flexible staffing.
The Fire Sub-committee met in January and spoke to representatives of the fire departments in both municipalities. Clearfield Borough had previously consolidated its four fire companies into one department, while the township presently has three fire companies; Mill Road (Station 5), Hyde and Glen Richey.
Because of the vast area of the new municipality, the committee recommends that all departments remain the same. Each of the four departments is located in different areas to deal with geographic barriers, such as the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, railroad tracks and within urban and suburban areas.
The sub-committee recommends that the fire departments report to a part-time employee who would coordinate equipment and regulations. The employee would keep all maintenance records on all equipment, and would act as a contact person for the State Fire Marshal. Each of the present fire chiefs was asked to provide the sub-committee with an equipment inventory update.
The departments would retain their current chiefs and locations and will work together to coordinate services.
The Public Works Sub-committee recommends keeping all employees from both municipalities. During the transition, the existing foreman and roadmaster would both be managers of the department and should meet with the manager of the new municipality at least twice a week.
As present employees retire, replacements with multiple skills should be hired. The municipalities presently have two different unions, so an election will need to be held to determine which union would represent the combined department.
The sub-committee recommends consolidating and equalizing the retirement plans and all employees can make contributions to the plan. The equipment for both departments will need to be inventoried.
The sub-committee recommends studying the feasibility of operating two shifts for snow-plowing operations, creating a group of six individuals with specialized training to handle problems with the sewer and storm drains, and assigning specific crews to specific duties, such as leaf pick-up, mowing/park maintenance and recycling.
The sub-committee recommends combining operations to the George Street garage presently used by the township.
The Authority Sub-committee recommends dissolving the Wolf Run Industrial Authority and the Downtown Business District Authority and creating a redevelopment authority, or merging the two authorities into one.
While the borough has a Hospital Authority, this authority has been deemed “inactive” instead of “terminated” in the event it is needed due to the consolidation efforts by Penn Highlands.
The sub-committee needs to review the Airport Authority to ensure the consolidation of the municipalities will not impact their funding.
The sub-committee recommends that the Clearfield Municipal Authority remain the same, as the borough and township own the collection system.
CMA owns and maintains the wastewater treatment plant, the interceptor line and the five lift stations, as well as the water treatment facilities and distribution.
The sub-committee noted that CMA has a seven-member board, but could increase that to nine members once population exceeds 18,000.
The sub-committee said the borough’s Main Street Program is presently self-sustaining, but a new Uniform Construction Code board of appeals, zoning hearing board and planning commission would need to be appointed. The new municipality would also have to consider whether to keep the Shade Tree Commission and in what capacity it would serve.
The Administration Sub-committee said the new municipality would need to determine the rate of pay for elected officials. The new municipality would also need to hire a solicitor and a full-time manager.
Both the borough and township presently use Stiffler, McGraw and Associates as engineers. Joint ordinances would need to be codified and a new Web site would have to be built.
The sub-committee recommends the annual audit be put out for bid and the administrative offices should be located at the borough’s present office on South Front Street.
The sub-committee recommends hiring one full-time building code official and one full-time code officer, with secretarial support. The new municipality would need to consider how to address financial donations and recreation.
The new municipality would also need to consider expanding the responsibilities of the Main Street Manager to serve as more of an Economic and Marketing Director.