CLEARFIELD – Documents for consolidation were reviewed during yesterday’s Clearfield-Lawrence Joint Consolidation Committee meeting.
Representatives of Pennsylvania Economy League presented three flow charts demonstrating division of labor for administration, police and public works as well as the draft home rule charter and joint agreement to the committee members.
At previous meetings, the committee reviewed the home rule charter draft line by line, and yesterday reviewed the joint agreement.
The agreement is a document creating the City of Clearfield, created by the consolidation of Clearfield Borough and Lawrence Township.
For most legal dealings with state and federal entities, the classification of the municipality will be a second class township with the name City of Clearfield, since home rule charter is not recognized by some entities and governments.
Residents of both municipalities will go to the polls on May 16, 2017 to vote on the ballot question: “Shall the municipalities of the Borough of Clearfield and the Second Class Township of Lawrence be consolidated to become the City of Clearfield to be governed under a new home rule charter adopted by the governing bodies of the municipalities?”
The municipality will be governed by an eight-member council and mayor. The mayor and four of the council members will be elected at-large, and four council members will be elected by district.
In regard to ordinances, until the new council has a chance to review and revise ordinances, all ordinances will continue to be in effect. The new municipality will also take on all the assets, liabilities, property and equipment of Clearfield and Lawrence Township.
Taxes and fees will continue to be levied as they were for the separate municipalities until, again, the new council has a chance to review them. PEL will look into the situation of the tax collectors as both municipalities have their own and with this new system of governance, a tax collector will not be an elected position.
At earlier meetings, employees were assured they would retain their positions and the joint agreement confirms this, and they will continue to receive the rates of pay they had under their respective municipality.
Collective bargaining agreements will also continue until their deadlines for renewal. Municipal services will also continue, including police protection, public works, leaf collection, etc.
And the fire companies will still continue to operate as they do now. It was noted that the Clearfield Municipal Authority will be unaffected and the new council will ensure the authority’s future rate structure will adequately fund operations of the authority.
The joint committee itself will continue to operate in order to help with transitioning, until June 30, 2020. Effective date of the consolidation will be Jan. 6, 2020. The reason for this is, the referendum vote will not take place until the May election in 2017.
Then it will be two years of work to get the municipalities ready to join together before the new municipality takes effect. The mayor and council members will be elected in 2019.
The mayor and two at-large members and two district members will be elected for four-year terms and two at-large and two district members for two-year terms. After these initial terms, each position will face re-election every four years to allow for staggering of the terms.
Because the committee is now a bit ahead of schedule, a public meeting to meet with members of the communities and answer questions will be held Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at a location to be determined. Co-chair Bill Lawhead said this will be the perfect opportunity to lay to rest some of the rumors going around the area.
Committee members will also be attending some upcoming organization meetings, beginning with the Rotary, to explain what is happening and why.
Committee member Alan Walker noted that residents need to understand that the communities are no longer sustainable alone. Lawrence Township has nearly reached the cap on tax millage and the borough is not far behind. Both are similar in demographics, income, debt and population as well.
Co-chair Brian Lytle said he recently read an article about two cities in another state that had waited too long to address these issues and are now in dire straits because they were not proactive in exploring consolidation.
Walker added that studies show only 14 of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania will see substantive growth by the next census, and the worst hit will be counties in the western part of the state while the eastern part will do much better.
Borough Mayor Jim Schell added that it is very important to get the word out to the community as to why consolidation is necessary.
The next meeting will be Oct. 11 at 3:30 p.m. at the borough building and is open to the public.