CLEARFIELD – Consolidating with a neighboring municipality is a question that hasn’t gone away.
At Tuesday’s meeting, resident Glenn Johnston questioned Lawrence Township Supervisors Dan Mitchell and Randy Powell about why they didn’t vote to put the question of consolidating the township with Clearfield Borough on the ballot.
Johnston said it was his understanding that the consolidation needed “several approvals” before it could become a reality. One of those approvals was for the supervisors to vote to put the question on the ballot.
“This isn’t saying yes or no to the consolidation,” Johnston said. “It’s to put the question to the voters. This is something the property owners should decide for themselves.”
He asked Mitchell and Powell how they felt.
Mitchell said he has spoken with several township residents who thanked him for not putting the question on the ballot. He said those he had spoken with said they still feel “scared” about the consolidation.
Johnston said Mitchell and Powell’s vote essentially “blocked” the process and took the decision out of the residents’ hands.
Powell said he had put questions he had about the consolidation out and he still hasn’t gotten answers.
“One of my questions is; how do they plan to make up the $280,000 deficit? No one has answered my questions,” Powell said.
Supervisor Bill Lawhead said when the Pennsylvania Economy League did a study on the police departments, one of their suggestions was to eliminate the part-time police officers. This would eliminate between $200,000 and $300,000 from the budget. However, Lawhead said representatives of both the township and Clearfield Borough were against cutting the part-time officers.
“We both feel the part-time officers are invaluable,” Lawhead said. “It’s a great training program for the officers. If we have a full-time officer retire or quit, we know we have good people in place to replace them. They are already familiar with how things run.”
Lawhead said the part-time officers are also necessary for when the full-time officers take time off for vacations or for medical leave.
Lawhead said if the consolidation was approved, the budget for the first year would be put together by PEL. He said there was enough money in the reserves of both municipalities to cover the deficit. Once the governing body of the new municipality is in place, those officials will examine the budget and make adjustments.
Lawhead said if needed, the new municipality can adjust the Earned Income Tax. He said if the EIT is increased by 0.15 percent, it will generate about $300,000, without raising real estate taxes. He said this is not something the consolidation committee can do, as it has to come from the officials.
Johnston also added that the street crews from both municipalities will be combined, which will allow the new crew to share resources and equipment. This will also save money.
Powell said another question he had was about the difference between the budgets for the fire departments.
Lawhead again said what happens to the fire departments is not up for the consolidation to decide. That must also come from the officials in the new municipality.
However, Lawhead said representatives from both the township and borough fire departments have asked to have an employee within the new municipality who could help with grant writing, equipment and reports.
Johnston said Powell and Mitchell should allow the voters the chance to decide.