DuBOIS — The managers of the City of DuBois and Sandy Township recently met with potential consolidation study vendors to review details of the Request for Proposals (RFP) and to answer any questions.
In January, the township approached DuBois about the possibility of consolidation. In early February, the two municipalities submitted the RFP to the state and the township posted it to its website. Those attending the pre-bid meeting were Paul Janssen, director with the Center for Excellence in Local Government at Albright College, and Gerald Cross with the Pennsylvania Economy League.
City Manager John “Herm” Suplizio, city manager and former mayor of DuBois, said he believes consolidation is the best thing for the entire area.
“I’ve been here for about a year at Sandy Township, and I think since the day I walked in, consolidation has been on the mind of both the people in the community and the elected officials,” said Sandy Manager Shawn Arbaugh. “On the analytical end, I just want to see if it’s the best thing for our communities.”
The scope of work for the project includes several major items such as financial condition assessment, operational management evaluation, areas of impact, analysis of impact, comparisons and recommendations on an actual governmental structure.
With regard to financial condition assessment, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development has told both municipalities that they are in some level of distress financially and that is projected to get worse in the next five years, said Arbaugh.
Concerning operational management, Arbaugh said there are concerns about collective bargaining differences with regard to police and public works.
“I’d say the township has, as far as retirement benefits, we may have the lesser plan, whereas the city’s is a little more generous and wealthy,” said Arbaugh.
Areas of impact would include Community Development Block Grant entitlements, state road drainage, staffing considerations, potential tax and service rates, building implications and economic development.
“One of the biggest, I think, things internally we’re facing, ‘How does this affect me, Shawn? What’s going to happen to our employees?’” said Arbaugh. “And we know that there’s going to be some positions, most likely lost at probably the higher-level management positions and things like that, police chief, but how does it affect the day-to-day public works employee and what will happen with them?”
“Also, how will it impact potential tax and service rates? said Arbaugh. “There are also building implications. Sandy Township has been on a process to build a new township building. Ours is just really at its end of useful life,” said Arbaugh. “In fact, we started a fund this year of dedicated tax revenue source for a new building and really need to do something.”
The city building is in “okay” condition at approximately 20 years old, said Suplizio.
Another consideration is how consolidation will affect economic development.
“That’s one thing that I think that we’re really interested in, and it may help offset some of the other items such as financial burden, tax burdens, if economic development is more favorable in that environment, of a consolidated entity,” said Arbaugh.
The supervisors, said Arbaugh, want to understand the specific impacts on the residents and businesses.
“At the end of the day, we want this study to come out and allow them to show their support or opposition for a consolidation study,” said Arbaugh. “That’s really the meat and potatoes of it, to have the facts, the data there to support or oppose that effort.”
The RFPs are due no later than March 5.