CLEARFIELD — The Clearfield Borough Lawrence Joint Committee studying the possible consolidation of the two municipalities began putting the finishing touches on its work at its meeting Tuesday.
“We could have this all done in a month or so,” said Gerald Cross, CEO of the PA Economy League, the committee’s consultants for the study.
The committee believes it should be done after its next meeting at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 11. and is planning to hold a public meeting to inform residents on the proposed consolidation at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 26. The committee is hoping to hold it at the high school, but that hasn’t been finalized yet.
The committee is recommending that the two municipalities consolidate into a single municipality to lower the cost of providing service and reduce the need for future tax increases or cuts in services.
If the municipality consolidates, the committee estimates the consolidated municipality would save $122,000 in the cost of part-time police officers because the consolidated police department would have greater flexibility in scheduling of full-time officers. The committee also anticipates savings in other departments, as well in areas such as equipment purchases, office expenses, etc.
Before the municipalities can be consolidated, the township supervisors and the borough council have to each approve the home rule charter, the joint agreement and to place it on the ballot. A majority of the voters in each municipality must approve the consolidation.
The committee has completed the draft home rule charter, or “constitution” of the new municipality. It calls for it to be governed by an eight-member city council with a mayor. Four of the city council members would represent four wards/districts of equal population and four would be at-large members elected by all the voters. There will also be a mayor who would be elected at large. The mayor would have the same voting rights as a council member and would perform all of the ceremonial functions of a normal mayor. Council members and the mayor would have four-year terms. Terms would be staggered so half of the council would be up for election every four years.
The council would elect a council president to conduct its meetings and appoint a city manager who would run the day-to-day operations of the municipality.
The joint agreement states how the combined municipalities would operate once the consolidation takes place. It states that all full-time and part-time employees in each of the municipalities would be employed by the new municipality in a similar position and a rate of pay that is not less than what they are earning prior to the consolidation.
It also lays out the organizational charts for the police department, administration and public works. The zoning ordinances currently in place would remain in place until the new municipality approves a new zoning ordinance. The engineer who looked at the zoning ordinances of the two municipalities found no major inconsistencies between the borough and the township’s zoning ordinances, Cross said.
The joint agreement also states that all municipal services, such as police protection, public works, maintenance and repair, recycling, leaf collection, etc., would continue to be offered in the new municipality and all the volunteer fire departments in existence would be offered to continue fire protection services in the municipality.
The municipality would be called the “City of Clearfield,” but would be classified as a second-class township for legal purposes. The reason for this is if the new municipality were classified as a city or a borough, it would be required to maintain drainage systems along certain state roadways located within Lawrence Township, currently being maintained by the state Department of Transportation.
Cross said he has written PennDOT over this issue and it is currently being reviewed by its legal department.
A joint meeting of the Clearfield Borough Council and the Lawrence Township Board of Supervisors has been scheduled for Jan. 19 at 6 p.m. at the Clearfield Area Junior/Senior High School Auditorium to approve the home rule charter, the joint agreement and to place it on the ballot for referendum.
If approved by the municipalities and the voters the effective date for the new municipality would be on Jan. 6, 2020.
The two municipalities received a $100,000 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development to study the consolidation. The funds were used to hire the board’s consultant the PA Economy League as well as various consultants, experts and engineers who looked at the police departments, public works departments etc. and the study was done at no cost to local taxpayers.