DuBOIS — The Sandy Township Supervisors, at their meeting Monday, welcomed residents to comment and ask questions about the proposed consolidation between the township and the City of DuBois.
The meeting, with the location changed from the usual township municipal building to the West Sandy Fire Co. on Dixon Avenue, was attended by approximately 30 residents, with several of them sharing their views on the proposed Nov. 2 ballot referendum, which presents a consolidation under the framework of a third class city and a council-manager form of government.
Steven Smith, of Treasure Lake, referencing the Pennsylvania Economy League (PEL) which conducted a review last week on its independent consolidation study for DuBois and the township, said he believes “they drastically overstated the tax savings.”
He noted that PEL did not include police and personnel pay/benefit changes, facility modifications/additions, and transition costs.
Smith also asked why Treasure Lake residents should assume the liability of the water system when there is no possibility of them ever using it.
“When we become consolidated, we’ll assume that responsibility for that debt ...,” Smith said. “Why would Treasure Lake agree to that?”
Smith also said Treasure Lake’s population jumped 38 percent in the latest census.
“By consolidating, that percentage of population with a combined entity was 19 percent,” said Smith. “Why would Treasure Lake be willing to lose their influence on their local government? That just doesn’t make any sense.”
Linda Van Slice, of Sabula, said, “What we’re wondering about this consolidation is how is it going to affect us out there because we probably aren’t going to see any water and sewage. And even if we do, do we have to give up our wells and our septic system? The other thing is what else would they be doing for us out there? Our roads don’t get taken care of now. Our dirt (roads) are always a mess, really hard to drive on. So we’re not seeing road maintenance the way we should. What’s going to happen to us whenever it becomes the City of DuBois?”
Van Slice also expressed a concern that there is currently no discharge of firearms in the City of DuBois and how that would affect township residents.
According to the consolidation study, a Pennsylvania Game Commission’s law enforcement supervisor for the North Central Region, which covers Clearfield County, stated that a consolidation or new municipal status would not change hunting rights, as these are decided on the state level. He further stated that recent court decisions have affirmed that municipalities may not supersede state law on hunting by attempting to ban or restrict it beyond current state practices.
Charley Reynolds said he is in favor of smaller government.
“My personal experience with a bigger government is that a lot of funny things go on,” said Reynolds. “I was in favor of consolidation before I went to that (PEL) meeting, now I’m not sure.”
Reynolds said that all he heard at last week’s PEL meeting was “positive, positive, positive.” He said it can’t be true that there is nothing negative about consolidation.
Terry Noble, who thanked the supervisors for bringing this issue to the forefront and for the work that they do for the township, spoke in favor of consolidation.
“And the reason that I am for it, primarily, is exactly for the same reason that Mr. Reynolds spoke,” said Noble. “And that is, it presents the opportunity for a smaller, more efficient government. Now, true, the new government might be larger than the current body here, but when you combine two governments into one, the whole purpose in doing that is efficiency. And by having a more efficient, smaller, limited government, we should all benefit for it.”
As a resident of West Sandy, Noble said he has no doubt that his water bill will benefit if a consolidation occurs.
“But our whole area is literally decaying before our eyes,” said Noble. “I’ve been here for 60 years. I’ve seen that. What this does is present an opportunity that we can grab ahold and have better direction going forward.”
Noble said the real key to the consolidation question doesn’t lie with the Nov. 2 election.
“Obviously it’s needed to pass for that to happen,” said Noble. “But the real key to this comes in the year after, in the consolidation agreement, and as residents of the township, our vote certainly should control the direction of the merger going forward.”
Over the next two weeks, Noble encouraged voters to reach out to residents from St. Marys, referring to a consolidation between St. Marys and Benzinger Township that took place about 20 years ago.
“I’ve had a chance to speak with a number of them and almost to a tee, they feel it’s been beneficial,” said Noble.
Lisa Bundy said what she took away from last week’s PEL meeting is that “everybody’s taxes will go down because of loss of personnel.”
“My other thought was the City of DuBois has a lot of rules and ordinances, and I wondered if they would apply to Sandy Township,” said Bundy. “The way it sounded the other night, it would be the new board that was elected that would choose the ordinances.”
According to PEL, the goal of the consolidation agreement committee would be to make a unified zoning ordinance without disrupting the current plans. The panel recommended keeping the current zoning as it exists as much as possible — that is one of the things that tends to make consolidation more successful.
Bundy, who said she is currently leaning against consolidation, said she also wanted to know what the supervisors’ personal views about consolidation were. The supervisors expressed their views later in the two-hour meeting.
Sarah Hoover, of Treasure Lake, said even though the private gated community will not benefit from lower combined municipal water rates if consolidation occurs, she believes the growth of the township and City of DuBois does help Treasure Lake.
“That’s where my point of concern is,” said Hoover. “We want Sandy Township and DuBois to grow and be strong and good because that helps Treasure Lake, we don’t get much from Sandy Township because we’re not allowed to do. That’s Treasure Lake’s situation. Nothing I can do to change it. So that’s where I’m coming from — I’m torn between the growth and additional expense and different controversies, which I never want to see.”
The complete 200-page consolidation study is posted on the township website –sandytownship.net.