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LAWRENCE COUNTY Petition drive gets support



Published: Tue, August 7, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



A brochure explaining the referendum will be put out this fall by the Lawrence County League of Women Voters.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Organizers of a petition drive to put a referendum on the November ballot say they have collected more than 2,000 signatures.

That's about 800 more than required by law, and they intend to turn them into Lawrence County election officials today.

The referendum will allow voters to decide Nov. 6 if they want to form a nine-member, nonpartisan study commission to look at alternative ways to organize county government.

Lawrence County has three full-time commissioners and various elected and appointed people running county offices.

Those leading the petition drive say their six-week effort came together over the weekend when they realized they had more than enough people interested in the idea to get the referendum on the ballot.

"We felt people were very responsive. There is at least a vague feeling that things have to change. Now, whether they translate that into voting for the referendum in November, I'm not sure," said Janet Verone of the Lawrence County League of Women Voters.

League members and Thomas Shumaker, a New Castle attorney and former county commissioner, led the petition drive.

The voters will be asked to decide if a study commission should be formed.

If they agree, the study commission would have about nine months to look at other forms of county government or a new one, called home rule, could be created.

Any recommended changes must go back to the voters for approval in the next general election.

Others: Six other Pennsylvania counties have convened study commissions and chosen alternative forms of government. They are Allegheny, Delaware, Erie, Lackawanna, Lehigh and Northampton.

People wanting to serve on the nine-member study commission will also be elected this fall.

Anyone interested in running for a seat on the commission must collect 200 signatures from registered voters and file nominating petitions with the election board by Aug. 28. The first day to start circulating nominating petitions is Wednesday.

Shumaker has said the movement to form a study commission is not meant to be critical of anyone serving in county government now but an effort to see if there is a more economical and efficient form of government available.

Verone said there were very few negative responses to the petition drive. Only a few people who were asked to sign refused, she said.

Brochures explaining the study and any possible changes to county government will be put out by the League of Women Voters this fall, she added.

League members are also planning a public meeting in September to respond to questions.




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