LAWRENCE COUNTY Letters urge vote on study panel

Those elected to the study commission will look for ways to make county government more economical and efficient.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- There's an invitation in the mail for all registered voters in Lawrence County.
County commissioners sent letters Tuesday urging voters to participate in the upcoming referendum vote Nov. 6.
Voters will decide if they want to form a nine-member nonpartisan study commission to look at alternative ways to organize county government. Voters will also choose nine people to serve on the commission.
If the referendum passes, the commission will meet for nine months and look for more efficient and economical forms of government. Any recommended changes will go back to voters in the next general election.
Goal: Commissioners say they want everyone to understand what the referendum means and find a good cross-section of residents to serve on the commission.
"The only group of people who know this is happening are a small amount of people in New Castle and a few touching townships. Other parts of the county don't have a clue this is going on," said Commissioner Roger DeCarbo.
DeCarbo said the letters that went out this week are meant to stir up interest from people living in different sections of the county.
"If we have a good choice [for the study commission], then you can do it," DeCarbo said.
What to do: Anyone interested in serving on the study commission must have 200 signatures from registered Lawrence County voters on a nominating petition and turn them in to the county elections office by Aug. 28.
Marlene Gabriel, elections director, said her office gave out 12 petitions last week.
The petitions became available Aug. 8 after the elections board received 2,115 signatures from registered voters to put the study commission question on the ballot.
Elections office workers verified signatures, and the election board certified them last week, DeCarbo said.
The petition drive to put the study commission question on the ballot was started by Thomas Shumaker, a New Castle attorney and former county commissioner, and the Lawrence County League of Women Voters.
Previous attempt: Shumaker approached county commissioners last year in an unsuccessful effort to get the issue on the ballot.
A referendum question can be put on a ballot in Lawrence County by a majority vote of the county commissioners or by getting at least 1,275 signatures on petitions.
DeCarbo said he initially opposed the ballot question because commissioners did not have enough time to consider it.
"It was brought to me in the eleventh hour. There would have been no discussion," he said. "We bought a year's time to have this thing talked about."
However, DeCarbo still thinks more should be done to encourage voters to understand the question and to run for the study commission. Commissioners state in their letter that they are not promoting or rejecting the passage of the referendum.
The only requirement to be on the study commission is to be a registered voter in Lawrence County.
Anyone elected to the commission will be asked to spend nine months, without pay, checking to see if other forms of government are more economical and efficient for the county.
"I'd really like to see a good cross-section of people represented [on the ballot]. It's nonpartisan, so everyone must take time to mark the names. A straight vote [for Democrats or Republicans] won't cut it," DeCarbo said.

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