Voters to decide on government

A supporter of the study disputes the county commissioners' estimates.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Lawrence County commissioners say they have no clue what it will cost to look at other ways to organize county government but it could be costly.
County voters will have the opportunity to decide in November if they want to form a nine-member, nonpartisan commission to look at various types of government.
Proponents of the study say it's an effort to look for more efficient and less expensive ways to run county government.
The nine-member commission, which would be elected and start work in November if the study commission referendum passes, will not be paid but will charge the county for expenses.
"We cannot say, 'Here's your budget.' We have no jurisdiction. It's their show," Commissioner Roger DeCarbo said.
DeCarbo said he has heard of study commissions spending upwards of $78,000 but did not say which counties.
Far from true: Officials in nearby Armstrong County say a 1997 government study commission's expenses were nowhere near that figure.
Armstrong, which is similar in size to Lawrence County, spent $24,500 for expenses such as legal and clerical work, postage, travel and meeting room space, said Wendy Buzard, director of elections in Armstrong County.
They had budgeted $40,000 in the county general fund to pay for the study, she said.
Armstrong County voters ultimately voted down the commission's recommendation to switch from a three-commissioner form of government to home rule, she said.
Thomas Shumaker, the New Castle attorney and former county commissioner who led the petition drive to get the study on the November ballot, said he has no idea where Lawrence County commissioners are getting their estimates of the study costs.
Shumaker said a representative from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development told him the study should cost somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000.
"Most of the cost will be in mailing or otherwise distributing the commission's final report and recommendation," he said.

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