SHARPSVILLE Debate over Shenango consolidation heats up

Some say the five municipalities should remain as districts, forming a city with a population of a little over 44,000.
SHARPSVILLE, Pa. -- The five Shenango Valley municipalities are considering consolidating, making selecting what form of government the new entity should run under a top priority. One current committee plans to recommend a council-manager form of government, but officials are at odds on how those council members should be elected.
The topic generated a good deal of debate Thursday at the Shenango Valley Intergovernmental Study Committee meeting at Sharpsville High School.
The committee, working through eight subcommittees, is trying to come up with a consolidation model for officials and residents of Sharpsville, Hermitage, Farrell, Wheatland and Sharon to consider.
The debate over the type of government arose when James DeCapua, chairman of the Government Structure and Legal Issues Subcommittee, reported that his group is looking at recommending a council-manager form of government.
The stumbling block at this point is how to elect representatives for the new municipal council, he said.
The plan: It isn't formal yet, but DeCapua said a favored scenario would have the current five municipalities remain as districts in a new city that would have a population of just over 44,000 people.
His committee is looking at a ward system that would create 11 council positions, with each council member representing 4,400 people.
However, to make the idea more palatable to the current governing bodies, there could be a guarantee that each current municipality elects one council member and the six others be elected at large for the first five years of the new government.
Thereafter, the entire council could be elected by the ward system, DeCapua said, adding he's not sure the scenario would be legal.
& quot;You'll never sell that in Wheatland, & quot; said Wheatland Mayor Thomas Stanton. Wheatland, the smallest of the municipalities at just under 750 residents, wouldn't get any representation after the first five years, he said.
One alternative: Sharpsville Mayor Kenneth Robertson suggested wards be mixed so they cover parts of more than just one municipality and none of the original five municipalities could have a monopoly on council seats.
Robert Jazwinski, a Hermitage representative on the study committee, offered another possibility, suggesting the new government permanently have one council member elected from each of the five original municipalities and have the other six elected by wards of 7,500 people each.
DeCapua said his subcommittee will consider all suggestions before coming back to the study committee with a preliminary recommendation next month.

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