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Panel reviews study results



Published: Mon, July 8, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Members of the commission agree that change is necessary, but they disagree on what type of change.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- The nine-member government study commission, formed in January to determine if the current three-commissioner form of government is most effective, will decide Tuesday if it will to continue looking at other types of government.

Members say it's likely they will continue working through the next few months to come to a consensus.

"We are getting down to the time where decisions have to be made, and we are thinking of having extra meetings in order to iron out any differences between the members," said Janet Verone, study commission secretary.

The nonpartisan board is trying to determine if another type of government would be less costly and more efficient.

Any recommendation would have to be approved by voters.

If it agrees to write a home-rule charter, the group will be given an additional nine months to work. But if it recommends a county council with either an elected county executive or a hired county manager, then a report must be written in August. The issue would then appear on the general election ballot in November.

Disagreement

Members say they are leaning toward change, but all don't agree on the type of change.

Verone said she is interested in one of the forms that includes a county council. It would provide checks and balances not available in the current three-commissioner form of government, she said.

"The board of commissioners are administrators and legislators. You have the same three people preparing the budget and executing the budget," she said.

Wendell Wagner, another study commission member and a former county commissioner, said he also wants change and is now favoring the county council/manager government.

"That's my opinion right now, but I'm not locked in cement. I'm open to other suggestions," he added.

Member D. John Razzano has an opinion on what changes are needed, but refused to comment before discussing it with fellow commission members.

Gale Measel said his mind changes every day.

Measel, a commission member and a Neshannock Township supervisor, said he learns something new each day that influences his opinion.

He said he initially didn't want change, but now sees advantages of each of the alternate forms and writing a charter.

"The paramount question for me would be 'Would the new form of government serve the people better, more effectively and more efficiently?'" he said.

Cost analysis

The key, Measel said, will likely be the results of a cost analysis the commission has hired an area accounting firm to complete. The report, due later this month, will compare costs of the current government with the other proposals.

"It's a vital piece of information," said Michael Foreman, a local government policy specialist with the state who has been helping the group.

Foreman, who has worked with study commissions in other counties, said the Lawrence County group is moving along well, and he expects them to recommend a change to one of the county council forms of government, rather than keeping the current form of government or writing a charter.

"There has been a lot of good discussion, healthy debate and a helpful exchange of information," he added.

cioffi@vindy.com




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