HERMITAGE Opposing consolidation study, residents give petitions to officials

Commissioners wouldn't consider the residents' request to drop out of the government study.
HERMITAGE, Pa. -- There is a growing list of residents opposed to the city's continued involvement in a merger/consolidation study with Sharon, Farrell, Sharpsville and Wheatland.
Petitions bearing about 700 names were presented to city commissioners Wednesday along with a request that they immediately vote to drop out of the study.
Commissioners refused to consider the request.
"I'm going to stay there until the end," said Commissioner Pat White, a member of the study committee. Commissioner Joseph Augustine, another committee member, agreed.
"I still don't know if it's going to be good or bad for the city," Augustine said, adding that the city made a commitment to participate in the study and it wouldn't be right to quit now.
James Bralski of Fairfield Drive, who said he was representing a large and growing number of city residents opposed to any merger or consolidation, presented the petitions.
He said he'd be back at the commissioners' meeting in August with more signatures.
The issues
Bralski said the signers have three common issues: They oppose any merger or consolidation, want the city to drop out of the study immediately and don't believe that a larger government is a solution to problems facing Shenango Valley municipalities.
He said the study has been ongoing for nearly three years and has yet to reach conclusion and he was critical of Hermitage's decision to participate in the first place.
Bralski told commissioners he doubts the "authenticity" of the city's interest in any merger or consolidation and suggested commissioners decided to participate simply to "be a good neighbor."
However, that participation has consequences, he said, charging, "You've put our foot in the door toward possible consolidation."
White agreed the study has gone on much longer than originally proposed. It was to be an 18-month examination of the five municipalities and how they might jointly resolve common problems.
He said he's on the committee to protect Hermitage and won't vote for anything that isn't a 100-percent benefit for the city.
None of the governing bodies of any of the municipalities has the final say on whether or not their community will participate in a merger (where one municipality absorbs another) or a consolidation (two or more municipalities join to form an entirely new municipality).
The issue must be put on the ballot as a referendum in each participating municipality.
The government study committee is to meet again at 6:30 p.m. today in the Farrell city building.

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