The panel must decide by July if a change in government is needed.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Nine Lawrence County residents investigating the current form of county government want to know what others think.
Five public hearings are planned to gauge the public perception of county government and take suggestions for change.
The nine-member nonpartisan commission formed after county voters agreed to the study on a general election referendum last year.
Commission members have been looking at the government and are moving into a decision-making phase, said Tom Shumaker, commission chairman.
The commission must decide by July whether to recommend any change. All changes must be approved by voters.
The commission has several options, including recommending that the current form of government remain unchanged.
If they decide a change is needed, the commission must settle on a new form of government by late July, Shumaker said.
The commission must produce a report on the benefits of the new government by August if they choose one of four optional governments, he said.
Residents would vote on the recommendation in November if that path is taken.
The commission could continue its work for nine months, however, if it decides to write a home-rule charter. A home-rule charter would mean a new form of government.
Voters would consider that recommendation in the 2003 general election.
Shumaker said the commission will consider public comments, along with research it conducted since January, before deciding. The group has met monthly with county officials and others for its study.
The commission meets every Tuesday, except the first Tuesday of each month, at 4:15 p.m. in the government center.