Officials protest drop in ranking
By Mary Grzebieniak
NEW CASTLE, Pa.
Lawrence County commissioners plan to ask the Pennsylvania Legislature to adjust state law to stop Lawrence County from changing from a fifth- to a sixth-class county.
Commissioners learned recently that the county’s population drop since the 2000 census is the second consecutive census in which county’s population is less than 95,000. Pennsylvania law requires that fifth-class counties like Lawrence have at least 95,000 residents and Lawrence’s drop below that figure in two consecutive censuses means the county will automatically become a sixth-class county Jan. 1, 2012.
The county lost 3,535 residents or 3.7 percent and now stands at 91,108 residents.
Under Pennsylvania law, the state’s counties are classed from first through eighth class based on population, with Philadelphia County being the only first-class county and Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) the only second-class county.
Commissioners were not sure what changes would take place in the county’s operation with the drop.
However, even if there are no legal ramifications, Commissioners Daniel Vogler said recently that he and Commissioner Steve Craig will fight the change because “It’s a psychological thing.”
They plan to ask the area’s local legislative delegation to support legislation lowering the minimum population for a fifth class county from 95,000 to another figure like 90,000 or 85,000 Vogler said. He said he has already begun talking to members of the local delegation to the stateHouse. And they won’t be alone. One other county in Pennsylvania, Northumberland in central Pennsylvania, is in the same situation as Lawrence and officials there have also indicated they will try and lower the fifth class county threshold.