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Council of governments seeks members

August 19, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

Things are beginning to jell in Franklin County's newly organized council of governments - a clearinghouse where county, township, borough and school officials can exchange ideas and speak to major issues with one voice.

All 22 townships and boroughs in the county, as well as its five school districts, are being encouraged to join, County Commissioner Bob Thomas said at a meeting of the new group last week in Chambersburg.

The commissioners already belong.

The group meets four times a year in a room provided by the Chambersburg Area School District.

Each municipality will be represented by a voting member and an alternate.

The agency, which met for the first time in November, has drafted its by-laws and appointed several standing committees.

Unlike states with consolidated county governments and school boards, Pennsylvania's system of local government is fractured, with the legislative power resting with its boroughs, townships and local school boards.

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Franklin County has six boroughs, 16 townships and five local school districts.

Pennsylvania has 67 counties, 501 local school districts, 56 cities, 964 boroughs, one incorporated town and 1,548 townships.

The council of governments will provide a forum where local officials can learn about issues that affect their multiple municipalities.

A prime example, the council's organizers said, is the new statewide building code scheduled to take effect next year. The small boroughs and townships won't be able to afford to hire their own building inspector so they will look to the council of governments to come up with a solution, members said.

Municipalities joining to hire a single inspector to serve several jurisdictions was one idea discussed at the council's meeting last week.

"Cooperation is going to be the name of the game in the future," said State Rep. Pat Fleagle, R-Waynesboro. "There are so many local governments that they won't be able to maintain financial viability without cooperation."

"When a community can speak with one voice, it can do a lot," Thomas said.

"It will make us impossible to ignore," said William McLaughlin, a Chambersburg borough councilman.

Michael Christopher, administrator for Washington Township, was an early supporter of the council of governments.

"This will give us a chance to work together and share ideas among different types of governments," Christopher said. "It will make us all more efficient and that will mean less cost for local government. Franklin County has never had that before."

Kenneth Myers, borough manager in Greencastle, sees savings through a cooperative purchasing system for the smaller municipalities.

The only borough that has joined the council is Chambersburg. Still out are Waynesboro, Greencastle, Mercersburg, Mont Alto and Orrstown.

Townships that belong include Antrim, Fannett, Greene, Hamilton, Letterkenny, Lurgan, Quincy, St. Thomas, South Hampton and Washington.

The council is still trying to recruit Guilford, Metal, Montgomery, Peters and Warren townships.

The Chambersburg Area School District joined last week. That leaves the Waynesboro Area School District, Greencastle/Antrim, Tuscarora and Fannett/Metal.

The council's next meeting will be Nov. 13 at 8:30 a.m. in the Chambersburg school district offices.

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