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Government group looking to join state association

April 01, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Franklin County Council of Governments on Wednesday discussed joining an association representing similar organizations in Pennsylvania, but at this point cannot write a check to pay the dues.

"In order to get a bank account you have to have a federal ID number, but we've never been organized in that manner," said Franklin County Commissioner Bob Thomas, chairman of the Council of Governments, or COG. "We need to move onto that next step."

Formed by a resolution of its members in 2002, COG includes the county government, the Chambersburg Area and Greencastle-Antrim school districts and 18 of the county's 22 municipalities. COG's members represent more than 114,000 of the approximately 130,000 people in the county.

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COG has initiated several joint projects, but at this point many grant programs and other services cannot be accessed unless the council adopts a formal organizational structure, Thomas said.

"It will probably require our member organizations to pass an ordinance," Thomas said. "That way, we can be officially recognized by the state of Pennsylvania."

Linda Costa, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Councils of Governments, spoke to COG on Wednesday and outlined some of the cooperative ventures open to the organization. One of them, shared building code enforcement, is already in the works, with the council developing a uniform ordinance members can adopt to comply with the statewide construction code that goes into effect July 1.

Many of the municipalities also are expected to contract with Commonwealth Code Inspection Service Inc. to grant building permits and conduct inspections using a common rate structure. The business recently opened an office in Chambersburg.

Two weeks ago, COG sponsored a municipal summit, during which an upgrade of the county radio communications system was discussed. Washington Township Manager Mike Christopher said then that local governments should look at joint purchasing of portable radios and base stations compatible with a new system, another COG advantage listed by Costa.

The county COG is also looking into negotiating with health-care insurance providers, seeking to lower premiums by forming a larger bargaining group.

A committee headed by Greencastle Borough Councilman Harold Duffey was appointed Wednesday to create a formal framework for the organization. It will report back to COG at its May 26 meeting.

The council will need to have a budget, if only to pay the $200 dues to the statewide association and other minor expenses. Antrim Township Administrator Benjamin Thomas Jr. suggested members pay a penny per person based on their municipal populations.

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