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Sixteen up for seven spots on government study panel

August 30, 2006|by DON AINES

ST. THOMAS, Pa. - Sixteen people, including a sitting township supervisor and former township supervisors, have submitted petitions to the Franklin County Election Board to be candidates for a government study commission in St. Thomas Township.

Earlier this month, a group of township residents formed the St. Thomas Alliance for a New Direction (STAND) and announced that it had filed a petition with the election board to have a referendum on the November ballot calling for a government study commission. The commission could recommend the Second Class township change its form of government, STAND member Cheryl Stearn said.

STAND also endorsed a slate of candidates to serve on the seven-member commission, said Stearn, who is one of those candidates and the wife of Township Supervisor Frank Stearn.

There will be two issues for township residents to vote on in the Nov. 7 election, said Jean Byers deputy chief clerk for the county. The first will be whether to approve or disapprove the referendum and the second is which seven of the 16 candidates would serve on the government study commission.

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If the referendum is disapproved by voters, there will be no commission, Byers said.

If the referendum is approved, however, the commission could draft a home rule charter, which voters would be able to vote up or down, probably in the November 2007 general election, Cheryl Stearn said earlier this month.

She said at the time that several of the STAND-endorsed candidates had also been members of Friends and Residents of St. Thomas (FROST), which organized opposition to a quarry in the township.

"I'm opposed to it," said former supervisor David C. Ramer, one of the other nine people to file petitions to serve on a government study commission. Adopting home rule could allow changes in state funding and local taxation, he said.

"Home rule gives you the right to tax people's personal property," Ramer said. While zoning cannot be implemented through home rule, Ramer said it could allow for "stricter regulations than zoning."

St. Thomas does not have zoning and a press release issued by STAND earlier this month stated its endorsed candidates "have pledged not to consider the issue of zoning."

The STAND-endorsed candidates are Cheryl Stearn, Fred Walls, Michael Urban, Audrey Tozer, John Tiedemann, Robert Pismeny and Larry Tinberg, Cheryl Stearn said Tuesday. Tiedemann is chairman of the township's Municipal Authority.

The other candidates are Ramer, Supervisor James Faith, former supervisor Edmund Herald, Mark Lynch, Clara M. May, Wanda Walls, Thomas M. Hull Jr., John S. Smith and James E. Light, according to the petitions submitted to the election board by Tuesday's deadline.

"If it passes, we would like to be in on it instead of them doing the whole thing," Smith said, referring to the referendum and the STAND candidates. Smith said he is against home rule.

"I don't think St. Thomas can afford to go that way," said Smith. He said he decided to run for the commission to counteract STAND's efforts to take control of the township's government.

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