I won’t have a vote in the Nov. 2 election about whether the City of DuBois and its surrounding Sandy Township should consolidate into one government. Since 2003, I have lived a half-hour’s drive west of DuBois and Sandy Township.
But I do have an interest in the outcome and a history of participation in previous election debates.
I missed the first consolidation vote in 1981, just before I came to DuBois. In 1995 and 2002, I voted yes. All three times, city voters said “Yes,” while township voters said “No,” at first resoundingly, three-to-one as I recall, and then by smaller and smaller margins.
Between 1990-2003, I lived in Sandy Township, just south of the DuBois/Sandy border, on Pentz Run Avenue and worked within DuBois at the Courier-Express newspaper.
This year, I would like to see the measure become reality. I think the two regions are, for practical purposes, one community except at the outer edges of the township. The two governments are twice as many and much more costly than that community needs.
Though I lived in Sandy Township, I did not share the dislike of City of DuBois government that was evident among some township residents, including some past leaders of the township’s fire department.
I was not thrilled with some aspects of the City of DuBois government, either, especially its paternalistic insistence on continuing to own a century-old reservoir and delivery system that brought drinkable (with treatment) water to DuBois and to some parts of Sandy Township. The city leaders also insisted on too much control of the sewage treatment plant that serves parts of the township as well as the city.
But consolidation would have provided more efficient and effective government for the DuBois/Sandy area. That was important to our company, which employed close to 100 people in those years.
The “Taxes will increase!” argument against consolidation was a red herring, as far as I was concerned. People talk about how higher taxes persuade businesses to leave an area. I have never seen that actually happen. Businesses leave because of better transportation, less costly labor or raw materials, fewer burdensome laws and regulations or too-high state taxes on profits, gasoline, etc. (an entirely different matter than local property or wage taxes).
If I still voted in either DuBois or Sandy Township, I would vote “Yes” for consolidation — though I would consider adjusting, in a few years, the new city’s boundaries if a few “edge areas” chose to realign with neighboring Union Township to the east or Washington Township to the west, if residents there want to do that.
I also am not fond of the decision to have the new city be a third class city rather than a Home Rule community. Third class cities are more restricted by state law in what they can and cannot do than are Home Rule communities. But that should not be a deal-breaker. The new municipality could itself become a Home Rule community in the future and fix the problem.
As I drove around “town,” it did not matter to me that I was leaving the City of DuBois and driving through Sandy Township. It was all one area back then. It is still all one area right now, for practical purposes.
Having two separate governments, police departments, fire departments, parks departments and water and sewer operations just makes no sense to me in the 21st century.
As far as day-to-day operations and rank-and-file workers are concerned, the separate governments are illusory, too. Police and fire crews regularly back up each other and work cooperatively. Ditto for streets and sewers workers. Only the administrations are separate — and too often duplicative.
Two solicitor/lawyers, two managers, two planning groups, two zoning groups, two of this, that and the other thing. I see no benefit, and considerable extra cost, duplicative regulations and paperwork.
The future looks to be hard, and getting harder. “Uncle Sugar” is trillions of dollars in debt. Despite accounting tricks, so is the state government. Local communities need to become more efficient — or wither beneath higher and higher property and wage tax burdens.
Whether the verdict on Nov. 2 is “Yes” or “No” concerning consolidation, my life just outside of Brookville will continue much as it is now. It is the people in DuBois and in Sandy Township, including the gated Sandy Township community of Treasure Lake, who will have a more solid financial and governmental future if the measure passes — or will struggle to function despite the irksome and inefficient duplication of two separate governments.
I hope the voters decide that at long last it is time to consolidate.
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