At Monday night's meeting, the Lower Alsace Township and Mount Penn Borough Merger Committee members were able to agree upon a number of points to be considered for inclusion in the charter that will be voted upon in the upcoming November election, and will determine whether the two merge.
The committee meeting was a roundtable discussion of various points that need to be decided upon for the final charter.
Each decision will be taken back to the respective boards for review before they come to a final decision on the terms.
Each point discussed during the meeting was also discussed last Wednesday at the Antietam Valley Community Partnership (AVCP) and Mount Penn Area Business Association (MPABA) citizen input meeting in order to garner public opinion on each point.
"We had a really great meeting last Wednesday with very positive feedback," said Paul Janssen, director emeritus for the Center for Excellence in Local Government. "The attendance at the meeting was pretty diverse. It wasn’t dominated by either municipality."
Perhaps the most interesting decision of the evening was that of the new municipality's name.
If the merger goes through, the new government will likely be named the Municipality of Antietam Valley. Other points agreed upon included:
- A five-member board of supervisors will be elected to oversee the new municipality;
- All five members will be elected at-large; there will be no wards appointed from the existing municipalities;
- A payroll maximum for board members will be set at $2,500, although no salary has been decided upon yet. This maximum is in accordance with the existing code for both municipalities;
- There will be a requirement for a yearly CPA audit with a change in accounting firms handling the audit every three years;
- And, a municipal manager will be hired and departments will be created based upon the existing codes.
Next week, the committee will address personnel benefit packages, tax collection and the potential merger's impact on the water and sewer authorities, volunteer fire service and police department.
The discussion Monday night was to keep the name of the Central Berks Regional Police Department and to maintain it as a municipal department in its current location.
The committee will also discuss the effect on real estate taxes as well as decide whether it will release the limits on other taxes such as mercantile tax, IT tax and transfer tax.
“Nobody sitting at this table is going to establish what the rates are, that will be the new board that does that. The question is do you want to release the restrictions that are placed on them for the new board to make that decision,” Janssen explained.
He also mentioned that there was strong support at last week’s citizen input meeting to remove the caps. Finally, the committee will discuss code enforcement and how it will be maintained.
Janssen is hopeful that if next week’s meeting is as productive as the meeting Monday night, an initial draft of the charter will be completed next week.
Monday's meeting was the fifth in a series of nine planning meetings that will culminate in a final charter to be voted upon by both Mount Penn and Lower Alsace.
Both must agree to all terms and separately adopt the charter in a consolidation agreement no later than Aug. 4 in order for the charter to be included on the Nov. 4 ballot for a citizen vote.
The next meeting will take place at Antietam High School on June 9.