Should E. Manchester Twp. merge with Manchester, Mount Wolf boroughs?

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

East Manchester Township and Manchester and Mount Wolf boroughs have tried twice in recent decades to merge into one municipality, and both attempts failed.

But the idea is again getting kicked around after it came up at a Northeastern Regional Police Board meeting last week amid an ongoing funding dispute among the township and the two boroughs.

"If the citizens did decide to combine the three municipalities, then we have one voice," said Roy Garland II, an East Manchester Township resident, at the June 15 meeting. "We don’t have three voices, we don’t waste time on these budget discussions, et cetera."

The municipalities have been locked in a monthslong stalemate over the 2020 police budget.

East Manchester Township officials have said they're being overcharged and that they won't pay more than 70% of the department's service costs, regardless of how their costs are calculated with the department's funding formula.

Garland asked why the municipalities don't dissolve and merge to form a wholly new entity, with elections for a new governing board.

​Josh Parish, a Mount Wolf borough council member and police board member, said he's in favor of the idea and has proposed it with his borough.

"In all likelihood, the citizens of Mount Wolf borough would experience lower taxes if we were part of a larger municipality," Parish said.

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Northeastern Regional Police Board Chairman Dave Naylor discusses options to ensure member townships and boroughs are paying a fair share of the department's budget, Monday, May 18, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

In 2004, the same three municipalities were in the early stages of exploring a merger. Manchester borough withdrew from the plan in late 2006, partly over concerns the deal wouldn't financially benefit borough residents.

If Mount Wolf and East Manchester Township had moved ahead with the deal — without Manchester  — Mount Wolf likely would have been absorbed into the township while retaining its name as a village, The York Dispatch reported in January 2007.

But a year later, that plan also failed when the Mount Wolf Borough Council voted 4-3 against merging with the township.

To gain any traction, a new proposal would have to be a true merger among the three municipalities, not a takeover of the boroughs by the township, said Mount Wolf Mayor Maureen Starner.

​Robert Nace, the East Manchester Township's citizen representative on the police board, said he remembered an attempt to merge the municipalities several decades ago, when officials considered merging three governments and renaming the new municipality Mount Chester. That attempt also failed. 

"I saw two (attempts) fail, but generations have changed, people have changed, many of the old timers are gone," he said. "So, who knows?"

Municipalities interested in merging need approval from their governing board of supervisors, borough council or mayor to solicit a study, said Dominique Lockett, spokesperson for the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

The study would show the various impacts of the merger on the participating municipalities.

In the most recent merger attempt, the Pennsylvania Economy League prepared the study, the results of which were unavailable for review.

Municipalities can request funding assistance from the DCED to pay for the study, Lockett said.

If the board of supervisors and borough councils vote in favor of a merger, Lockett said, they don't need approval from any state agency to move forward.

Manchester borough officials could not be reached for comment.

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