When local governments decide to cooperate on a public service or work through a third party to manage a program, joint articles of agreement are drafted to outline how this service will be organized.
Several of these agreements exist among the six municipalities of the Centre Region for many different programs. But the agreement for one service is short one municipality for now.
When the Schlow Centre Region Library was planned in the early 2000s, a commitment was made on behalf of the Centre Region municipalities and the library board to construct a new library building, Centre Region Council of Governments Executive Director Jim Steff said.
The library was going to change from a 16,000-square-foot former post office to an almost 40,000-square-foot modern multistory construction to the tune of $10 million.
Members of the Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors at the time were concerned about the potential cost increases associated with this new building, Steff said.
“They didn’t want to give the library a blank check,” he said. “They wanted a way to control and manage future expenses.”
So, in 2003, the township pulled out of the library agreement.
Now, the remaining five municipalities are drafting ordinances to allow Ferguson back into the agreement. Council and supervisor meetings from the end of January into February have involved discussions regarding Ferguson’s re-entry into the agreement, with many municipalities scheduling public hearings on their respective ordinances.
And the municipalities are happy to see them back.
“I applaud them coming back into the agreement,” College Township Councilman Rich Francke said Feb. 5. “I hope they remain there.”
Re-entry into the agreements is an initiative by the Board of Supervisors, Ferguson Township Manager Mark Kunkle said. A lot of services and projects are now regional, and Schlow was the only one the township wasn’t part of in terms of an agreement.
“Participating in the library just made sense,” he said.
Ferguson will also gain a second member on the library board of directors, he said. The position is held by Harris Township representative Marylyn Byers and will expire Dec. 31, 2017.
Though the township wasn’t part of the agreement, it continued to make contributions that nearly matched what would be required if it were, Schlow Director Cathi Alloway said. She said she likes the fact that Ferguson is willing to sign its name to its commitment to the library.
“They’ve always been supportive,” she said, “but now they’re all in. They’ve signed the dotted line of a gentlemen’s agreement.”
Having all townships in on the agreement gives more weight to the contribution formula if another municipality or government agency decides to buy in to library’s services, she said. Many people from Huntingdon County use Schlow and, hypothetically, if the county wanted to purchase the rights to be in the service area, the agreement would give the best possible costs.
The library board also has to put together two separate budgets each year, she said — one for COG and one for Ferguson. This would eliminate the need to prepare two presentations.
In exchange for signing the agreement, she said, the library is looking at installing a remote book drop to serve the western part of the township, including Pine Grove Mills and the Pennsylvania Furnace area.
Ferguson’s contribution amounts to Schlow under the agreement would only increase by about $4,000, Kunkle said. For the past several years, the township has used a formula that included Penn State students who have library cards and use the building.
By joining the library’s traditional formula, it excludes those students, slightly increasing the contribution amount.