Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Regional planning still has its place The decision by East Hempfield and Manheim townships to drop out of the Lancaster Inter-Municipal Committee may hobble the organization. But not if its members adjust to changing times.
With Lancaster County's two largest suburban townships gone, the LIMC will lose tens of thousands of dollars from its budget.
Some of the remaining 10 municipalities -- Lancaster city, Columbia, East Petersburg, Millersville, and the townships of East Lampeter, Lancaster, Manor, West Hempfield and West Lampeter -- also may decide to withdraw.
That could scuttle a quarter of a century of cooperation among Lancaster and its suburbs.
Or it could lead to a more informal sharing of information that could accomplish many of the same goals.
The point of the LIMC has been to gather municipal officials from the county's most populous municipalities to share information and, sometimes, costs of projects.
The committee has worked on regional comprehensive planning, regional park and open-space planning, harmonized construction codes and creation of the county's Transportation Authority.
It has saved member municipalities money, as pointed out in a letter to the editor by Michael LaSala, the LIMC's former executive director.
For one example, LaSala cited the purchase of an alternative patching material by nine LIMC municipalities for about 30 percent less than had each municipality purchased its own.
But East Hempfield and Manheim township, strapped for cash, decided they were spending too much money to support the committee.
With LIMC membership contributions based on a municipality's earned-income tax and assessed property valuation, the two townships, along with Lancaster city, were paying a hefty percentage of the overall cost of operating the committee.
The impulse to save taxpayers money is commendable.
These are tight times for government on the federal, state and local levels. State and local governments are tightening their belts and the federal government incessantly talks about doing the same.
Manheim and East Hempfield townships are looking to save money wherever they can.
But we hope the two seceding townships don't decide to walk away from all of their responsibilities to work within the region.
The roots of the LIMC are in an informal group of representatives of suburban municipalities who began meeting in the 1960s. Staff was not hired until the late 1980s. The committee was reorganized under Pennsylvania law as a council of governments in 1995.
Returning to the less formal and less expensive method of inter-municipal cooperation of the 1960s and 1970s would not necessarily be a backward step -- if all municipalities continue to recognize their common concerns and needs.
If more municipalities fall away and paid staff is no longer an option, municipal officials themselves should remain engaged in regional concerns -- planning for new development first among them.
The roots of the LIMC are in an informal group of representatives of suburban municipalities.