Folks interested in being part of the Sharon home rule transition committee Thursday heard from some experts about what the group will do over the next year.

Home Rule Study Commission Chairman William McConnell Jr. said they held the session so that people could become “better informed about what they might be getting themselves into.”

Three members of the study commission, two city council members and four qualified city voters will make up the committee. The study commission and council will select their representatives and each entity will pick two of the four resident members.

The committee is responsible for creating an orderly transition from Sharon’s strong-mayor form of government to the one laid out in the home rule charter approved by voters last month. It calls for an appointed city manager and financial officer instead of an elected mayor, treasurer and controller.

The committee will also draft an administrative code for the city under the guidance of the city solicitor and play a role in hiring the city’s first manager. The charter will become effective in phases as elected officials terms expire. It will be in full effect in Jan. 2012.

Michael S. Foreman, a local government policy specialist from the state Department of Community and Economic Development and Mercer County Judge John C. Reed talked about the process of switching to home rule. Reed was solicitor for Hickory Township when it switched to home rule in the 1970s.

“The charter is the guiding light. The administrative code is the path that the guiding light will take … and it’s a work in progress,” Foreman said.

The administrative code can be amended by ordinance, Foreman said. The committee is just a recommending body, Reed said. The code will spell out powers and duties of department heads and the organization of departments within the government, Foreman said.

The code must be presented to council by Jan. 1, 2009, according to the charter. Council can delete, add or change things in it as they wish, Reed said.

Reed talked about how this worked in Hickory Township, where the nine-person administrative code committee included a majority of people from the home rule study commission.

The Hickory Township study group met twice a month for about three hours each time and spent up to two hours reviewing materials between meetings, Reed said. Sharon council President Fred Hoffman said the changeover may be easier for Sharon because it’s not going from a township to a city, as Hickory Township did when it became Hermitage.

Hoffman said the administrative code drafting will be mostly language changes from the current city code. Foreman said the code’s framework already exists in the charter and that the code just gives definition to it.

Reed compared what’s in the charter to a skeleton and said the code is like putting muscle and skin on the bones.

Addressing a public concern voiced prior to the election at which the charter was adopted by a 2-to-1 vote, Foreman said everything in the city government will stay the same until changed by council unless it’s contrary to the charter.

He also said that no municipality in Pennsylvania can abolish a paid fire department without a voter referendum.

McConnell said the commission will likely announce their appointees at a council meeting Dec. 20, but Hoffman said that meeting may be canceled as council has another meeting set for Dec. 27. Both council and the commission must name committee members by that date under the charter.

Any qualified Sharon voter who wants to serve on the transition committee as one of commission’s appointees should send a letter of intent, listing qualifications and explaining why he or she would want to serve, by Dec. 14 to: City of Sharon Government Study Commission, c/o William G. McConnell, Jr., chairman, Box 91, Sharon, 16146.

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