THE PROPOSED Wheatland-Hermitage merger idea that was revealed in a story Wednesday in The Herald brings up some interesting questions.

Will this ever come to fruition, for one?

Of all the merger attempts in past years, this one probably has a chance to succeed, although there may be better alternatives. But if truth be told, pretty much all communities would be willing to join Hermitage while rejecting others.

One merger thought would be Wheatland and Farrell, since kids from both communities belong to the same school district. But you don’t see Wheatland officials going that direction.

However, there is a big industrial/business corridor off the interstates linking Hermitage and Wheatland, which could be a natural move.

When a consolidation of Farrell, Sharon, Sharpsville, Hermitage and Wheatland came up in 2004 for a vote into one big Shenango Valley, many voters outside of Sharon and Farrell pretty much were against the plan.

And the idea of Farrell and Sharon merging has also been kicked around a few times, but has gone nowhere.

Unless the state forced municipalities to link up, it will probably never come to be locally unless Sharon and Farrell can regain the once-great business and industry status they once enjoyed. Funny how that works!

Pennsylvania seriously should look into forcing consolidation of many communities. This state, 32nd largest geographically, has the nation’s second-largest number of municipalities. Does that really make sense?

And look at the fact that the state has 500 public school districts. Everybody wants to keep their own identity, which has been the problem in consolidating school districts. 

If there is a feasibility study of a Hermitage-Wheatland merger, it will be interesting to watch.

And if that does happen, I am figuring the Wheatland kids will ultimately attend Hermitage schools, even though officials from both Hermitage and Wheatland are saying they would remain in Farrell School District. That would further reduce numbers at what is already one of the smaller school districts in Pennsylvania.

I have always been a believer in consolidation of both municipalities and school districts. If done right, it would be a plus in several ways.

But if that can’t be, we should have more mergers of services. The Mercer County Council of Governments has provided some impetus in that area. However, there could still be bigger moves such one police department and/or fire department for Sharon and Farrell ... or Hermitage and Sharpsville ... or any other two communities that are neighbors.

The same could be true with schools, who do link programs in some areas. Sports co-ops have been one example —  The Herald carried a story recently on discussions between Greenville and Jamestown to team up in wrestling.

Some co-ops have worked well, some not so much. Years ago Reynolds and Jamestown had a joint baseball team. Jamestown was the host school, but I believe all nine starters in some games were from Reynolds. Obviously, that could rattle the fins of some Muskies.

Our communities and school districts are shrinking in population. Leaders need to get together, put the past behind, and develop plans that will cut the financial burden, yet provide better service for all citizens. 

I am not holding my breath!

LYNN SATERNOW of The Herald writes this column each Saturday for The Opinion Page. He can be reached at lsaternow@sharonherald.com.

Lynn joined The Herald in 1970 and served in multiple capacities, now as sports editor and opinion columnist. The Hickory High grad won various awards for journalism. He has a bachelor's degree in biology from Kent State University.

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