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The 1970 Borough Consolidation Try
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor

            Imagine that you lived at 826 Washington St. in Pennsburg for 20 years.  Today, you were told that your new address will be 1408 Lincoln St. in Upper Perkiomen, PA. 

            It's still the same house, just a new address.  How would that affect you,

The voters of East Greenville soundly rejected the

consolidation attempt by 201 votes.

what changes would you need to make, and how expensive (in time and money) would it be?  How many documents would need to be changed and how many agencies would need to be notified?           What about property records, driver's license, vehicle registrations, credit cards, tax records, bank accounts, friends and family, and on and on.  It's your responsibility to do take care of it.

            If municipal zoning changed would your home still be in a residential district or would it become an industrial district?  Would your store still be in a commercial district or would it now be

The borough consolidation referendum fell by only 8

votes in Pennsburg.

in the middle of the institutional only district?  Either case could bar you from making future changes to it.  

            As difficult as it seems, if it wasn't for the internet and online services it would be an overwhelming task.

            But, what if you didn't have the internet and online services?  What if there was no such thing as a personal computer for you to use?

            That's the way it was in 1970 when one of several attempts to merge the

In Red Hill the margin to reject the borough consolida-

tion referendum was 93 votes.

boroughs of East Greenville, Pennsburg and Red Hill was made.  It wasn't the first time a merger was attempted.  There were efforts in the 1940s and as far back as 1926. 

            The earlier attempts failed but this was one of the most intense efforts to date, organized by two local service organizations.  It included petitioning and getting the question on the ballot for the voters to decide.

            With Pennsylvania Governor Raymond Shafer calling for reform of state government at all levels in 1969, the three boroughs requested a study be done on the possibility of becoming one borough.

            A 70-page report was prepared and issued by the Bureau of Local Government Services, PA Department of Community Affairs, and issued in the spring of 1970.  The report consisted mainly of an analysis of current services and costs and what those would cost in the future.  The report also noted the geographical significance of the three boroughs saying they are in reality one integral community adjacent to one major highway traversing the entire length of the main thoroughfare. 

            At the time, the three boroughs had a combined population of 5,386 residents.

            The report cited that there would be considerable savings for taxpayers and more efficient services in lieu of less duplication of municipal services.

            In particular, it reported that each borough has one mayor, seven council members, tax collector, secretary, treasurer, solicitor, engineer, police chief and health officer.  It also expressed concerns over the lack of 24-hour police protection but that the part-time protection is effective due to the high degree of cooperation between the present services.

            Among a host of other items, the report indicated that a model budget for the three combined boroughs in 1970 should be $141,500, based on revenues mainly coming from a seven-mill real estate tax and half-cent earned income tax.

            The combined budget for each of the boroughs in 1970 was $161,200.

            Starting in July, the Upper Perkiomen Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Upper Perkiomen Valley Jaycees began circulating petitions in the boroughs.  The two groups were spearheading the movement to have the question on November's ballot.  They even prepared flyers to distribute throughout the boroughs to provide answers to a number of pertinent questions that came up since the discussions began.

            From the time the petition was filed until the election, meetings were held discussing the pros and cons of consolidating the boroughs.  A group, the Citizens Committee for Consolidation, was formed to help promote it.

            By August 9, the Chamber and the Jaycees reported that the number of signatures required for the consolidation referendum to get on the ballot in all three boroughs was well over the amount needed to file with the Montgomery County Board of Elections.  At the time, only 69 signatures were required to do so.

            So, for only the 18th time in Pennsylvania's history, a referendum was held on municipal consolidation.  The last one had been in 1954.

            On Tuesday, November 3, 1970, close to 80% of the voters (how's that for a turnout?) of East Greenville, Pennsburg and Red Hill went to the polls to vote on the merger question.  It was voted down.

            The count was 183 for and 384 against in East Greenville; 290 for and 298 against in Pennsburg; and 144 for and 237 against in Red Hill.

            Perhaps the report should have contained suggestions or instructions on how the residents would navigate and pay for the changes that would have been imposed on them and reported on the future of their properties if consolidation occurred.





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