Working together was the theme of Wednesday evening's kickoff meeting of the Carbon County Council of Government.
During the event, held at the Lehighton Borough Annex, state Sen. John Yudichak, Carbon County Commissioners, and municipal officials gathered to meet each other, learn about COGs and how working together can benefit municipalities.
Yudichak welcomed the people in attendance and explained the mission of COGs. The newly formed group will allow local governments in the county to work together to share costs, leverage grants, and share information and resources to better meet the needs of local communities.
"Many local governments across our region have already witnessed the great benefits provided by regional councils of government and I am certain that the Carbon County COG will continue the overwhelming success stories of COGs across northeastern Pennsylvania," Yudichak said. "All of us here local officials, county commissioners, business leaders know that working cooperatively is the best and most cost effective way to deliver services to our residents."
Yudichak has prior experience with helping communities form successful COGs. He worked with a number of Luzerne County communities to form the West Side COG as a way to save money and improve services for many neighboring local governments.
He noted that not all COGs have the support of county commissioners like Carbon has. Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, has been influential in pushing for countywide partnerships.
"We want the municipalities to get better every day," Yudichak said, " and the only way to do that is to help each other. We have a great opportunity here to do great work."
Nothstein highlighted the narrowband radio project that the municipalities and county worked together on two years ago as proof that group efforts work.
He also introduced Linda Costa from the Pennsylvania Association of Council of Governments; Bob Pitcavage of the state Department of Environmental Protection; Loren Possinger of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; Dan Guydish of the Mountain Council of Governments; and Joe Clark of Banks Township, who is also a member of the Mountain COG.
Costa explained that a successful COG needs to follow a number of "C's" including cooperation, collaboration, communication, compromise, consensus and commitment.
Guydish, who has been a member of the Mountain COG since its inceptionin 1991, said that the next step the group needsto make is to meetregularly to get to know each other.
"You all have a common goal," he said, "and that is to serve the people that elected you."
Guydish noted that 85 percent of the municipalities in Pennsylvania have fewer than 5,000 residents anymore so strong tax bases in municipalities are not possible.
"The thing we have is each other and sharing what we have workers, equipment, ideas," he said.
Clark shared his personal experiences with a COG.
Banks Township never had its streets swept, he said, noting that because of the joint efforts in the Mountain COG, the municipality streets will be swept this year. The township also has not had road salt for the last four years. It is now getting salt delivered in August.
"After the bills were paid in January, we had $100," Clark said. "The COG has just been so tremendous and helpful in ways we couldn't do by ourselves."
Nothstein thanked everyone for coming, noting that 16 of the 23 municipalities were represented.
He then announced that the next meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, at the Carbon County Emergency Management Agency, located at 1264 Emergency Lane, just off Route 93 in Nesquehoning.
By then, Nothstein asked that municipalities interested in joining the COG should pass resolutions expressing their interest; complete an inventory of the items they have that can be shared; and the needs of the community.