Scranton, Lackawanna County - What is the future of Lackawanna County government?
That issue went before a panel of judges Wednesday morning. Their decision could pave the way for big changes down the road.
Last week, county commissioners approved a ballot question that will ask voters if they want to get rid of four elected row offices.
A Dunmore businessman is looking for something more.
For the last few weeks, Chuck Volpe and supporters have been gathering signatures on petitions for a different question, one that could potentially eliminate the current three-commissioner form of government.
Judges must now decide if one or both questions should be on the May primary ballot.
Outside the Lackawanna County courthouse after the hearing, people who want to revamp the way government is run say their support is growing.
"27-hundred signatures in under two days," businessman Chuck Volpe said. "That speaks to the ground-swell of support. People are outraged and they see a chance to take their government back."
Volpe and his attorney argue that their question, which would establish a government study commission, should be the only one on the ballot.
Volpe has been outspoken in saying he favors getting rid of the current commissioner form of government and replacing it with an elected county executive and part-time county council.
Members of the public are taking notice.
"It's important as a citizen of Lackawanna County for me to know what is our government going to look like in five or ten years," Bill Burke of Moscow said.
Last week, Lackawanna County commissioners, by a 2-to-1 vote, approved their ballot question. They want to ask voters to eliminate the row offices of Recorder of Deeds, Register of Wills and Clerk of Judicial Records and make the county sheriff an appointed position.
Lawyers for the county aren't opposed to both questions being on the ballot but the other side is.
"I think the main issue, simply, is that it could cause confusion and misunderstanding for the electorate and question is all encompassing and inclusive of Lackawanna County's question," attorney Frank Ruggerio said.
The panel of judges did not make any immediate rulings.
"When the lawyers get finished fighting on it, this is going to be a decision for the people," county attorney Joseph O'Brien said. "Should we amend the home rule charter? Should we have an optional plan of government? Should we do both? The people should decide that."
Supporters of the government study question say that as of Wednesday morning, they have 4,545 signatures on their petitions.
It is not known when the judges will make their decision.