The Western Cumberland Council of Governments was formed in 2001 after a Task Force studied the need for a COG to serve nearly fifteen municipalities in Western Cumberland County.
The idea of creating a Council of Governments arose at the conclusion of a Cumberland County Planning Commission meeting in the summer of 2000. The Planning Commission hosts a quarterly outreach meeting in each of the three regions of the county East-Central-West. The sessions which coincide with a catered luncheon have enabled county planning officials to meet with local municipal officials on a regular basis. The outreach session features a series of presentations by the county planning staff on a variety of planning related issues. Often one or two of the county Commissioners are in attendance for the meeting. At the conclusion of one such meeting in June of 2000, a Newville Borough official suggested to those in attendance "perhaps the time has come to study the formation of a COG to serve the western region of Cumberland County."
The county officials present took the suggestion and ran with it. Cumberland County Chief Clerk John Ward and Planning Commission Chairman Paul Zeigler liked the idea so much they were able to convince county Commissioners Nancy Besch, Earl Keller and Rick Rovegno to facilitate further discussions concerning the need for a COG. Under the direction of Chief Clerk John Ward, Chairman Zeigler created a task force of municipal officials who worked as the nucleus of the COG movement. Those officials include Albert "Buck" Shuller, Chairman, Penn Township Board of Supervisors, Samuel Sangialosi, Chairman, Cooke Township Board of Supervisors, George Wickard, Chairman, Upper Frankford Township Board of Supervisors, Bob Smith, Chairman, North Newton Township Board of Supervisors, the late Newville Mayor Roy W. Kelso, Newville Borough Manager Fred Potzer.
The county officials arranged for a presentation by a representative of the Upper Dauphin Council of Governments on the benefits of working intergovernmentally. County officials obtain by-laws from several COGs throughout the Commonwealth and arranged for Mitch Hoffman of the Governor's Center For Local Government Services to act as a special consultant to the group. Hoffman, the former manager of nearby West Pennsboro Township was no stranger to the task force. After a few meeting with the task force he was able to draft a set of by-laws for the Western Cumberland Council of Governments. Initially, seven municipalities voted to join the COG and the first meeting was held at the Newville Borough Office in January of 2001.
The first duly elected officers of the COG were: President – William W. Wolfe (Shippensburg Borough Manager) Vice President – Roy W. Kelso (Newville Mayor), Secretary- Dr. William W. Cowden (Superintendent of Schools – Big Spring School District), Treasurer – Fred A. Potzer (Newville Borough Manager). With the exception of Newville Mayor Roy Kelso who died on December 4, 2003, all officers continue to serve until this day. In January of 2005 Samuel Sangialosi was unanimously elected as President, Newburg Mayor Susan Stump was elected Vice President and Pat Sangialosi was elected Treasurer. Dr. William K. Cowden continues to serve as Secretary. In January of 2005 the COG hired its first employee, Patricia Sangialosi who was named Administrator for the Council of Governments. Pat also serves as the part time township secretary for Penn Township, Cumberland County and Latimer Township, Adams County.
One of the unique features of the Western Cumberland COG was the active participation which the COG encouraged from the Big Spring School District. In fact, the district's Superintendent serves as the COG Secretary. Three affiliate members have also been created for the Shippensburg Borough Authority, the Newville Water and Sewer Authority and the West Shore Bureau of Fire.
After four years of successful operation the Western Cumberland COG has grown to include 16 municipalities and 3 associate members. The meetings continue to be held on the second Monday of each month at 2PM but due to the size of the COG meetings were relocated from the Newville Borough Office to the West Pennsboro Township Municipal Building in the latter half of 2003. The COG has officially amended it's by-laws three times to take in members from outside of the western region of the county. Those members included Dickinson Township, West Pennsboro Township and Mt. Holly Springs Borough.
The Western Cumberland COG offers members a wide variety of municipal services which include joint purchasing (road salt, road materials, traffic line painting, equipment rental, medical insurance, cellular telephone service), shared municipal services (Regional Code Enforcement Program for the administration of the Uniform Construction Code), Emergency Management Mutual Aid Pact (Newville, West Pennsboro, Upper Frankford, Lower Mifflin, Upper Mifflin, North Newton), the creation of a Regional Comprehensive Plan and soon, a Regional Transportation and Land Use Study. The monthly COG meeting are attended by one of the County Commissioners and in fact, the present Board of Commissioners chaired by Bruce Barclay has gone so far as to amend their monthly meeting schedule so that County Commissioner Rick Rovegno may be in attendance at all COG meetings. The Board of Commissioners has further designated county Solid Waste Director Thomas Imphong to serve as liaison to the COG. In this capacity he serves as a single point of contact for the WCCOG municipalities on any matter of county business. State Representative William I. Gabig has directed his Chief of Staff Dawn Keefer to attend all COG meetings and the Cumberland County Planning Commission has designated Planning Commission Ronald Glesner of North Newton Township to be in attendance at all COG meetings.
Officials of the Western Cumberland COG greatly appreciate the help and support received from state and county officials. They proudly acknowledge the positive cooperation which is displayed by the various levels of government who are working to better serve the western region of Cumberland County. The COG serves municipalities as small as 100 residents to municipalities with nearly 5,000 residents. Collectively, the COG services nearly 1/3 of the county's present population.
Officials from the Western Cumberland COG serve beyond the borders of their respective municipalities. For example, Newburg Mayor Susan Stump serves as delegate to the PA Council of Governments Association; Lower Frankford Township Chairman Timothy Lush represents the entire western region of the county on the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission; Lower Mifflin Township Chairman John Sullivan and Cooke Township Chairman Samuel Sangialosi serve on the county's new Emergency Services Action Panel; Dickinson Township Supervisor August Ginter serves on the county's Hazard Mitigation Planning Board.
COG officials are especially pleased to note that they have been successful in obtaining several grants for the COG: $7,500 from DCED for new 800Mhz radios; $50,000 from DCED for a Regional Comprehensive Plan; $20,000 from PennDOT for a Regional Transportation Plan (an additional $50,000 will soon be awarded for this effort by DCED).
One of the COG's newest ventures is a municipal grant writing service offered in cooperation with the Redevelopment Authority of Cumberland County. Through this program, any member of the Western Cumberland COG may avail themselves of the professional grantsmanship services of the Redevelopment Authority. The COG believes that it may be the first in the state to offer this form of service for it's membership.