MERCHANTVILLE, NJ – June 14, 2011 – The Merchantville Council last night voted 4-2 to endorse an application by a local grassroots group to form a Municipal Consolidation Study Commission with Cherry Hill. The grassroots group, “Merchantville Connecting for the Future,” will now have the application reviewed by the state Department of Community Affairs.
It is expected the state will approve the application next month so that three public meetings could be held later this summer. Bob Stocker, a member of Merchantville Connecting for the Future, said the Merchantville council’s vote was largely symbolic, as a new law passed by the state Legislature allows the study to continue without consent from one of the two municipal governing bodies. The Cherry Hill council had already approved the consolidation study. “The Merchantville vote, to me, was more gratifying than having the state Legislature pass the law earlier this year,” Stocker said. “The council had originally been adversarial. To now have this vote shows we are all working together.” Stocker said a committee representing Merchantville for this study is non-partisan and focused on finding out if consolidation with Cherry Hill is the best option. The committee includes: Rosemari Hicks, Richard James, Kathy Birmingham, Anthony Perno, George Wilkinson and Dan Fiedler. Stocker said his group is working through the consolidation process with Courage to Connect New Jersey, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that helps residents examine ways to run government for efficiently, such as through municipal consolidation. “It has been more than a year to get to this point and I really feel we’ve turned the corner,” Stocker said. “We are really working toward the same goal, which is to study if this is the right move for Merchantville and Cherry Hill.”