Merchantville residents have repeatedly tried to send their children to the Cherry Hill school district. Now they are at it again, this time pushing for consolidation of the two municipalities.
A petition circulated in Merchantville recently urged a study into the possibility of merging Merchantville and Cherry Hill. An online petition was circulated as well. Bob Stocker and Russell Loue — members of the group behind the petition — and other residents presented it to Merchantville Mayor Frank North and borough council members at a June 14 council meeting. The council unanimously decided to ask a third party to conduct a feasibility study on consolidation. Talks of a study have taken place in the past, but Loue said the public has not been notified about it. So he, Stocker and other residents decided to do a little investigating. “I said let’s find out for ourselves,” said Loue, a six-year resident of Merchantville. “We would like to find out if we can save this community through consolidation. “Through the numbers we see, the town will not survive, so let’s do a real feasibility study with Cherry Hill. Let us see the numbers.” At the most recent borough council meeting Monday, Mayor North announced he has started the process by meeting with Cherry Hill Mayor Bernie Platt. North said he believes the cost to perform a study will be about $100,000. “If we can come up with the financing, both Merchantville and Cherry Hill will appoint committees,” North said. “They will draw up an RFP (request for proposal) and submit it to various companies that do this type of study. If everything goes well, someone would be hired to perform the study, and that information would be brought back to committees.” Cherry Hill’s mayor would be agreeable to examining the issue, his spokesman said. “The mayor would be more than willing to take a closer look at the situation,” said spokesman Dan Keashen. “He is more then willing to entertain the theory of consolidation.” Gina Genovese, former mayor of Long Hill, Morris County, and founder of Courage to Connect for New Jersey, said she believes the push for consolidation is a step that needs to be taken. Courage to Connect NJ is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that wants to be a model for connecting communities’ administrative structures, according to its website. Genovese applauded consolidation efforts by Merchantville residents. “Merchantville took advantage of the legislation that’s already there,” Genovese said. “For the first time, residents have taken advantage, which gives power to people to do this. That gives people the same power as local officials.”