88th Annual Township Convention Held
The executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors was one of several keynote speakers to take the podium Monday at the county’s well-attended 88th annual township convention.
Before a crowded Sideling Hill Christian Church dining hall, Executive Director David Sanko kicked off his 2010 convention presentation with a preview of what Senate and House bills are currently in the works and what new legislative issues have come to light.
According to Sanko, under House Bill 2431, the state’s Constitution would be amended to eliminate the existence of townships as the the lowest level of local government. In turn, each county board of commissioners would became the leading authority on law enforcement, land use and zoning, personnel, sanitation and health and safety issues.
“Municipalities would exist only under the jurisdiction of the county and only with those powers delegated by it,” stated Sanko, who added the House bill is currently before the House Local Government Committee. In order for HB 2431 to become law, however, the measure must first pass two consecutive legislative sessions and be approved by a statewide referendum.
Moving onto the topic of boundary reviews, as is suggested in Senate Bill 1357, Sanko reported a commission would be created to come up with suggestions on local government boundaries through mergers, consolidations and annexations. Sanko noted PSATS testified in August regarding SB 1357 and at the time had resolutions from 900 townships opposing boundary changes.
Sanko stated as a result of PSATS’ stance and involvement on SB 1357, the organization was accused of “bullying” sponsors of the Senate bill into dropping out. Only three bill sponsors currently remain.
Under the topic of legislative issues, Sanko touched on possible savings to be had by townships, which are currently required to publish their legal notices in area newspapers. Two bills are currently in existence, Senate Bill 419 and House Bill 795, to address electronic publication. If approved, the bills would require the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services to maintain a list of approved Web sites for legal notices.
Sanko informed the crowd that PSATS executive board members and staff also testified in the spring during special legislative sessions on the need to enhance transportation funding. Those testifying asked for support of additional funding as long as 20 percent of the funding is earmarked to local government.
One suggestion being proposed, but not supported by PSATS, would require municipalities that do not provide for police protection to pay an annual per-capita fee of $156 per resident to the Pennsylvania State Police. Sanko’s presentation suggested payments for police services would be a “dangerous precedent” and questioned what services will require payment next – Department of Environmental Protection of PennDOT.
Sanko wrapped up his presentation with an overview of existing PSATS standing committees, the grassroots network, member services and available training.
In the final year of his first term of office and currently unopposed on the November 2 election ballot, Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr. announced he wasn’t familiar with the roles of townships in Pennsylvania when he first came to office. However, he has met with PSATS officials frequently in recent years and has heard their testimony on technical issues as well as matters that affect all townships across the state.
“The role of township is changing. Money is tight and there will be compression in Harrisburg,” said the senator, who added the Legislature will continue looking at system changes; duplicated services; under and unfunded mandates.
“You have the real ideas,” Eichelberger said to the township officials on hand. “You’re where the rubber meets the road.”
Under the question and answer portion of his presentation, Eichelberger told Taylor Township Supervisor Richard Doney the issue of paying for state police coverage is currently in committee and unlikely to move on. The majority of complaints Eichelberger said he fields on the subject, though, are from supervisors who are paying their fair share for coverage and think other townships should as well.
Fulton County Commissioner Craig Cutchall applauded the efforts of local townships during his speech and noted the longer he is in his position, the more he appreciates and recognizes the townships’ efforts.
“I would like to see more people step up to the plate and be more active in county and township government,” said Cutchall, who made reference to the youngest township supervisor in attendance, 21-yearold Jason Bricker of Wells Township.
“Smaller is better. I totally agree with his concept,” added Cutchall. “Small groups are the ones to get the job done.”
Steve Thomas from the county mapping and planning office provided an overview of the status of the stormwater and food plain management ordinances. Thomas reported a workshop for municipalities has been scheduled for November 8 for townships wishing to adopt the model stormwater ordinance or a similar ordinance. All information on the ordinance is due to the state by February 14, while townships have until the February 18 deadline to submit a flood plain management ordinance.
Fulton County Sheriff Keith Stains gave a rundown of duties performed by his office, which primarily include overseeing court proceedings, transporting prisoners, serving civil process papers, overseeing foreclosures and sheriff sales, serving protectionfrom abuse orders and issuing license-to-carry permits.
Stains went on to review training requirements and HB 2585, which if approved would define sheriffs and deputies as “law enforcement.”
“There is plenty of work for everyone out there,” said Stains. “Crime’s going up ... You won’t see anymore protection than what you are seeing now even if you pay for protection.”
At the request of township officials, Stains also provided those in attendance with an outline of what it would cost townships to cover the cost associated with putting three additional deputies on the county’s roadways. The proposed budget totalled $171,581 and covered items such as salary, insurance, uniforms and protective gear, weapons, vehicles, fuel and radios. By dividing the annual budget, Ayr Township’s weighted share would be $24,587. In comparison, Wells Township with the smallest population, aside from the Valley-Hi Borough, would pay $5,775.
Erosion and sediment control technician Andy Stottlemyer, with the Fulton County Conservation District, outlined the responsibilities of local governing bodies in connection with changes being made to Chapter 102 regulations. According to Stottlemyer, any municipality issuing a building permit will be required to notify the Conservation District within five days of receipt of an application for a permit involving an earth disturbance activity consisting of one acre or more. Furthermore, earthmoving activities disturbing one or more acres are required to obtain a NPDES prior to any earth moving. Exceptions are limited to agricultural plowing and tilling where conservation and E&S plans are required.
In addition, Stottlemyer reported with the exception of local stormwater approvals, a municipality will be unable to issue a building permit to those wanting to conduct earth moving disturbance activities until the Conservation District has issued the E&S or individual NPDES permit.
Speakers during the afternoon portion of the convention’s program were Scott Alexander of the Fulton County Conservation District, Ayr Township secretary Denise Grissinger, Commonwealth Code inspector Clem Malot, Thompson Township Supervisor Robert Swadley and Josh Vecchio of the Capital Tax Collection Bureau.