2012-10-10 / Front Page

Townships Meet For 90th Convention

County Association of Township Officials meets Monday for annual gathering
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

NEWS EDITOR

Township officials from across the county crowded into the Hustontown Firehall on Columbus Day for their annual convention that coincidentally marks 90 years of gatherings for the Fulton County Association of Township Officials.

A new face to the convention agenda that primarily boasts speakers from county government, Humane Society officer Jeff Bliss shared with attendees the goings on at Better Days Animal League. Having had an established presence locally since 2007, BDAL has been very active here in recent years responding to cases of strays and animal cruelty.

Bliss said during the course of the last year, BDAL has helped house 327 animals from Fulton County. That number, however, is only a drop in the bucket to the number of animal cases BDAL has become involved in. One of those instances includes a kitten thrown from a moving vehicle that was observed by a motorist.

To date, Bliss stated BDAL is spending between $75 and $90 per animal to provide vaccinations, deworming, leukemia testing and spaying or neutering prior to adoption.

In addition to establishing a thrift store on Lincoln Way West, Bliss noted BDAL is renting a portion of a former medical facility in Penn’s Village Shopping Center. At that location, BDAL will be opening a low-cost spay and neutering clinic for local residents. Cost for a procedure has been estimated at $45 instead of $240 or more elsewhere.

According to Bliss, BDAL has incurred more than $10,000 in veterinarian costs, medicine and holding costs for Fulton County animals. In addition, over $6,000 has been expended to provide gasoline, vehicle registration and insurance to aid in officer investigations here.

He pointed out the number one problem observed here is the poisoning of animals, which is a slow, painful death as the body’s organs shut down.

“We’re going to continue to provide services to Fulton County as long as we possibly can with your support,” Bliss said. He went on to define what constitutes neglect, including visible backbones and ribs and a sunken stomach. Neglect is typically a summary offense, which can carry a fine of $25 to $750. Poisoning is a second-degree misdemeanor and can result in 90 days incarceration.

“We work hard to build a case, but it’s up to the judge as to what happens to an individual,” said the volunteer officer, who covers Fulton, Franklin and Cumberland counties.

Attendees also heard from Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., who touched on several legislative bills that could potentially affect township government as well as the possibility of taxing service plazas along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. One such service plaza exists in northern Fulton County, but Eichelberger said taxes cannot be collected because the turnpike owns the buildings.

The senator mentioned the 7,000 underfunded or unfunded mandates in existence at the state level and areas that could lead to financial distress, such as municipal pensions, prevailing wages and nonprofit groups operating without a charitable purpose.

PSATS Executive Director David Sanko reiterated some of Eichelberger’s comments, mentioning unfunded mandates such as legal advertising, prevailing wages, tax-exempt properties, police pensions and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) requirements for wastewater treatment systems. A final report on these mandates is expected to include recommendations for waivers or partial waivers as well as anticipated cost savings.

Sanko referenced several legislative issues that emerged during the House and Senate’s spring session. Act 97 of 2012, Sanko said, would amend the Municipal Planning Code to require municipali- ties to submit a monthly report to school districts if a residential development was approved. The report must include the development’s location, the number and types of units and the expected construction schedule.

Another legislative issue last spring was Act 114 of 2012 that amends the Vehicle Code to prohibit motorists from going around traffic control devices used in road closures. The act would impose a fine of $250, and additional fines could be levied if a first responder or rescue service responds to the scene.

On the fall schedule, Sanko indicated transportation funding remains a big issue. He pointed out $1 million is spent annually on license plate registration stickers, and Pennsylvania is the only state using such a system.

Commissioner Rodney McCray told those on hand the commissioners will be getting a lot of issues resolved in the next several years. He said the current board has established a good working relationship and lauded the efforts of department heads.

McCray went on to discuss expenses the county incurs but has no control over. He specifically cited fees associated with housing prisoners.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Irvin Dasher said during his speech at the 2011 convention he mentioned a need to curb spending. He added it was ironic this year that his focus would be on ongoing spending and facility renovations.

He noted even though some days no one appears to be happy with the county’s decision-making, they do what’s best for everyone or the county as a whole. “It’s a juggling act,” he said.

He added that even though the three commissioners don’t always agree all of the time, they are still able to reach an agreement.

Commissioner Craig Cutchall thanked the township officials for their hard work. He said they are doing the best they can do with what limited resources they have.

Speaking about the upcoming presidential election, he reminded the crowd that although they will not be required to show photo identification they still may be asked. He urged everyone to be happy and show some patience with the process.

“If you don’t vote, you don’t have a voice in government,” said Cutchall, who urged everyone to take a neighbor to vote on Election Day.

Mary K. Seville of the county planning office stated surveys will be sent out in late November or early December to update the 12- year transportation plan for the Southern Alleghenies; all requests for new 911 street addresses should be issued from her office; and contractors working with antenna additions for cell towers will need proper permits.

Seville’s comments were followed up with additional input from a representative of the Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission. The official stated Fulton County is one of four SAPDC counties receiving transportation programming. Three main areas addressed through SAPDC is the Transportation Improvement Program, the 12-year plan and the 20-year long-range plan.

The woman stated that with time projects eventually make their way to the forefront. Given that there have been massive reductions in transportation funding, tough decisions will be made using input from the townships.

Seleen Shives and Andy Stottlemyer of the Fulton County Conservation District fielded questions from the crowd on the difference between rain gardens and stormwater detention basins; permitting required for land disturbances over one acre; and erosion controls.

Emergency Management Agency Director Ruth Strait updated the township officials on upcoming training dates, including a Weather Spotter training currently set for October 25. Strait also expressed the need for amateur radio operators at a local level to man the Emergency Operations Center.

Having escaped any extreme weather this year, Strait did mention the county received plenty of precipitation. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources officials recorded 29.21 inches of precipitation to date this year, Strait said.

Clem Malot of Commonwealth Code Inspection Services outlined the number of various permits issued this year in comparison to 2011, while Jim Buffington from Capital Tax Collection Bureau closed out the day. He said Capital Tax currently serves a fivecounty area spanning Juniata, Huntingdon, Somerset, Perry and Fulton counties. Licking Creek Township secretary LuAnne Keebaugh serves on the group’s executive committee.

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