Monday, November 19, 2012

Legislation, Information and Appropriation

Thank you for tuning in to my blog. I appreciate your interest and thank you for allowing me to continue to represent you.

I have several topics to discuss in this issue. I would like to begin with the meeting I attended last Thursday with the Hanover Borough Water and Sewer Committee, where I was afforded the opportunity to gain some specific answers on the questions I had previously posed concerning the Inter-Municipal Wastewater Agreement, followed by a recap of my concerns with the Nuisance Ordinance Amendment as it pertains to furniture, then touching on some of the specifics within the 2013 Borough Budget, a few notes on the Hanover Area Regional Economic Development Committee, and lastly looking forward to the Adams County Borough Association meeting to be held this evening.

Hanover Regional Inter-Municipal Wastewater Agreement

I would first like to thank Barb Krebs and Ed Reed for the invitation to attend their committee meeting last week. They were not only cordial and accommodating, but very thorough in their explanations concerning the Inter-Municipal Wastewater Agreement.

Specifically, I had posed the question asking why the audit procedure lumps the municipalities into one audit instead of separately as the original document dictates. The current audit DOES list each municipality separately, however, only one audit is completed in order to reduce the costs of having four individual documents produced. This makes complete sense, and still allows for the proper financial distributions to be displayed for public record.

I had also questioned why, after 25 years, do we need to document these abberations to the original agreement in writing, as opposed to amending the original document. It was explained that some 25 years ago, the relationships between the municipalities were such that an agreement on a handshake was as good as a legal document today. However, in today's legal environment, a handshake agreement does not pull weight with auditors who must abide by the rules to which they are bound. As such, the agreement, which has been in effect since that time, had to be formalized. When I questioned why the original document was not re-written, it was explained that in order to do so would constitute a new document in the eyes of the DEP and other regulatory establishments, and would be subject to the entire process of review and approval. This process would cost the municipalities much time and money, and would also subject the agreement to newer and possibly more restrictive guidelines, as some of the policies and allowances of these regulatory establishments have changed over the years. This also makes sense to me.

My other major concern was in regards to the Conveyance System Charge. It is currently being distributed on a percentage of the original Capital Contribution each municipality gave towards the construction of the system. I wondered why, since we meter the amounts coming from each municipality, do we not charge for this as stated in the agreement the same way we charge for the metered usage. It was explained that this Conveyance Charge is such a small amount compared to the total that it is more intensive to calculate the exact number, which would not actually change enough to warrant the labor it would take to keep track of it. Ideally, we are really talking a matter of several dollars; not hundreds or thousands of dollars. In efforts to streamline the process and reduce costs for its administration, it was decided to fix that amount each year. Once I was given the opportunity to see exactly how that works, this also makes sense.

Had I been afforded these answers PRIOR to voting on the Agreement, I would have been in favor of its signing. However, I will NEVER agree to vote on any legislation without fully understanding its impact on the constituents of this town. I would like to again thank the staff and municipal leaders of the Hanover Borough for affording me the opportunity to gain clarity concerning these matters, and look forward to working with them on the many joint projects we have together in the future.

Nuisance Ordinance Amendment

As this legislation did pass at the last meeting, with myself as the only dissenter, I will not spend a lot of time here in defense of my stance; many of you have read my comments previously concerning this topic. I would like to state that, in the Gettysburg Times, Dick Watson wrote that I was not in favor of it because of the wording. This is somewhat true.

I would have been in favor of passing this Ordinance had it not specfied which type of furniture would be banned, but if it would have stated more about the CONDITION of the furniture being used. Some on Council, after hearing my remarks against the legislation, said that we needed to be able to take action against those who did not keep their furniture in good condition, so as to avoid bugs, pests and disease. My comments were that the current Ordinances already address these concerns and give the Borough power to act when the need arises.

It is my belief still that the wording of this Ordinance is inappropriate and violates the rights of our citizens according to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If the furniture you use outside your home creates no threats to the life, liberty or pursuit of happiness of your neighbors, then it is of no concern to anyone what type of furniture you use on your own property. This Ordinance should have identified furniture that posed such threats, and not specific types of furniture.

2013 Borough Budget

I am happy to report that we have reviewed a Borough Budget which will be balanced and will not dictate any sort of tax increase for this next year.  It has been proposed that there will be funds to establish a Borough website, which should come to fruition by mid-next year. I would like to thank the other members of Council for seeing the Borough website as a useful tool to keep the people of McSherrystown informed, and to help promote our town to outside businesses who may want to come establish locations here, as well as attract homeowners and families to live here.

I will have more on the budget specfics once it is voted on and approved later this year.

Hanover Area Regional Economic Development Committee (HARED)

I was also in attendance this past week with members from Conewago Township, Hanover Borough, Penn Township, York County Planning Commission, Adams County Planning Commission, York County Economic Alliance, Adams County Economic Development Corp., and the York/Adams Regional Smart Growth Coalition as we collaborated on the establishment of a Regional Economic Development Plan for these four municipalities. It is the first time in Pennsylvania state history that such a plan is being developed across county lines.

We reveiwed the process needed to put this Plan together, and the associated costs to each municipality. This Plan would help our area identify our facilities, infrastructure and resources which would attract businesses to establish here, creating jobs and expanding the tax base in our immediate area. It would also give us direction as to how to reach out to specific industries in efforts to bring them to our municipalities.

The costs associated with this endeavor would total $16,625. This cost would be distributed among the municipalites, with Hanover and Penn Township giving $4,421.25 each, and Conewago Township and McSherrystown giving $3,891.25 each.  As members of the York County Economic Alliance, Hanover and Penn Township's contributions would be covered by that body.

To these ends, Shanna Terroso of the York/Adams Regional Smart Growth Coalition applied to the National Association of Realtors for a grant to cover the costs for McSherrystown and Conewago Township. If granted, this would mean that there would be no municipal contribution towards this project for the coming year. Shanna is hopeful that the grant will be approved by the end of November, and plans will be made to establish a Steering Committee by February, 2013 to start the Visioning Process and to study the Market Demand and Land Assessment in this region.

I am very excited about the opportunities this presents for local business leaders and residents alike to take an active role on this Committee. I will be actively communicating with the people of McSherrystown to see who is interested in joining me on the Steering Committee this coming Spring.

Adams County Borough Association

This governmental group is made up of representives from all the Borough Councils and Mayors in the county, as well as the local State Representatives Moul and Tallman, Senator Alloway, the Adams County Commissioners, Adams County township representatives and other important County officials. Reports are heard from the AC Radio Communication Group, AC Economic and Community Partnership, AC Transportation Planning Organization, AC Council of Governements, AC Tax Collection Committee and the Penn State Cooperative Extension.

By bringing together the elected leaders from the county municipalities, we gain greater insight as to the pertinent issues facing us individually and collectively. We are able to identify our strengths and opportunities for improvement, and to gain clarity on the impact of the legislation passed down to us by the state government. We are afforded the invaluable occasion to discuss these matters with our County Commissioners and our Congressional leaders, so that they can best represent the voices of our constituents.

At tonight's meeting, I will be accepting the nomination to become the Vice-President of this organization. In doing so, I hope to continue to serve not only the people of McSherrystown, but the people of Adams County as a whole, in efforts to promote the common good and to establish the means of creating an environment in which ideas will thrive, and where the actions that we initiate bring properity to the people, so that they may continue on their personal pursuits of happiness.

I am thankful for this opportunity, and I look forward to the great and wonderful things we can accomplish together for the good of our county.

For Liberty,

David "Scotty" Bolton
McSherrystown Borough Councilman and citizen

Monday, November 12, 2012

McSherrystown Borough's Solid Waste Ordinance Amendment

I appreciate your time and interest in the matters before our Borough. Let me begin today with a few reference links for you to study in efforts to make my explanation of the Solid Waste Ordinance Amendment as brief and easy as possible.

It has been suggested by certain members of the Council that the "unsightly" presence of indoor furniture being used on porches and unenclosed patios in the Borough "might" create situations of unsanitary junk accumulation, and they worry "that sofas and chairs used outdoors could get wet and become foul smelling, or be a haven for bugs and vermin."  McSherrystown could vote this month on banning sofas outdoors

In an effort to discourage the use of "indoor" furniture outside, these Council members are proposing an Amendment to the Solid Waste Ordinance (178) to specifically state that the Borough may fine anyone who does so. It was suggested that other local municipalities currently have text in their Ordinances banning such furniture. You can read that text and get a feel for what their citizens think from the following references:

York Bans Indoor Furniture Used Outside--FOX43
York’s great couch “epidemic”
York City passes ordinance to forbid indoor furniture outdoors
Gettysburg Borough Code, Page 10-4  §10-107. Unlawful to Maintain Interior Furniture On Porch. 
Maintaining or causing to maintain upon any unenclosed porch, or exterior attachment, 
furniture, other than furniture designed for exterior use, which is commonly intended 
for use inside a dwelling, including but not limited to upholstered sofas, chairs, davenports, beds, divans and the like, shall constitute a nuisance.  
(Ord. 6743, 4/3/1967; as added by Ord. 1211-98, 8/10/1998, §3; and as amended by Ord. 
1333-07, 4/9/2007) 

I have two specific issues with this proposed Amendment.

My first issue is that the Ordinance currently states, "It shall be unlawful for any person to accumulate or store any junked, abandoned or discarded vehicle, trailer, boat, appliance or household furnishing on private or public property within the Borough.", Chapter 178, Article I, Section 178-3 of the Code of the Borough of McSherrystown.  Household furnishings are defined as "All items normally found and used in a home." under the definitions within said Chapter.

Chapter 178, Article I, Section 178-1 of the Code says that the accumulation of these items "creates a hazard and danger to the health and welfare of people of the Borough".

It also states that "Any person who shall violate any section of this article shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine of not less than $50 nor more than $1,000, and, in default thereof, to imprisonment for a term not to exceed 30 days.", Chapter 178, Article I, Section 178-4 of the Code of the Borough of McSherrystown.

I believe these two sections of the already-existing Code are sufficient to give the Borough authority to maintain cleanliness and aesthetic tranquility within our municipality, without Amendment. If these furnishings are maintained as to not create "a hazard and danger to the health and welfare of people of the Borough", then it is my deduction that it is the people's responsible right to choose and maintain those furnishings, regardless of their intended use or classification by the manufacturer. Should those furnishings become non-compliant with the current Ordinance, the Borough already has remedies and actions it can take to correct those situations.

This brings us to my second issue with this proposed Amendment.

I am of the mind that the infringement of a citizen's right to choose what furniture they use at their residence is not within the powers of this municipal body, nor any legislative or representative body, under the jurisdiction of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If that furniture does not violate the above-referenced Ordinance and is in good condition, it is not for this Council to dictate how our citizens enjoy their possessions.

I will refer to Article I, Sections 1 and 26 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (click here to read the full text of this document):

Inherent Rights of Mankind
Section 1.

All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.

No Discrimination by Commonwealth and Its Political Subdivisions
Section 26.

Neither the Commonwealth nor any political subdivision thereof shall deny to any person the enjoyment of any civil right, nor discriminate against any person in the exercise of any civil right.

Being an Inherent Right, I believe that a citizens right of acquiring and possessing property and pursuing their own happiness with that property is a protected liberty under our Constitution. That right is currently reflected in our current Ordinance. By including the text of what specific furniture one may enjoy within the Commonwealth violates the very first section of our founding document. Including such restrictions also puts our Council in violation of Section 26, as I interpret the Inherent Rights explained under Section 1 to include and supersede the civil rights mentioned. If one cannot afford specifically designated "outdoor" furniture, and chooses to responsibly use other furnishings to enjoy their property, it is a direct discrimination against this demographic to ban their right to do so by legislation on any level of municipal government in Pennsylvania.

When I was sworn in as a Council member last December in the Gettysburg Courthouse, I vowed to defend the Constitution of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The latter document tells us that we have certain inherent rights, among which are those of enjoying liberty. It is my purpose, and my honor, to defend that liberty for all those who have entrusted me with this position. The government is designed to serve the people, not to hamper their rights. I hope that I have clearly demonstrated why I will NOT be voting in favor of this Solid Waste Ordinance Amendment, or any such legislation that violates the rights of our citizenry under the founding laws of our land. 

David "Scotty" Bolton
McSherrystown Borough Councilman and citizen.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Inter-municipal Agreement Auditing and Budgeting Procedure

I'm glad to have you back at my blog. Let me first apologize for not posting sooner after last week's meeting. With the National Elections fast approaching and an increase in personal life activity, it has been a chore to get everything done recently. I do have a very important matter to inform you about, and I hope that you will take some time to consider these points herein, and to garner attention to the facts at hand.

At the October 24th meeting, Council received communications from the Hanover Borough pertaining to the Hanover Area Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility's budgeting, payment and auditing methods. The communication outlines how, for the past 25 years, the Borough has figured these numbers. It also states that some of these calculations and methods are NOT in exact conformance with the Inter-municipal Agreement which all municipalities involved signed on November 15, 1982.

Specifically, the document tells us there are three areas which the auditors informed the Borough of Hanover were not being followed, and they were instructed to inform the municipalities. Those areas are:

1) The Regional Plant funds are being audited as part of the Borough of Hanover Audit and not separately, as required in Article VII, Section 7.04, Audited Statements which requires an audit by March 31st of each year.

2) The cash balance is being applied as a credit against the treatment charge in four equal installments in accordance with each municipality's flow share rather than being applied after March 31st on account of the next succeeding quarterly installments of the estimated Treatment Charge, in chronological order there-of as stated in Article VII, Section 7.05, Payment of Final Charge; Credit for Over-payments.

3) The conveyance system charge is being distributed amongst the municipalities based on their respective capital constributions to construct the conveyance system and pump station rather than being distributed based on the actual flow contribution from each municipality into the respective sections of the interceptor system and the pump station as stipulated in Article VI, Seciton 6.01, Treatment Charge.

As this was a notification from the auditors to the proper procedures to be utilized, which were not in standing with the original agreement, and as it has somehow taken 25 years to identify this anomoly, I had a few questions of my own. Listed under the same numbers as above, the questions I posed were as such:

1) Is each municipality to audit their share each year or is Hanover responsible to do so? I was told that Hanover is to do the audit, but that each municipality is to be audited separately. To date, Hanover has lumped this audit all into one report. I also asked why have these audits not been done according to the agreement and why has it taken 25 years to identify this aberration? As no representatives from Hanover Borough were present, and no one on our staff or Council had the answer, Scott Cook, McSherrystown Borough Manager, said he would talk with Ed Reed, Asst Borough Manager for Hanover, to find out.

2) I was in favor of the method currently employed in the second bullet point. This seems to be a more efficient and accurate method for this procedure. However, I DO NOT like the fact that "This process was agreed to verbally some twenty years ago when it was discussed by the members of the committee who authored the inter-municipal agreement" (text directly from the document). I made the statement that verbal agreements are not a good way for government to do business and this should be amended in the original agreement as an addendum, or the original be re-written and re-signed. I believe we leave too much open to speculation and manipulation when we enter into verbal agreements in government, especially when those agreements were over two decades ago by people who are no longer part of the process.

3) How does the current method used to calculate the conveyance system charge compare to the charges of actual use to our citizens? If it is being calculated on respective capital contributions to construct the system, which is based on a one-time percentage, it cannot fluctuate for the growth of other municipalities and increased flow from them, which would reduce the percentage of use by the smaller, slower growing municipalities. If the original agreement calls for calculations based on actual flow contribution, then we should respect the agreement, as I believe that is a fair and equitable means of charging for the system usage. I was told that the Hanover Borough DOES actually meter the flow, but according to this document, they do not use it to determine the charges as stated in the agreement. One person stated that we are only talking about a few hundred dollars here, but when it comes to taxpayer money, every dollar counts to me. I was told that I would get more information on this before next discussion.

With all of these questions unanswered,  and the fact that I had reached out to several Council members and staff of the Hanover Borough in order to attend their meeting to discuss these questions (I was never given any information on meeting place/times and my questions have since gone unanswered), I moved that a vote on accepting these erroneous procedures be tabled until such time that we can get those answers.

The Council has also been presented with a budget for the 2013 operating year. We will be voting on this budget at our next meeting, November 14th. Anyone with any questions or input may always contact me at, or can grab me while I'm out for a run.

I hope to see everyone at the polls on Tuesday. It is less important to me for whom you vote as it is that you exercise your right to pick our leaders. A choice not made is a choice in itself, but I truly believe that we get it right more often when more of those who have a say stand up and voice their opinions. That is the only way our leaders can truly represent their people. Thanks for reading, and check back often for updates.

David "Scotty" Bolton
McSherrystown Borough Council member and citizen