Speakers discuss the direction of the county

NEWTON HAMILTON – Local townships and municipalities gathered Wednesday night during the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors banquet.

The first to speak was Michelle Brummer from the Mifflin County Planning Commission. Brummer spoke about the county’s comprehensive plan, which she said should be looked at every 10 years.

“The county as a whole saw a small increase in growth, but just a little bit,” Brummer said. “What increased was the number of registered households, but the numbers in the households was lower.”

She was referring to the last time a census was taken for the area. Brummer continued to say the census showed a large population of people older than 45. She said this is causing the comprehensive plan to change in the ways the planning commission looks at housing choices in the future.

“We should think about housing to be responsive toward our community,” Brummer said. “Not only in the type of housing for seniors, but also the amenities for residents in need.”

Brummer also spoke about the lower rates of higher education in the area, which causes the business and industry to change at a slower rate. Going back to the housing situations, during the part of her speech, Brummer said adding more modern housing opportunities, may draw those moving to the area for work to live here, but also to potentially draw a younger crowd.

“This crowd could have some degree of higher education,” Brummer said. “Some of the people may be entrepreneurs who could bring new business to the area.”

These are all things that Brummer said the planning commission is looking into during the comprehensive plan update. She also said townships need to make sure their road systems are in good working order, and to even improve roads to allow for easier access to the business and industrial parks. The local county roads, which see vehicular traffic ranging from bicycles, cars and horses and buggies, need to be repaired to make the area more appealing, Brummer said.

“I encourage all of the townships and municipalities to keep a comprehensive plan of the road projects that need to be done,” Brummer said. “When you have that give it to us. We can then relay that information to the state authorities who could help.”

Brummer said the group is also looking at land and resource conservation. Each county needs to be responsible to create more public parks and potential water access points, she said. She ended saying the county offers a good place to live and work, to raise a family and to retire.

“To stay competitive and keep this quality of life, the county needs to act and invest in these ideas, maybe even some more,” Brummer said.

After Brummer finished, Elam Herr, assistant executive director for the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, spoke about some of the current state legislation that could be passed or has been passed and how it could affect local governments. Herr said the state government would like to get rid of local governments, and some parameters are in place to do that.

“One of the parameters ,which is the worst of them all, is that if the size (of the population) is less than 100 people, then there should be no local government,” Herr said. “Even if you, as a township, (are) not in debt and what you are doing is supported by the people living in the area.”

Herr also said two-thirds of Americans have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in their local government’s ability to handle local problems. The problem is local government has some resources that are not being used, most of this being in the transportation funding.

“Senate Bill 1, says $2.5 billion, could be created in new annual revenue by the third into the law,” Herr said. “After PennDOT and mass transit gets money, this would cause about $300 million in liquid fuels money for local governments.”

Herr said this would be about a 60 percent increase from previous years’ legislation. He said the bill does help, and local governments need something done. Part of the build in the bridge bundling program, which happens when the local government says we have this many bridges of this size which need to be repaired. Herr said this part of bill allows PennDOT to repair the bridge with no cost being incurred by the local government.

The next law Herr talked about was the Right-to-Know Law reform. He said this reform will make open records easier to attain for the public, but it will also make it more workable for the people who are supplying the documents being requested.

“Most of the people who use this service are people in the jail system,” Herr said. “Very few newspapers or other news sources use it.”

Herr recommended the local governments talk to the state representatives and make them aware of what is going on in the municipalities. He said if that is done, the representatives will help you because they will be better informed.