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New Lower Swatara board should fill key open positions: Editorial

Posted 12/6/17

The voters of Lower Swatara Township spoke clearly Nov. 7. They wanted a change on the board of commissioners.

In what is a somewhat rare occurrence, two incumbents were voted out. Gone are Laddie …

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New Lower Swatara board should fill key open positions: Editorial

Posted

The voters of Lower Swatara Township spoke clearly Nov. 7. They wanted a change on the board of commissioners.

In what is a somewhat rare occurrence, two incumbents were voted out. Gone are Laddie Springer and Ben Hall. They finished third and fourth in the four-person race to elect two commissioners. In are Ron Paul, the former township manager, and Chris DeHart, the former Lower Swatara fire chief.

While voters had their say, we can’t be completely sure of their motivations. The last major vote the board took before the election was in mid-October. The commissioners unanimously approved Wednesday a zoning change that cleared the way for UPS to build a 935,000-square-foot regional distribution hub in the 2100 block on North Union Street.

We supported that decision for the potential of bringing in new jobs and keeping the township tax rate stable. But some residents opposed the decision. It’s possible that opposition played a role in the ouster of Springer and Hall.

But we are more hopeful that the voters sought change because of the way the township has been managed in the last several years from a personnel standpoint. To put it simply, we think the board is doing the residents a disservice.

The current board has failed to hire in a permanent role a township manager, public safety director or public works director. Those three positions, the most important full-time posts in the township, are being filled by interim replacements.

Here is a quick rundown:

Frank Lynch is the interim township manager following the departure of Frank Williamson in July after three months on the job. Williamson had replaced Anne Shambaugh, who resigned Sept. 30, 2016, after only 10 months. She followed Sam Monticello and Harry Krot, two managers who each served the township for less than two years. 

Scott Young is the interim police chief, as the township has not filled the public safety director position that Williamson departed in the spring to become township manager. Williamson served as public safety director/assistant township manager from August 2016 until his promotion in May to township manager. The township decided to not fill the assistant township manager position.

Daniel Wagner stepped down in early October as public works director. Wagner had been with the township for the past 16 years, the last four as public works superintendent. Lester Lanman, the municipal authority manager and the assistant superintendent of public works, took over his role on an interim basis.

As we stated previously: “The revolving door in the township manager office raises serious questions that should be answered for the sake of residents and businesses in Lower Swatara.” You can add in the public safety director’s role as well.

We understand the need to hire the right people for the job. But how long does it take to make a decision?

As much as we believe that those positions must be filled, however, we are now urging the board to wait until January to take action.

The board will have its reorganizational meeting in early January. Paul and DeHart will join Jon Wilt, Michael Davies and Todd Truntz on the board.

Paul and Dehart should have a say in how these key roles are filled. We hope the board does not take any action at this point to make decisions that a board with two new incoming members will have to live with moving forward.

The board as it is currently made up had its chance to fill the positions. Give the new blood on the board a chance to have its say on hiring.

We believe that’s what Lower Swatara Township voters wanted when they made their choices at the polls Nov. 7.

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