Multiple Counties Demand FPR Regulation and Ziobrowski Recommends Against Reassessment – Franklin County COG Meeting Recap

*Note this article was edited to remove duplicate copy

CHAMBERSBURG – Today’s Franklin County Council of Governments meeting began with a brief statement by the Sheriff’s Department regarding the security processes required to enter government buildings. According to the department, there are currently 34 active threats against various judges, commissioners, and other elected officials in Franklin County, thereby necessitating such safety measures. In light of this, everyone is required to remove any belts upon entering such facilities. The department asserted that, while this may be considered inconvenient, it is absolutely essential, since belts may be used as weapons or friction-retention devices to store contraband.

The minutes for the Feb. 15 meeting were approved. Following this, Treasurer Fred Young provided his report from the Finance Committee. The beginning balance as of Jan. 31 was about $467. With an income totaling $600 and expenses totaling about $64, the ending balance as of Feb. 29 equaled about $1,003. This number remains the same, since there was no income or expenses throughout March and April. Young’s report was authorized by the COG.

Clem Malot drew attention to House Bill 1047 of the 2023 session, which involved the creation of a trainee program for aspiring Building Code officials. According to Malot, the Code community is seeing a shortage of positions throughout Pennsylvania. He encouraged officials of Franklin County to support legislation that would provide entry-level training for these positions to ensure that younger workers fill out the ranks.

Various representatives from the offices of public officials gave their updates. Senator Doug Mastriano’s office is currently in the process of funding a newsletter. Congressman John Joyce’s office reported the House’s approval of the FAA Bill providing funding for small/regional airports and the Emergency Medical Services for Children Reauthorization Act of 2024. Senator John Fetterman’s office announced that Fetterman, along with Senator Chris Van Hollen, introduced the Moving Transit Forward Act. This will create a new federal funding program to provide transit agencies with additional resources meant to supplement their existing operating budgets in order to add new routes, increase service frequency, and improve safety for customers and workers.

The Franklin County update was supplied by Steve Thomas, the FC Director of Planning. His department is currently working on an update to the solid waste plan due in December of 2025, which will require some municipal coordination as it moves forward. The department is also starting a feasibility study on the proposed Rail Trail from Shippensburg to Chambersburg, which should take about 8-9 months. In addition, Thomas encouraged COG members to look into Senate Bill 1976. He asserted it meant to preempt local authority in its discussion of multi-family/multi-uses that shall be permitted in all districts, especially commercial districts and other districts where water and sewer utilities are available. Finally, Thomas announced that Goodwill is now offering electronic recycling for the county.

Chris Ardinger, Administrator and Roadmaster of Antrim Township, discussed the issue of food processing residuals (FPRs) contaminating three drinking wells in Antrim. As mentioned at the previous meeting, food processing companies are paying farmers to spread this organic waste over their fields in order to eliminate it. The waste can subsequently leak into water aquifers and render the drinking water unusable. Ardinger stated that Antrim supervisors are working on an ordinance to enact local regulations regarding the disposal of FPRs. In spring, a work group composed of legislators, experts, and members of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) ultimately decided to draft a bill facilitating this process. Bill Blair, representing Antrim Township Citizens For Safe Water (ATCFSW), also spoke on the issue. He described it as a “very active situation,” providing an overview of a recent FPR spill at a local farm that was never reported to the DEP until the water started going bad in August. According to Blair, the FPRs (including wastewater, blood, hide hair, and most concerning of all, dissolved fat) completely ruined the wells, and more are coming into Pennsylvania every day from the surrounding states of Virginia, New Jersey, and Maryland. Blair urged the COG to assist in imposing oversights on disposal processes. A representative from the Cumberland County COG, as well as Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas, echoed this sentiment and offered support in the matter.

Commissioner Robert Ziobrowski gave his opinion on the recent calls for property reassessment by various municipalities in Franklin County. He mentioned that the county’s base year for property assessments dates back to 1961, and that the county is often criticized for being so lax in this issue, causing a perception of unfairness regarding property taxation. Ziobrowski rejected this notion. He claimed that Franklin County’s coefficient of dispersion – which takes sale prices, multiplies them by the common level ratio (the percentage of real value that the assessment indicates), and compares that number to the assessments – is the lowest in the state. Ziobrowski asserted, “Our assessments in Franklin County are not unfair compared to other counties [and] a reassessment may not improve those measures’ fairness. A reassessment is inevitable as long as there’s a cap on millage rates. Instead of paying five million dollars for reassessment, we should convince our State legislators to remove the cap or have it adjusted for inflation.” Anyone with questions on the matter is welcome to reach out to the commissioner.

The plan for redistricting proposed by the president judge in Franklin County has been postponed pending more data on the caseload and judicial activity in the various magisterial district judge (MDJ) offices.

The meeting concluded with COG Chair Chad Reichard declaring that he cannot continue to hold his position in 2025, and that he hoped to have a new potential Chair identified by their next meeting on August 15, 2024 to begin the transition process. Vice Chair Sam Cressler will continue to serve in his position, but is not planning to assume leadership of the COG.

Multiple Counties Demand FPR Regulation and Ziobrowski Recommends Against Reassessment – Franklin County COG Meeting Recap