Recent survey leads to questions for Greencastle Borough Council

GREENCASTLE—More than two dozen mask-wearing people packed Greencastle Borough Hall for Monday evening’s Borough Council meeting, with many of them seeking council’s feedback on a survey that was sent out to some residents last month.

A letter dated Sept. 16 was mailed to some Greencastle taxpayers, property owners and non-profits. It included a survey on stormwater utility and associated impact fees, garbage collection, fire tax and the rules of order at council meetings.

The letter raised concerns about the way council has been conducting business and its lack of transparency.

“We are writing to you as concerned citizens, property owners and businessowners,” the letter read, along with instructions for the one-page survey. “Now is your chance to have your voice heard by the council.”

The letter, signed by Charles Eckstine, past council president; Brian Harbaugh, business owner; Albert Miller, property owner; Jan Shafer, property owner; and Frank Webster, past council president, instructed residents to complete the survey and mail it to the borough office.

Several borough residents who packed the meeting room in Borough Hall were expecting a review of the survey by council Monday, but that didn’t occur.

“The borough had nothing to do with [the survey],” explained Council President Steven Miller. “That was not an official document.”

Two weeks ago, after fielding questions from residents, borough officials responded to the survey with a statement released on its website.

“Please understand that Borough Council did not create, authorize, or solicit the memorandum or survey, or the results of the survey,” the response stated. “Additionally, some of the information contained in the memorandum is presented in a way that is not entirely accurate and lacks important context.”

Borough officials also explained in the letter that the results of the survey wouldn’t be reviewed by them.

“While the borough respects the public engagement on important issues shown by the group that created the memorandum and survey, it must be noted that council did not solicit or request the results of the survey, and therefore the borough will not be collecting or compiling the results of the survey.”

Miller did admit that 260 completed surveys were received by borough officials. “They are all secured in a filing cabinet,” he said.

Albert Miller, one of the signers of the letter, said it is that lack of response that created a need for a survey in the first place.

“The letters wouldn’t have been sent out if you’d have responded to questions in June, July, August and September,” he said Monday during public comment on the issue.

“It’s impossible to get information,” added Charles Eckstine. “I’ve waited over a year for answers to a written question. We talk to you people and you sit there and stare back at us. It’s impossible to get answers.”

Eckstine called for the council president to step down. “It’s long overdue,” he said.

After nearly a dozen residents took up to five minutes a piece to speak before council, the board took nearly an hour to respond to some of their concerns, ranging from questions about stormwater impact fees to the rules of order at meetings.

“The rules are set by council,” Steven Miller explained. “We want to hear your voice, but at the same time, we need to conduct business in an orderly procedure.”

Councilman Joel Amsley said some issues, such as a plan to limit garbage service to one provider, definitely warrant public input early on in the process.

“I think polling the public is an excellent idea,” Amsley said. “There are a lot of things in play. We think we can save costs, get trucks off the streets at 2, 3 and 4 a.m. … our streets are getting pounded with 60,000, 70,000 and 80,000 pounds.”

Council members agreed that the survey responses could be opened by borough officials and reviewed by the signers of the letter or their designees for further review.

The surveys are public documents and can be made available through a Right-to-Know request.