Rejected Referrals, Approved Donations – Chambersburg Town Council Recap

CHAMBERSBURG – Monday night’s Town Council meeting, 23 April 2024, began with a period of public comment during which Scott McNew, President of the Greater Chambersburg Area Paid Fire Fighters Association, invited elected officials to attend their Fire Ops 101 program. This program will allow officials to see what the Fire Department does on a daily basis. It will also provide them with the opportunity to personally participate by donning the gear and performing activities such as fighting a live fire and cutting cars apart. Officials must RSVP by May 10, and the program itself will take place on June 1.

The consent agenda was unanimously approved, apart from two items that were pulled off to be discussed separately. The first involved a potential referral to the Planning and Zoning Commission regarding a request by Berg Brewing Company to rename the Borough-owned alley known as Roy-Pitz Avenue to MillSo Avenue. Vice President Thomas Newcomer expressed disapproval of the name change, a sentiment that President Allen Coffman shared due to the fact that such an alteration would force residents of the alley to modify their addresses. While Councilmember Stacy Short agreed that they should probably wait until said residents vacated the premises, she and several other council members were not opposed to the referral, since the name change represented a memorial to deceased family members. This prompted Councilmember John Huber to voice his concerns that, despite the good intention behind it, such commemorations would lead to similar requests in the future. Three Council members supported the referral while five opposed it, ultimately resulting in its rejection.

The second item under discussion also involved a Planning and Zoning referral, this time in regard to a request from Bethel Assembly of God to vacate the Borough-owned alley known as Swan Court along their properties fronting Miller Street, Garber Street, and Glen Street. Members of the church, including Lead Pastor Aaron Lawrence, were present to discuss the reasoning behind this. They claimed that their community had recently experienced substantial growth in numbers and influence, and that they were interested in performing long-range master planning to best utilize the facility they have. They also emphasized that they were not looking to close off the north end of Swan Court, with a caveat that if they did eventually close the alley, they would plan to add their own traffic way to provide access to Glen and Garber streets.

Several residents who live off the alley expressed their concerns about the church’s request. Lewis Cross of 214 Glen Street pointed out that it might affect trash pickup as well as key maintenance currently provided by the Borough, such as snow removal. In addition, he was perturbed by the idea of the church closing the alley entirely. Short pushed back against these concerns by reminding Cross that the church was not planning to close the alley, and that every other property on Garber Street already had curbside trash pickup. The Council also established that even if the Borough relinquished control of the alley, the private right of the residents to access it would continue to exist until the church either gained the consent of all adjacent properties or produced a court order extinguishing that private right. Councilmember Bill Everly suggested that the Council table the discussion until the church presented a concrete expansion plan. This suggestion was ultimately approved, with six for and two against. The issue was not referred to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The Council approved a donation from the Sons of the American Legion to the Chambersburg Police Department in the amount of $17,425. These funds will go toward the purchase and training of a new K-9 unit. Following this, the Council authorized the establishment of an accounting method for the distribution of costs associated with, and expenses attributable to, the Borough budget regarding the Public Works Campus Project assuming it is authorized for construction. The proposed campus was measured, and the project cost was divided up among multiple departments and utility operations. According to Borough Manager Jeffrey Stonehill, this means that no one fee or tax will be greatly impacted. As of now, the estimated impact on taxes will be 1.5 million dollars, or about $26.24 per single-family home every year. There will also be small increases in water, sewage, and gas rates, as well as a larger increase in trash fees. The meeting concluded with the Council’s sanction for proper officials to execute the purchase of up to five Block Energy products, with live prices not to exceed $55.85/MWh, $71.05/MWh, $61.20/MWh, $60.50/MWh, and $45.00/MWh respectively per the upcoming request for proposal live pricing.