The new 3-minute public comment rule for Chambersburg Borough Council is now in writing

August 21 – After last week’s Chambersburg Borough Council meeting, it was approved to limit public comment to three minutes per person. 

No rules for public comment have ever been in writing before. 

Allen Coffman, borough council president, said, “I don’t think we ever had anything that I’m aware of concerning public comment in a council meeting. And I don’t know that we ever got to the point where we felt that we needed to have something set in writing. I mean, most of the time, people will listen to what you’re asking for. You have three minutes or sometimes we’ve gotten more, but they don’t keep going and going after they’ve been asked to give a summation of it. One subject is sufficient.” 

The rules for public comment are now on paper and will be maintained. 

Another issue at last week’s council meeting was the raise in electric rates – nearly 11 percent. 

One of the points of pride over the last few years has been the fact that the borough has not increased rates. Some residents have been wondering if maybe small increases over the years would have been a better option. 

Coffman said, “The timing that this hit obviously involves the COVID thing, and everybody was very reluctant to take any sort of an increase during COVID and where the economy is now everybody wanted to hold this as long as we possibly could. So along with that came the rate study, which was done by one of our consultants, and it was overdue to have a rate study done. I will admit that, but they came back and said yeah, you guys really should do this. You need to have this much in your reserve fund for the electric department and this is how you need to get there and they gave us four scenarios to get there, which is yet to be decided and will be decided on the 28th, next meeting. Everybody on council is aware of what the situation is. They’ve seen the scenarios now, and they should be studying it and trying to make their decision on it.” 

Chambersburg has been in the electric business since 1890. Could it be time to sell the business? 

The electric department in Chambersburg has $300,000 in the coffers right now. 

Coffman said, “That concept comes up with many different kinds of utilities, water, sewer, not many cases electric because there’s only 35 in Pennsylvania that do it. But here’s the thing with that. They dangle a big bag of money out in front of you, you get a big one time take. But after that you have no control over it. Your customers will scream when the price goes up and it will go up because they buy it to make a profit. So when it goes up, you have nothing you can do to control that. They’re on their own and they will make their profit. I never want to sell a utility. Any of our utilities.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “That’s good. Thank you. That was a crazy idea, especially since you look at the increases that your competitors are putting on here.”

Other electric providers have gone up as much as 39 to 46 percent. 

Coffman said, “And they aren’t done yet.”

A Chambersburg Board of Health meeting was held recently. 

Coffman explained, “The Board of Health meets basically four times a year, quarterly. I went to the meeting because we got a new person seated from Council and that was Stacy Short. She replaced Larry on the committee. They had a presentation that was made talking about the lead gooseneck replacement project with our water department. There was $3.3 million in federal money there to take care of about 1,410 of these goosenecks and they brought one along for an example so they can see what it looked like. Basically they tried to keep the opening as small as they could, maybe four by four or five by five. When they get down there, they see what’s here, they repair it, and they put what they call a temporary patch on and after that, they do what they call a permanent fix. So when you see streets that have a series of these like every 75 to 100 feet, maybe on one side of the street, that’s probably what’s going on there.” 

The next Borough Council meeting will be Monday, August 28.