What came of the executive session last night after Chambersburg Borough Council met?

CHAMBERSBURG – The executive session following the Chambersburg Borough Council meeting last night, 14 May 2024, simply said “Potential Litigation – County-Wide Reassessment.” 

A whole lot of people were wondering what that could mean for the borough.

Allen Coffman, borough council president, said, “Basically let’s say this, all of council is informed of where we are at this point with this investigation and review of it and talking to the other communities. So it’s basically an information sharing session that we had. So all council is up to date now, knows about the meeting that we had yesterday, and what the dialogue was, and hopefully we have some ideas on the next step forward.”

At the open council meeting, Chambersburg Police Inspector Meredith Dominick talked about the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).

Coffman explained, “It’s a federal program that is providing money for departments to hire additional police officers. It’s an amount of $156.6 million dollars nationwide and like everybody else, it probably wants to add more police officers. It’s a competitive item here that we have to deal with. So we’re going to enter into it. It was agreed that we would try to get one more police officer through this. There’s two phases of getting this approved. The one is early June, and the other one is later on in the year. So if you don’t make it through the first one, you don’t get the consideration of it. So I’m hoping that that will be competitive. I hope we’ll get that. What it does is it brings about 75% of the cost of an officer’s salary for the next three years to the community who wins that. So we have an interest in it and it was voted for unanimously by those that were present last night.”

What happens after three years?

Coffman said, “After that your decision is either to keep the officer and pay for him yourself or to divest yourself of the officer and he becomes unemployed. I don’t think that will be the case here because I would imagine maybe in the next three years, we may have a retirement of an officer, so it might end up just balancing our load out at the end of three years.”

Also at the meeting, council heard a presentation from Maher Duessel, an accounting firm from Harrisburg.

Coffman said, “The reason she was there is because of the additional paperwork that comes up with these grants that we’ve gotten and we’ve gotten a lot of them as we’ve talked about. It’s increased the amount of paperwork to try to get through these things. They are not easy. You don’t just get the money and that’s the end of it. To give you an example, the police department, which our officers have been in since last October, we’re still trying to get through the final terms of that to get the money given to the borough of Chambersburg. So these things go on well after the projects are over. So the idea is to get them on board to help us get through this additional flow of paperwork.”

Payment to Maher Duessel will come out of the borough’s general fund.

Coffman said, “It’s an hourly fee. It depends on how much we use them. The money that comes to the borough of Chambersburg through grants far, far, far exceeds what the cost of any bookkeeping will be with this program. I don’t know that we have the capacity in the borough to do it without their help.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM noted, “We’ve certainly got enough capable people in the department in the borough. I can’t imagine that you can’t distribute some of that workload without having to go out of the marketplace. I get what you’re saying. Somebody’s got to get the money and why shouldn’t Chambersburg be at least put in the fight for it? I’m on the same page with you. But if you’re going to put in the fight with it, then shouldn’t the responsibility be on people that are already in the building?”

Coffman said, “If you have enough capacity to handle it, yes.”

Last night council also discussed water additives.

Coffman said, “We’ve asked for the professional services of ARRO, an engineering company out of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to take a review of water system, chemical mixing processes that we use at our water treatment plant. This is something that’s been going on for a while. We need to talk about it. There’s various things that are put into water. One of them of course, the hot button would be that word fluoride. That’s one of the things that they will look at in this review. So we’ve been doing for it guess since about 1965, I think or 1964 and we want to take a look at what we could be doing or should be doing or are we doing the right thing? So they’re going to do a study for us on that and give us a report probably within the next couple of months.”

Two people took advantage of the open mic.

Coffman said, “One was a member of our fire department who was telling us the program that they had scheduled for early June has been canceled and hopefully will be rescheduled later on.”

The program was where council members would be put in firefighter gear.

Coffman said, “So hopefully it’s going to come back later on this year. I was looking forward to it.”

A report from the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting was also heard.

Coffman said, “They’re talking about the downtown area, changes in zoning for downtown. What do we want to see in the way of buildings? Can we guide this a little bit more than what’s been done in the past? There’s a lot of discussion about not wanting single story buildings in the downtown area basically, North and South Main Street, Lincoln Way East and West. So there was a lot a lot of concern about that. We like the look of the three or four story buildings in the downtown area to make it all look sort of homogeneous as you drive through town. Right now there’s nothing that would prevent somebody from putting in a single story building. So you can draw that conclusion to well, maybe a Sheetz or Rutters downtown, McDonald’s. Not sure that we want to do that. So that’s one of the things that Planning and Zoning is looking at. We did acknowledge last night, we had the hard copy of the ceremonial check that we got from PHMSA, the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, $5,564,097 is our second grant from PHMSA for the replacement of old gas lines in the borough of Chambersburg. So we’ve now got over $10 million to help us get through this thing with replacing pipes in our streets, which is great.”