New member appointed to borough council

October 07, 1997


Staff Writer, Waynesboro

MONT ALTO, Pa. - The Mont Alto Borough Council appointed its newest member this week, marking another chapter in the saga of the government's struggle to exist.

The appointment of Michael Gossard to fill the seat vacated last month by Paul Rohrer brings the council back, at least temporarily, to its full complement of seven members plus the mayor, said Councilman Robert Rock Tuesday.

It doesn't solve the borough's biggest problem - the fact that no one, incumbent or citizen, has filed for the Nov. 4 election.


Conceivably, government could cease to exist in Mont Alto on Dec. 31 when all current terms expire, Rock has said.

The incumbents have said they are tired of serving.

"It's no longer our responsibility," said Rock, who served from 1989 to 1995, then accepted an appointment to fill an unexpired term this year. "Other citizens have the same obligation as we do," he said.

Mayor Frank Gilreath said he is stepping down because his only responsibility as mayor was to supervise the police department. That ended when the town's only police officer left earlier this year, he said.

Gossard asked to be appointed in a letter to the council. It was not clear if he will be a write-in candidate in November. He was not at Monday's council meeting when he was appointed and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The council voted 5-0 to appoint Gossard, with Rock abstaining. "I have nothing against the man, but none of us know a thing about him," Rock said.

Several council members, including Rock, believe enough write-in candidates will be elected Nov. 4 to keep the council going. If not, state law gives the president judge of Court of Common Pleas authority to appoint citizens to serve, said Kenneth Johnson, a policy specialist with the Center for Local Government Services.

Johnson, whose agency is part of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, met with the council Monday night.

The council, wrestling for some time with the idea of hiring a borough manager to help run its government, passed a resolution asking Johnson to help create the position.

Rock said the borough needs professional help to run the meetings and take some of the workload off the council members, none of whom are paid. He also said a manager would write grant proposals.

"The council would have to define the responsibilities, but I think we need a working administrator, not someone who will just sit around and supervise," Rock said. He said the job could be filled by the end of the year.

Johnson said he will move on the council's request next week.

"I'll present it to my director, then find someone to do the study for me," he said.

Johnson has also met with the Borough Council in Mercersburg, Pa., which is currently going through the throes of changing its manager form of government. That council is expected to decide which form its government will take Oct. 14.

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