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Leventry, colleagues discuss impending departure

December 24, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Jim Leventry, Mercersburg's borough manager for the last two years, said his biggest accomplishment has been getting the town's new $3.3 million sewer plant up and running.

"It ended more than 18 months of messing around," he said. The system went on line this summer.

The new plant more than triples the borough's sewer capacity - from 300,000 gallons per day to 1.2 million.

Two years ago the borough council doubled the rates of the system's 1,050 customers, raising an average customer's quarterly bill to $135.

"The big jump will pay for the new system," Leventry said. "Now they'll just be looking at small increases."

Leventry has taken a job as borough manager in Whitehall, Pa., a Pittsburgh suburb with 15,000 residents, about 10 times Mercersburg's population. It has an annual budget of $5.5 million. Mercersburg runs on $1.2 million a year.

Mercersburg Councilman Tom Suddeth said Leventry fit well with the community and had good rapport with the borough's employees. "It's hard to please everyone, but Jim managed to do his job and not get people angry," Suddeth said. "The community liked him."

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Leventry supervised the borough's major beautification project in the town square. At times this summer he even directed traffic through the construction zones.

He worked with PennDot officials to get a long-sought traffic light installed at the intersections of Main Street and Oregon and Park streets, Suddeth said.

Leventry didn't have much municipal management experience when he was hired, Suddeth said, but he gained enough during his tenure to beat out other candidates to run a larger borough.

Leventry was also instrumental in Mercersburg's ambitious but failed attempt earlier this year to buy the Whitetail Ski Resort with a $42 million tax-exempt bond issue. The effort went down when the Mercersburg General Purpose Authority failed to sell the bonds. Had the deal gone through, Leventry was to have had a management position on the borough's general purpose authority as well as keeping some responsibilities as borough manager.

Mercersburg had been in the running to buy a 250-acre golf course under construction near Whitetail, but that fell through this fall when the Dauphin County, Pa., General Authority, the agency building the course, offered it to a general purpose authority in Hummelstown, Pa. That deal is still in the works, according to Mike O'Keefe, Hummelstown borough manager.

Municipal authorities have borrowing power for investing in public projects in Pennsylvania. The Mercersburg General Purpose Authority was originally created to float bonds for a project at Mercersburg Academy, local officials have said.

"Jim would have stayed on if the Whitetail deal had gone through. It would have been more of a challenge to him," Suddeth said.

Borough Councilman Tom Heefner said about eight candidates have applied for Leventry's job. So far, only one has been interviewed. He said he didn't know if any others were scheduled for interviews.

When then-Borough Manager Judy Chambers resigned in the summer of 1997, the borough council hired Barbara Deason as interim manger while they sought a permanent replacement. They called Deason this time but she wasn't available, Suddeth said.

The council is considering several options, including another interim manager if they can't find a suitable permanent candidate, Heefner said.

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