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Debate over inspectors heats Waynesboro Council meeting

November 18, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER AND JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, PA. -- "Freedom of choice."

That is what one member of the Waynesboro Borough Council said Wednesday he wants to give residents in need of building code and inspection services.

Councilman Ronnie Martin, who represents Ward 1 homes east of Church Street, asked the council to consider contracting with a second building inspection service.

Residents from across Franklin County spoke in favor of the current contractor, Accredited Services Inc. of Waynesboro, prompting the council to table the issue for further information.

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"I strongly urge that we postpone this until we have level heads and can make a wise decision," said Councilman C. Harold Mumma, moving for a vote. The vote Wednesday was 5-1 with only Councilman Charles "Chip" McCammon dissenting.

For five years, Accredited Services Inc. of Waynesboro has been issuing and inspecting borough buildings under Pennsylvania's Uniform Construction Code, company owner Mike Cermak Sr. said.

Cermak said he felt threatened by Martin's proposal, alleging that it stemmed from a personal vendetta harbored by Martin and his "friends."

"Interesting fact: I issue building permits and inspections in Waynesboro, (the Borough of) Greencastle, (the Borough of) Mont Alto, Antrim (Township) and Quincy (Township) and the only place I have ever had a complaint is in Waynesboro," he said. "Why is that?"

In October, C. Stewart McCleaf, a member of the Rouzerville (Pa.) Lions Club, told the council he was unhappy with Cermak's presence at a benefit concert earlier in the month. Cermak was looking at Waynesboro Area Senior High School auditorium seats and taking pictures.

"They thought there was something wrong with the building and they were concerned," McCleaf said.

After numerous people stood to defend Cermak, McCleaf handed a formal complaint, in writing, to the council.

Most of those who spoke attested to Cermak's staunch adherence to the rules.

"Even though he made me mad sometimes, he was right and I was wrong," said Jeff Todd of Greencastle, Pa., owner of Todd Auto Body.

Questioning Martin's motives for putting the item on Wednesday's agenda, Todd said, "I think you (Martin) are upset and trying to take it out on a man who is just doing his job."

While the Borough is allowed by law to have to more than one borough-approved inspection service, it must designated one as the administrative lead who operates on behalf of the state, Solicitor Melissa Dively said.

"There is not enough business in town for two inspection agencies," Cermak said. "You don't make money doing this."

In his final word to council, he said, "If you choose to add another service, know you will not be giving these people a choice because I will not be here."

His statement was not a threat, he said later. He said he felt that he would have no other choice but to end his contract with the borough.

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