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Washington County economic development panel's makeup draws fire

Speakers oppose nonresidents on county boards

April 10, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Barbara Hovermill and Robert Harsh, both of Williamsport, spoke Tuesday night in support of the proposed changes to EDC residency requirements.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

Saying they were “flabbergasted” at the idea, speakers at a public hearing Tuesday afternoon objected to having noncounty residents serve on the Washington County Economic Development Commission and other government boards.

The EDC, which recommends policies to help attract and sustain employment, is exempted from the county residency requirement that applies to other local boards and commissions — as long as all of its members are employed by or affiliated with business entities with substantial presence in the county.

Washington County Board of Commissioners member William B. McKinley, an ex-officio EDC member, said previously that the potential for a predominantly noncounty-resident EDC had been a “nearly divisive” issue among the five commission members.

In February, the commissioners voted to cap the number of noncounty residents who may serve on the EDC to three, or one-quarter of the 12 voting members.

The cap is one of several changes the county is preparing to make to its EDC ordinance, and the commissioners have yet to take a final vote on the issues.

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The commissioners held a public hearing Tuesday on the proposed changes to the EDC ordinance in their meeting room. Seven people who spoke had concerns about having noncounty residents on the EDC and other government panels.

Jim Laird of Hagerstown said he has mixed feelings about the EDC, including who is running the organization and who is “pulling their strings.”

Laird said he is concerned about having noncounty residents on the EDC because they don’t have children in county schools, don’t pay taxes in the county and have “no investment” in the community.

Tom Janus of Hagerstown said he supported Laird’s view and believes there is enough talent in Washington County without government having to look to noncounty residents for help.

In expressing his concern about noncounty residents being involved in local government, Robert Harsh of Williamsport said he saw a bumper sticker recently that he said fit the occasion.

Harsh said the bumper sticker read: “We the people, not we the government.”

Currently, three EDC members, including two of the three officers, live outside the county, including board Chairman Hal Lucas, who lives in Mercersburg, Pa.; Secretary Frederic M. Frederick, who has a Greencastle, Pa., address; and member Robert C. Jeffers, of Middletown, Md.

Barbara Hovermill of Williamsport said she was “flabbergasted” over the idea of noncounty residents serving in local government, and Pat Schooley proclaimed “no foreigners on our commissions.”

Schooley said when a historical district commission was being considered at one time, some people suggested that there be some noncounty residents on the organization.

“We never even considered it,” Schooley said.

Schooley is a periodic contributor toTheHerald-Mail, writing stories about historical properties in Washington County.

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