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Changes to Washington Co. economic development panel OK'd

April 17, 2012|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY — The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to  overhaul the Economic Development Commission ordinance, including limiting the influence of members who are not residents of the county.

In addition to capping the number of noncounty residents to three of the board’s 12 voting members, the commissioners also decided to increase from three to six the minimum number of members on the board’s executive committee as a safeguard against that panel being dominated by out-of-county members.

Commissioner John F. Barr cast the “no” vote.

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

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

Other changes to the ordinance were meant to formalize existing practices of the EDC, officials have said.

The revisions added a section defining the membership and powers of the executive committee, which will have the power to act in place of the full EDC between meetings, as long as those actions are ratified by the larger group at its next meeting.

An initial draft defined the executive committee as the chairman, secretary and treasurer, plus any of the other EDC members approved by a majority vote of the panel.

Commissioners President Terry Baker pressed for no more than two of the executive committee members to be noncounty residents, but the other commissioners did not support that idea.

As a compromise, Baker suggested Tuesday that the executive committee have at least six members — the three officers and at least three others, to be appointed by majority vote of the EDC. Commissioners Ruth Anne Callaham, Jeffrey A. Cline and William B. McKinley agreed.

The issue was the subject of a public hearing last week, where several county residents spoke out against the idea of having any noncounty residents on the EDC.

“I did listen to the citizens, and I heard a lot of opposing points of view, but I think today we came together with a compromise listening to all groups,” Cline said.

McKinley, who sits on the EDC as an ex-officio member, said it was important to have people from other areas on the EDC, and the commissioners had reached a good compromise.

“I think we have really skilled and talented people all up and down that commission, and that includes the people from out of the county who have businesses here or work here,” McKinley said. “And just to remind everyone, our economy extends up and down that (Interstate) 81 corridor. It’s not confined to Washington County.”

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