One supervisor in Cooper Township, Montour County, is calling out his fellow supervisors for violating the Sunshine Act, the state’s open meeting law.
Chris Pfaff alleges in a lawsuit against Supervisor Chairman Terry Heimbach and the township that an armed guard at the meeting door prevented the public from coming in to the meeting, where Heimbach and Vice Chairman Tom Little illegally voted to vacate two roads.
It was Heimbach, Pfaff says, who called for a public hearing on whether to vacate Pepper Hills Road and Adams Drive in the Pepper Hills trailer court and then an executive session afterward, where the supervisors voted to do so. Pfaff voted no. The vote also drew a separate legal action, objections filed by trailer court owners Luke and Patricia Ernst to try to prevent the township from vacating the road, saying it was improper because they should be maintained by the township for the safety and welfare of township residents.
Heimbach said the public hearing on vacating the two roads and the vote were properly advertised. Pfaff claims the ad was vague.
We think the ad, included with Pfaff’s lawsuit, was pretty clear. The advertisement states the purpose of the public hearing and that, “After the public hearing, the Township Supervisors will consider for enactment an Ordinance (the “Ordinance”).”
The ad goes on to state, “The Ordinance will vacate a portion of Pepper Hills Road and Adams Drive that is no longer necessary for public travel.”
Heimbach said a police officer from Mahoning Township, with which Cooper Township contracts, was there to allow two people into the meeting room at a time for social distancing due to concerns about COVID-19, and because, “We didn’t want any screaming matches.”
Heimbach added, “At no time was anyone turned away.”
Heimbach and Little also voted 2-1 in August to dissolve the township’s municipal authority by Sept. 15. Pfaff also sits on the authority, one of two members remaining on what was a five-member board following three resignations.
No one else wants to serve on the authority, which is still trying to get a few more residents and businesses connected to the new sewer system.
Why is there so much confusion between the supervisors over what is taking place, at the hearing and with the municipal authority? Is it a misunderstanding or are supervisors taunting each other?
As for the municipal authority, Heimbach said he and Little want to dissolve it because it barely has enough money to pay the $10,000 per month toward the $2.8 million PennVEST loan for the township’s new sewer system, on which the township is a co-signer.
Pfaff, at the authority’s Sept. 14 meeting, said the authority can pay its bills, including the loan payments.
Authority solicitor Tony McDonald said at the same meeting that if the supervisors disband the authority, they would have to assume a loan to continue to pay off PennVEST.
Pfaff said shutting down the authority would take a minimum of six months. While he said he was not opposed to shutting down the authority, he said his fellow supervisors don’t realize how much time goes into collecting money and paying the authority bills.
Whether or not disbanding the authority and vacating roads is a good or bad idea, all three supervisors should be involved in the decisions that affect their constituents, the taxpayers they serve.
Either someone is not communicating or someone is not getting the message.
It doesn’t help if the process is contaminated with distractions.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard and Danville News Editor Joe Sylvester.