Charter vote set for tonight

City Council may vote tonight on a proposed ordinance that would effectively give voters a choice on what form of government best suits them.

A proposed ordinance is on the agenda that, if approved, would ask the voters in the fall election to decide whether a charter commission of seven members be elected. The commission then would study the city charter and form of government.

The decision may result in voters considering the replacement of a strong-mayor form of government with a council-manager structure.

Councilmen Jonathan Williamson, president, and Randall J. Allison, vice president, said Mayor Gabriel J. Campana soon will reach the latter half of his third term and may or may not seek an additional term as mayor.

While it is too early for candidates to replace him to have emerged, the timing of the proposed ordinance enables people to talk about the merits of a council-manager form of government, they said.

“As a community, we should consider the merits of hiring professionals with the training and experience required of a city manager to face these ever more complex issues,” Williamson and Allison stated in a joint news release.

Following the news conference and statements by council leadership, Campana has publicly denounced the move by council as a waste of taxpayers’ money and time. Campana said the management form would cost more than a mayor and tilt the power toward council.

In other expected council action, the Park Avenue revitalization effort could get a boost tonight.

The administration is expected to ask council for approval to ratify a municipal assistance program grant contract from the state Department of Community and Economic Development for $29,500.

UPMC Susquehanna also has agreed to contribute $25,000 toward the revitalization effort on the street between Hepburn and Walnut streets, said John Grado, city engineer.

The council is expected to vote on whether to form a memorandum of understanding with UPMC Susquehanna as it relates to the Park Avenue neighborhood revitalization plan.

In addition, council is expected to approve a similar agreement with Williamsport Sanitary Authority to implement a stormwater management feasibility study with recommendations and levee recertification issues with AMEC Foster Wheeler in coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Council is likely to approve an engineering agreement with Rettew as it designs a flood-mitigation plan for Grafius Run.

Council may pass a resolution to approve a Transportation Alternative Program Federal Aid letter of amendment for the Pathway to Health’s Phase III project. It is a reimbursement agreement for the contractor Tra Electric to begin working on signal and light improvements on the pathway from Maynard to First streets, First to West Third streets, and West Third to Campbell streets.

The pathway enables emergency vehicles more efficient access from the interstate to the campus of the UPMC Susquehanna Williamsport Regional Medical Center.

Most of the project’s cost has been paid for through federal highway funds distributed through the state Department of Transportation, Grado said.

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