City residency debated by ad hoc committee

By MARK MARONEY

mmaroney@sungazette.com

Is it important that chiefs of police and fire, codes administrators and city recreation directors live in the city of Williamsport to receive a paycheck?

That’s the challenge ahead for a City Council ad hoc committee that met Monday to discuss residency requirements for the first time since the law was repealed last year.

Mayor Gabriel J. Campana asked council to rescind the law in order to hire several individuals, including the director of human resources.

The weak law was amended so many times over the past 18 months that council felt there was no need to have an ordinance and scrapped it, asking a committee to review it again.

“It’s nice it’s a clean slate,” said Councilman Derek Slaughter, who joined Councilman Joel Henderson and Councilwoman Bonnie Katz, chairwoman, on the committee.

Katz said the committee would try by the summer to shore up language and create a rule that can stand the test of administration to change it.

As it stands, the only residency that applies is set by bargaining units through contract, or for 10 elected officials, including the mayor, council, controller and treasurer. The bulk of police and fire officials are in unions.

“We can’t touch that,” Henderson said, adding he’s researched other cities as a means of reviewing this city’s law.

The committee said it desires to draft a purpose of the proposed ordinance and produce a solidly defendable, clear and accountable version on which council can vote.

Recently, the issue on a volunteer basis surfaced when a South Williamsport woman was accepted on the city recreation commission.

Notwithstanding her energy and enthusiasm, Slaughter said he wondered why nobody from the city applied or answered the questions from council.

Slaughter said during his campaign for council that many people told him if the department heads affect change in taxes, they ought to live in the city.

The committee also said some other city residency requirements give department heads and other administration officials a grace period in which to move into the city.

“We need to enumerate the desired purpose, so it’s clear and there is direction and focus,” Henderson said.

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