Government study commission to meet with officials of other cities

The Williamsport Governmental Home Rule Commission has invited mayors and city managers to share their viewpoints with the public.

The seven-member commission met Monday night and said the public hearing with the special guests is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. April 16 at City Hall.

The commission has done research in preparation for releasing a study for the city voters in order to gain insight as it prepares to make a recommendation as to what might work best for Williamsport’s government and if elements of the state Home Rule law allowing more public input and flexibility can be a part of the recommendation.

“Our goal is to do two weeks more of research,” said Alison D. Hirsch, commission member.

The commission is doing both internal city interviews with employees and external cities, such as Altoona, Hazleton, Sharon, Easton and Wilkes-Barre.

“We’re looking at what works and what doesn’t work,” said Margaret Tupper, a commissioner.

Some of these cities operated under home rule and some considered home rule because they were in financial distress, Tupper said.

Commissioner Matilda Noviello noted the importance of interviews with William E. Nichols Jr., city finance director, and Williamsport Police Chief David J. Young as beneficial toward creating a well-rounded study.

Part of the commission’s report to be made public of its findings is to identify problems in the city government that need to be addressed.

Ideas discussed at the Monday meeting included the perception of a lack of representation in city government by citizens living in the west and east ends of the city.

Another consideration is how many of the council live within a few blocks of each other, but Tupper said that is how the electorate voted.

Another idea might be a consideration for learning how some city employees’ jobs entail too much work for the amount of time they are given in a work week.

“We are seeing where city government is not being as efficient as it can based on not having a clear structure,” said Jennifer Ayers, commission chairwoman.

Evidence of that is the lack of clarity over job descriptions, according to Ardis Mason, a commissioner.

A home rule charter could specifically list job descriptions and inform individuals on the right to know procedure.

It also could ensure there is less “outsourcing” instead of finding qualified local applicants for jobs, Hirsch said.