City residency law: Design it to attract the best applicants

The city of Williamsport’s residency requirement for employees has been changed so many times in the past 18 months that City Council has decided to scrap and devise a new one.

That’s a sound decision that gives the city’s elected leaders an opportunity to come up with a residency requirement that makes sense for these times.

A council committee of three members hopes to present a new residency ordinance by the summer.

Key considerations, in our view, should be flexibility and practicality.

Certainly, elected officials – the mayor, council representatives, controller and treasurer – should be required to live within Williamsport’s geographic boundaries.

Beyond that, the city needs to consider how it is going to attract the best people to its department head positions.

As much as we would like all of the people in this positions to live within the city’s geographic boundaries, that may limit the application net for some key positions.

Where public safety is concerned, the same considerations need to be made for the city’s police chief and fire chief.

The added caveat of public safety considerations needs to be added in those cases.

While it may be unrealistic to require the chiefs to move into the city if they don’t already live there, they should at least be within 10 miles of the city.

In a perfect world, it would be great if chiefs hired while living outside the city moved within its boundaries.

But again, the city has to consider how it is going to attract the best candidates for positions going forward with a limited pool for specialized positions.

As for positions below the department head level, in the year 2018, when transience is a daily reality, it’s unrealistic to expect people to live within the city as a condition of employment.

There are thousands of people in Lycoming County commuting from one municipality to another on their way to work everyday.

The council committee has a tall task.

The hope is that the new residency requirements attract the best applicants available to important Williamsport government positions.