Council-manager final suggestion for charter commission

After nine months of study, research and deliberation — much of it done in public sessions — the city charter commission called it quits Wednesday, prepared a final report and recommends a City Council-manager form of government to be on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The final report is to be certified today by Janice Frank, city clerk, as required under optional third-class city law, and then sent to the Lycoming County Board of Elections for certification.

Each of the commissioners, who were elected last November, expressed their admiration for each other, for present and past city employees who provided them with interviews and insight into the government and to the city residents for taking a survey that helped them collect data and information to recommend that a council-manager system would be the best for the city moving forward.

The city has had a strong mayor-council since 1972, and Mayor Gabriel J. Campana has been critical of the process to change that because he believed the commissioners wanted the recommendation they arrived at before the process began in November.

Fred Holland, commission chairman, said he likened his role to that of the manager of the 2018 Phillies, presently in first-place in Major League Baseball’s National League East standings.

Nobody could have predicted it, according to Holland. The commission midway through lost Stephen Shope, who left because of a career change. Shope was replaced by Thomas Forquer, who Holland said was similar to a pinch hitter on a baseball team. “We had points of disagreement, but we never fought,” he said.

Tony Nardi, of the commission, said it was a pleasure to be on a commission that recognized the serious nature of the charge it was given — to possibly look at changing the form of city government.

“It’s been wonderful to be given the opportunity to do that,” Nardi said.

Commissioner Patrick Marty said the commission’s task has been a deliberate process. “We came with open minds,” he said. “We looked at data, talked and found a scope of options of our counterparts (the Williamsport Government Study Commission),” Marty said.

“We’re offering options the voters sought,” he said.

Commissioner Gerry Fausnaught, a former city councilwoman, said she learned so much as a member.

“The interviews with city employees were enlightening,” she said. She gave credit to Holland for his leadership and for his “legal eye” that helped guide the commission as it reached a recommendation.

Howie Biichle reminded voters the commission website will continue to be running with additional information on it.

David Stone, of the commission, said the public education leading up to the election is the most important factor. He was hopeful anyone who is going to vote in the city will look at the report and see the rationale behind the decision.

While the elected commission has disbanded, it can be called back should legal action, including fulfilling provisions of the optional third-class city charter law be necessary, Holland said.

Copies of the report describing the rationale behind the council-manager form of government recommendation will be prepared by the city clerk and available at her office. Copies also will be made available at county’s Voters Services and James V. Brown Library. The commission has a website with the information.

The commission will be asking Campana to sign a proclamation, under state statute. If the mayor does not sign a proclamation the commission has the authority to have a court judge mandate his signature, Holland said.