South Side hires new cop, hears concerns from residents

South Williamsport Borough council unanimously approved hiring a new police officer and accepted the resignation of another at its Monday night meeting.

Officer Seth Stropp was hired at a pay rate of $23.50 per hour, and the resignation of police officer Cody Lepley was accepted. Police Chief Robert Hetner said Lepley took a position with the county.

“Cody Lepley was a fine officer,” Hetner said. “We’re sorry to see him leave.”

Hetner said Stropp’s hiring fills a vacancy being created through Corporal Carl Finnerty’s promotion to chief, and the borough will begin the process of civil service testing to fill Lepley’s vacancy.

Members of the public had a number of questions for council at the meeting.

One resident questioned the ongoing dispute over the merger of the borough’s volunteer fire departments, noting allegations the new department had eliminated crucial equipment and neglected to refer the recommendations of a mediator to a vote of the full membership as the borough’s fire tax rate was doubled. Another resident asked why the borough doesn’t seek bids for repair work on borough vehicles.

While council members did not have direct answers to these questions Monday night, a property owner upset with the grass-clippings ordinance and residents questioning the new borough manager’s responsibilities and fees to use athletic fields fared better.

A Cogan Station resident who owns rental properties in South Williamsport questioned if the grass-clippings ordinance has an adequate appeals process. Councilman Robert Decker said anyone who wishes to dispute a citation can request to be added to the safety committee’s agenda and noted the property owner is on the agenda for the next meeting.

One resident questioned if new Borough Manager Steve Cappelli, who was not at the meeting, is working two full-time jobs as an executive with Henry Dunn Insurance and now holding the borough manager position.

The resident also questioned why Maria Maddy has been promoted to assistant manager when there had not been a need for the position in the past. Council President J. Bernard Schelb said Maddy had been functioning as an assistant manager for years and that Cappelli’s position with the insurance company is not a full-time job but more of an advisory role.

After unanimously passing a 20-percent increase in the slate of fees to use athletic fields at the borough’s park complex earlier in the meeting, a resident questioned if Little League pays the fees. Councilman David Geise said it does not at this time due to a pre-existing contract, but the borough expects to revisit the matter as the contract expires.

In other business, the council unanimously approved paying Gutelius about $221,780 for work on several paving projects. Council members also accepted an agreement with the state under which the state Department of Transportation will pay the borough about $6,700 to plow several roadways that are the state’s responsibility.

Council members approved pension obligations for 2019 in the amount of $10,745 for uniformed personnel. Maddy was appointed as administrator of the pension plans. Maddy also was appointed the borough’s substitute right-to-know officer, with Cappelli appointed as the right-to-know officer.

Councilman Carl Nolan questioned Fire Chief Casey Lowmiller if there has been any recent correspondence from the state Auditor General’s or Attorney General’s offices. Lowmiller said any correspondence of such nature would go to the board of directors of the department’s legal counsel.

Nolan has concerns stemming from news reports that ancillary relief associations had not complied with state regulations during the merger two years ago.