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Charter presented for new Antietam Valley

By Leah Fleischel, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 06 2014 09:35:33 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 15 2014 09:28:11 AM CDT
Antietam Valley meeting
MOUNT PENN, Pa. -

Mount Penn and Lower Alsace Township officials presented a home rule charter for the proposed municipality of Antietam Valley during a meeting Monday night.

Solicitors Tom Klonis of Mount Penn Borough and Mike Setley of Lower Alsace Township presented the charter on the planned merger between the borough and township to create Antietam Valley.

Paul Janssen, director of the Center for Excellence in Local Government at Albright College in Reading, called it a “last hurrah” in the long process to create the new municipality.

Despite the fact that Mount Penn is currently governed under the state's borough code and Lower Alsace Township is governed under the second class township code, Setley noted that most provisions in the new code are identical to the two current codes.

“If anything, the handful of changes to the charter empowers and protects the citizens more than the two previous codes,” Setley said.

With the home rule charter comes an initiative and referendum process that allows and encourages direct participation by the citizens in the government, said the officials.

One of the most significant differences is that the governing body of the new municipality will be a 5-member board of supervisors to be elected at large.

A municipal manager also will be required, though the concept of having one is not new.

Another difference from the current codes will be that the boundaries of Antietam Valley will include all of what are now Mount Penn and Lower Alsace Township.

The home rule charter also increases flexibility in how the new municipality will exercise its taxation powers and allows a tax collector to be either appointed or elected.

One item added to the charter stipulates that, in the first 10 years of its existence, the new municipality will not be able to authorize sale, long-term lease or other arrangements to privatize assets such as the water and sewer systems.

“The intent of this is to provide security for at least ten years,” said Kurt Miller, vice president, Mount Penn Borough Council.

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To help the process move smoothly once the new municipality is created, a transition team of residents will be appointed.

At the meeting, it was decided those on the team must be residents of the two current municipalities for at least one year.

For the fourth time, residents in attendance were asked about a preference of a name for the new municipality. All in attendance agreed on Antietam Valley, which a majority had voted for at the other meetings.

The next meeting will be a citizens meeting on July 21 at the Mount Penn Primary Center, 201 N. 25th St., the final meeting before both bodies vote on the ordinance on July 28.