Board backs residency referendum

“Shall the residence requirement for the Borough Manager be revised to extend the boundary to all of Warren County instead of the current ‘up to a 5 mile radius outside of the borough’?”

That’s the question Youngsville voters will be asked on May 21 and members of the borough’s council said Monday the answer is a resounding yes.

In February, Youngville Borough Council passed ordinance 584, which reads, “The Manager need not be a resident of the Borough at the time of the appointment, but during the tenure of office, he or she may reside outside the Borough only with the approval of a majority of the members of the Council, However, he or she must reside in Warren County.”

However, the borough manager residency requirement is written into the borough charter so it takes more than just council to change it. It takes a majority of Youngsville voters.

Under the current form of the charter, the borough manager must live within the borough or, with council approval, within a five mile radius.

When Borough Manager Terry Williams’ contract was not renewed by council last year, Lisa Hagberg was appointed to take her place. Hagberg lives in Sugar Grove, approximately ten miles from the borough line.

The discrepancy was described at the time as being attributable to human error and Hagberg was named acting borough manager until the situation could be resolved.

That resolution, one way or the other, is now dependent on Youngsville’s voters, but borough council already knows the answer they would like to see.

“I think the answer to that’s yes,” Councilmember Steve Morris said of the referendum question.

He cited a decreasing population paired with the skill set a candidate needs to be successful at the job as being a motivating factor for the change.

“Our population is dropping one-percent each year,” Morris noted. “I think in these economic times it’s ridiculous to require someone to move here for the job. We have to be able to find qualified individuals. It’s most important that council lives in the borough because, ultimately, council makes the decisions.”

“The (applicant) pool is way too limited is we limit it to the borough,” Councilmember Erik Leamon agreed.

Councilmember John Barhydt noted borough managers must meet increasing state requirements to do their jobs as well.

“It’s getting harder and harder to meet the qualifications,” Barhydt pointed out.

Councilmember Eric Mineweaser cited ongoing projects Hagberg is familiar with as a reason to make attempts to retain her, personally, in the position.

“We have some very intricate projects our current acting borough manager is involved in,” Mineweaser said. “I think it would be detrimental to our borough not to pass this.”

Councilmembers Doug Peterson and Pam Olewine also voiced support of the referendum. Councilmember Robert Olson was absent during Monday’s meeting.

The question will now go before voters who will be able to answer with a simple yes or no vote. The referendum will only appear on the primary ballot on May 21 and will not go on the Nov. ballot. It will appear on both Republican and Democratic ballots. Youngsville voters not registered as Republican or Democrat can also vote in the primary, but the question will be the only thing appearing on their ballots.