West York approves temporary lease for York City HRC
At the close of a four-hour meeting Monday night, the West York Borough Council approved a temporary lease agreement that will see York City's anti-discrimination commission move into the borough's administration building.
It was a decision that did not seem to sit well with the borough's former mayor, Charles Wasko, who was ousted in October over racist Facebook posts.
The York City Human Relations Commission has been without an office since the end of March, after being asked to leave the space it borrowed for seven years from York County in order to make room for expansions by other county offices.
The York City HRC can now begin moving into the former Grace Loucks Elementary School at 1381 W. Poplar St. in West York while borough and commission officials continue to iron out final details of the lease agreement.
On March 22, West York Mayor Shawn Mauck and York City Mayor Kim Bracey announced a potential partnership between the two municipalities that would see the city’s human relations group move into West York’s borough building.
The mayors said officials from both municipalities would work to complete the move within 60 days.
Bracey addressed West York council members and residents Monday night, thanking the council for considering the merger and apologizing to residents for miscommunications that saw the HRC sending over office equipment before the borough council had ratified a lease agreement.
Those miscommunications, along with concerns over a perceived lack of transparency, led several residents to speak in favor of increased cooperation between the council and Mauck — as well as between borough officials and residents.
Several West York council members voiced concerns over not being involved in the leasing process. Mauck defended the way West York and York City handled the deal, pointing out that it had been brought up in public forums twice before the mayors announced the agreement.
Though the lease was hashed out quickly and under “extraordinary circumstances” with the commission out of a home, Mauck said the borough handled the negotiations effectively and the deal is a “commonsense,” “win-win” situation for West York and York City.
Mauck said the services merger will present a “multitude of opportunities” for his borough, and he is confident that it can serve as a model for other York County municipalities to follow.
“From my children, yours and everyone else’s, thank you,” Mauck told the seven council members.
The York City HRC will provide tailored services for York City residents out of its West York office, but the group cannot begin offering those customized services for West York residents until the borough adopts an anti-discrimination ordinance.
West York residents can contact the York City HRC for help with complaints and for resources, but all formal investigations for West York residents will be handled by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
However, the York City HRC offers group training and educational programming for all York County residents.
Marijuana ordinance: At the end of Monday night’s meeting, the West York Borough Council also approved a motion to publicly advertise the borough’s proposed marijuana ordinance for the next 60 days.
Mauck proposed the ordinance in January, and after initial discussions, the proposal was sent to one of the West York council's committees for further work.
Despite the minor setback, Mauck said the extra time allowed council members to do their due diligence and come back with an improved ordinance.
"I think it's great. I think we perfected a better bill," Mauck said.
Under the proposed ordinance, West York Borough Police officers would be given the discretion to fine individuals found using or in possession of small amounts of marijuana instead of arresting them. The most current version of the ordinance sets fines of $50 for first-time possession citations and $100 for first-time use citations.
Mauck said the council will be able to continue discussions on the ordinance for 60 days, though he expects a vote sooner than that.
A vote could come as soon as April 17, when the West York Borough Council reconvenes.
Moving forward: The West York Borough Council met Monday under the watchful eye of former mayor Wasko, who signed up to speak during the meeting’s public comment period but opted against it.
Still, Wasko made his stance known by applauding several West York residents who spoke in favor of delaying a vote on the HRC agreement until more information was known, and he was asked at one point to stop interrupting the proceedings.
Wasko resigned as the mayor of West York in October following a public outcry over racist posts on his Facebook page that were brought to light by The York Dispatch.
After Wasko’s resignation, Mauck took the step up from borough council president to become mayor.
Despite Wasko showing "his face for the first time in a long time" at Monday's meeting, Mauck said he was proud of council members for moving forward with the leasing agreement and marijuana ordinance.
“Sure, we’re still fighting off the old perception … but I am proud tonight that we kept moving forward and we didn’t turn back,” he said.
As a resident of West York, Wasko has the right to attend public meetings and to make his voice heard, Mauck said.
“Actually, I appreciate the reminder that that’s not where we want to be,” he said. “We want to move forward.”
Like every other West York resident, Wasko is welcome to visit the mayor’s office if he would like to make a complaint or voice a concern, Mauck said.
“But I’ll tell you this: Come in my office and ask me to disenfranchise people and treat them like dirt — I’ll probably have you go out as fast as you came in,” he said.
Wasko could not be reached for comment Tuesday.