Helfrich urges public to talk residency requirement after fiery meeting

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
York City Mayor Michael Helfrich speaks during Light Up York in York City, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich on Monday put out a rallying cry to city residents, urging them to opine about a potential residency requirement waiver for the city fire chief at an upcoming City Council meeting.

The mayor's Monday, Feb. 3, comments during a Facebook video came just a week after all five members of City Council blasted his decision to wait until January to inform them that Chief Chad Deardorff would not move into the city.

"We're telling him he either has to not be our fire chief anymore or has to split up with his family," Helfrich said. "... If you have an opinion in this, I would ask you to come out."

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Although the residency requirement resolution won't be on council's agenda during its Tuesday, Feb. 4, meeting, residents will be able to offer public comment.

At last week's council meeting, all five council members alleged that the mayor's delay in notifying council of the chief's living circumstances was just another example of a lack of transparency in his administration.

The chief informed Helfrich in September of last year that he would not be moving, but the mayor didn't inform council until this past month. Under city policy, all department heads must live in the city.

But Helfrich and Deardorff — who lives in West Manchester Township — have argued forcing the chief to move into the city would uproot his family.

Officials made it clear that the tension had nothing to do with Deardorff personally, who they agreed has been a loyal public servant for the 25 years he has worked in the department.

York City Fire Chief Chad Deardorff during the swearing in of York City Fire & Rescue fire officers Capt. Adam Smith, who will serve as Assistant Chief, and Capt. Kevin Pflaum, both assigned to B Platoon, at City Hall in York City, Friday, Aug. 30, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The measure, which council punted on last month, was kicked down the road again during last week's meeting, as an attempt to move the resolution to Tuesday's legislative agenda failed without garnering a second.

Council  has until later this month to make a call on the resolution that would waive Deardorff's residency requirement. After that, the one-year waiver approved by the council last year runs out.

It's unclear whether the waiver expires Feb. 19, a year from when council first approved a waiver for Deardorff, or Feb. 28, when he officially began serving as chief, Helfrich said.

If council lets the resolution die in committee or votes it down in a legislative meeting, Deardroff would have to make a decision about whether to stay with the department and take a demotion or opt to leave.

If he were to be demoted to deputy chief, city policy dictates that his current salary of $106,452 would not change. The city would then essentially have to pay for two chiefs, Helfrich has argued.

In Monday's Facebook video, Helfrich also urged residents to partake in a town hall Monday, Feb. 10, at LOGOS Academy. That town hall will address legislation related to residency requirements for non-union employees that remains in committee.

The proposed legislation would loosen residential living requirements for the the city's 97 nonunion employees by allowing them to live anywhere in York County as well as in seven surrounding counties.

If the legislation passes, employees would be allowed to live in neighboring Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin and Lancaster counties, as well as Harford, Baltimore and Carroll counties in Maryland.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.