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A majority of York City residents attending a Monday town hall voiced their support for legislation that would vastly expand the city's residency requirements for nonunion employees.

Out of 15 speakers at the town hall hosted by York City Council, 10 — including several city employees — called for the council to pass the legislation, arguing the expansion would make for an easier hiring process and ensure the city's employees are as qualified as possible.

“I do not believe for one moment that I or those that live within city limits can operate in a silo," said Chastity Frederick, a registered nurse with the city health bureau. "Nor do I think I can operate in an entity free of team work. I don’t believe those who live outside of the city are an enemy.”

More: York City fire chief's wife begs council to waive residency mandate.

Under the city's current residency requirement, which was last amended in 1994, all city employees have six months from when they are hired to move within city limits unless they are department heads or belong to a union.

Of the surrounding cities such as Harrisburg and Lancaster, York has the strictest residency requirements for employees, officials noted at Monday's meeting.

The legislation under consideration would allow the city's 90 nonunion employees to live anywhere in York County and in neighboring Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin and Lancaster counties, as well as Harford, Baltimore and Carroll counties in Maryland.

Proponents for the residency requirement expansion argued  Monday that living outside of the city doesn't hinder one's job performance, and the city is shrinking its candidate pool as it struggles to fill positions.

Those in favor included several of the city's department heads and workers.

Philip Given, acting director of community and economic development, noted the city is wasting thousands of dollars on training employees who end up never moving into the city.

"What we really see is that folks will accept these job offers, work these six to 12 months until the residency requirement hits, then they will leave their positions," Given said.

Alice Frost, the city controller, added that the city spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on contract positions, costs that could be mitigated by filling open jobs.

Opponents, however, argued that the city would lose tax revenue by allowing employees to live outside the city — although former city Councilman Michael Buckingham said the losses would be minimal.

Jim Norman, a retired accountant in York City who cited York's already burdensome financial issues, disagreed with Buckingham's assessment.

"We're dying. We don't want to turn into another Detroit," he said.

Others, such as NAACP President Sandra Thompson, questioned the city's hiring methods, which appear to leave out city residents, especially minorities.

"(Minorities) remain underemployed and unemployed where people say no one is qualified," she said. "For whatever reason, their application is not forwarded on to the right people. Sometimes these employment decisions are already made before they are received."

It is unclear when City Council will vote on the legislation. It has remained in limbo since the council delayed a vote in December.

Monday's town hall came as the council mulls a related matter, a resolution that would waive the residency requirement for fire Chief Chad Deardorff, who now lives in West Manchester Township.

The 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.

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich has argued  that forcing Deardorff to move would uproot his family. The council, however, has grilled the administration because it waited until January to inform members that the chief would not move into the city.

If council members reject the resolution or let it die in committee, Helfrich would have to find a new chief who either lives in the city or is willing to move, he has said. Deardorff would be demoted or could opt to leave the department. If he were to be demoted to deputy chief, city policy dictates that his current salary of $106,452 would not change.

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

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