York City Council gives fire chief another year to meet residency mandate

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
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

York City Council on Tuesday granted fire Chief Chad Deardorff another year to move into the city, but it's unclear what would happen in 2021 if the issue comes up again. 

The council voted unanimously to extend the chief's residency waiver for a year, just days before a previous one expired. The vote knocked down suspicions that council could opt to let it lapse because of spats between Mayor Michael Helfrich and council members.

"This resolution was introduced because we recognize the impeccable work you do, Chief Deardorff," said Councilwoman Edquina Washington, a member of the committee overseeing the city's fire department. "We know that you've given so much to our city. We didn't want to just not do anything."

More:One fire chief for the price of two? It could happen in York City.

The council's decision was described as a compromise, with members taking into account Deardorff's 25 years of experience with the department.

It also came with a catch for Deardorff and York City Mayor Michael Helfrich's administration: More transparency about the chief's living decisions will be necessary going forward. 

"I believe that at least some of us want to give him another chance," said City Council President Henry Nixon. "That's why I tried to make clear that if there's no intention of moving into the city, let us know right away. If he intends to move, let us know that."

Nixon had previously hinted that he would vote against the resolution.

And, despite seemingly reversing course, he reiterated on Wednesday that he still expects Deardorff to move into the city if he wishes to remain chief.

The vote on Tuesday, which was not initially on the agenda, followed appeals from Deardorff's wife and Helfrich, who stated that leaving his West Manchester Township home would "uproot" his family.

As of Wednesday morning, the chief said it's unclear what will happen moving forward.

"I gotta figure out what’s going on," Deardorff said. "This is all unexpected. I'll have to sit down with them here in the next couple weeks."

Per city policy, all department heads must live in the city. But most of the contentious debate arose from council's ongoing discontent with Helfrich.

Council members in recent weeks rebuked Helfrich over his handling of the residency requirement, noting he knew in September that Deardorff would not move within city limits but failed to inform council members.

Councilman Lou Rivera, who initially said that emotional pleas about Deardorff's family situation wouldn't change his vote, echoed other council members in saying Deardorff deserved another chance. 

But it's not as if Deardorff is off the hook, Rivera said on Wednesday.

"Last night was just an extension for a year," he said. We didn't vote on waiving his residency requirement (as a whole)."

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