Squabbles between York City Council and mayor continue, this time over deadlines

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

York City's elected leaders will consider $1.5 million in renovation projects at a City Council meeting Tuesday amid the ongoing tumult over COVID relief funding.

At its first in-person meeting since Dec. 21, the council will consider approving $750,000 each for projects at Rex/Laurel Fire Station and Penn Market. Meanwhile, the scrum over those proposals has led to yet another — over how much time the city's legal team has to review council proposals.

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The amount of money for the two projects had been the subject of some controversy at the Feb. 15 meeting. Mayor Michael Helfrich said the amount proposed by the city had been $325,000 each — not $750,000 — as he raised concerns about public notice.

Council President Sandie Walker said the body will address those procedural questions by reintroducing the measures.

"Just to make sure we address everything, the solicitor suggested that bills be introduced again," she said Monday, "and we make sure all acts are covered with this so there are no issues in the future."

Mr. Sandy's Homeless Veterans Center director Sandie Walker serves lunch to Country Meadows Retirement Community resident and Navy veteran Richard Martin, 96, at the veteran's assistance center in York City Friday, March 29, 2019. Country Meadows staff served lunch to community veterans at its visiting residents at the center, named after Sandie's father, Vietnam Veteran Sandy Walker. The visit coincided with National Vietnam War Veterans Day. Bill Kalina photo

Helfrich refused comment Monday, saying he was going to wait until he saw what the council did on Tuesday. He did, however, express concern about an agenda item being introduced at the meeting amending the rules and procedures of City Council.

That proposal, put forward by Walker, would require the solicitor to review all agenda items by noon on the Thursday before the next meeting. If recommendations from the city's legal team aren't received by that deadline, the agenda item would be deemed to have been reviewed and approved by the city's legal team — even if the solicitor hadn't actually done so.

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"There's a 24-hour turnaround," Helfrich said. "Our attorneys are in court, our attorneys do have other obligations to the city of York that may make them possibly unavailable in that brief period."

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich speaks during a Community Violence Awareness Event at Lincoln Charter School Monday, Dec. 6, 2021. The event was sponsored by York City Police, the City of York, and The Movement. Bill Kalina photo

The mayor said such a compressed timetable isn't realistic.

"To say that everything that comes out of council is automatically approved by the city solicitor if they have not had an opportunity to review it, that seems to be a dangerous overstep," he said.

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Walker said the amendment is intended to honor deadlines for when proposals are introduced and amended.

"What we're going to do as council is expect things to be on time," Walker said. "We expect things to be explained by administration, and unless there's an emergency, we're going to honor and abide by our rules."

City Solicitor Jason Sabol said he would address the matter at the meeting Tuesday.

Tuesday's meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at York City Hall, 101 S. George St. No registration is necessary to attend the meeting, though masks will be required. The meeting will also be streamed on the city's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CityofYorkPA and on the White Rose Community TV's Youtube channat www.youtube.com/c/WhiteRoseCommunityTV.

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.