New spin on York County commissioner meetings

Greg Gross

In the past, a York County Board of Commissioners meeting could last as little as 15 minutes.

But now it takes about that much time just to accommodate a new addition to most meetings. A representative from each of the 50 or so departments in county government is scheduled to give a presentation at the beginning of a commissioners' meeting on what they do.

"I felt that we have an opportunity to reach a lot of York countians," said Susan Byrnes, the president commissioner and the board's newest member. "I think the citizens of York County deserve to know how hard our 2,600 employees are working."

Byrnes ushered in the idea when she took office earlier this year and, so far, two departments — the county Missing Child Task Force and Department of Emergency Services/Office of Emergency Management — have made presentations so far.

Presentations: Byrnes said the presentations are reminiscent of show and tell that elementary school-aged children do, but they are meant educate the public on county government.

Eric Bistline, executive director of emergency services, highlighted the high-tech 911 center, which has become a "showcase of 911 centers in Pennsylvania" and receives visits from officials from around the globe, during a recent meeting.

In 2015, dispatchers answered 488,088 calls, an average of 1,337 daily, and sent some of the 4,500 first responders in the county out on calls. But working at the 911 center is often stressful considering the nature of the calls dispatchers answer, officials said.

"The job of a dispatcher isn't for everyone," said Jacqueline Brininger, 911 director.

Feedback: Though the meetings are often sparsely attended, some people watch broadcasts of the proceedings on White Rose Community Television, Byrnes and Doug Hoke, the vice present commissioner, said.

Hoke said he received positive feedback from a few people who said they tuned in.

"I had a couple of people say they saw and liked the 911 presentation," he said.

At the end of the presentations, each presenter is given a "York County gold coin," another initiative put into place under Byrnes' tenure, for their efforts.

The coins, which are actually Sacagawea $1 coins, are also given to deserving county employees. Some employees now email Byrnes to recommend a co-worker who has gone out of his or her way for the county to receive for the award, Byrnes said. So far, about 20 coins, which she paid for out of pocket, have been presented.

"So it's not coming out of the county coffers," Byrnes said.

On the road: The commissioners will also take their meetings on the road later this year, although the dates and locations haven't been set, said county spokesman Carl Lindquist.

"We are expecting to have at least three official meetings within the community, along with a community meeting," he said in an email. "The community meeting will not include official business, but is a more casual get-together where we anticipate the board will discuss county operations (and) objectives and interact with attendees."

The York County commissioners meet weekly on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. at the county administration building, located at 28 E. Market St. To  watch a recording of the meetings, tune into White Rose Community Television (channels 16 and 18), or go to

— Reach Greg Gross at