OPED: Connecting a caring community

Susan P. Byrnes
York County President Commissioner

The theme for this letter is taken from the book "The House at Otowi Bridge: The Story of Edith Warner and Los Alamos" by Peggy Pond Church. Ms. Church states, “The good of the village depends upon the strength and energy with which each man/woman in his/her heart wills what is good.”

Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016--Susan Byrnes, York County president commissioner. Bill Kalina photo

So it is in our community as we address the challenges placed before us: We must will (and then act upon) what is good in our efforts to serve and care for our fellow citizens.

On June 27, York County philanthropist and businessman Louis J. Appell Jr. died at his home. Mr. Appell and his family exemplified an immeasurable will to do good for York County through their generous support and guidance to many organizations and individuals. I am deeply grateful to have known Mr. Appell and experienced his generosity with the development of the Byrnes Health Education Center and many other community initiatives. Our community is stronger, more beautiful and thriving because of the generosity and leadership of Louis and Jody Appell.

In a local display of private/public forces combining to make a positive impact, York County Rabbit Transit and a generous private donor made it easier for our veterans and an escort to be transported to the Lebanon Veterans’ Hospital from York for treatment and testing at no cost to the veterans. In addition, Terry Gendron (a 22-year Army veteran), began his role as the director of Veterans Affairs. Mr. Gendron is placing a high priority on broadening the accessibility of the resources of Veterans Affairs to veterans and their families.

In our community’s ongoing efforts to confront the heroin epidemic Dave Sunday, chief deputy prosecutor, and county Coroner Pam Gay led a strategic session with 60 organizations to collect data and discuss the comprehensive community education and prevention program Project Lazarus. As in so many other communities facing this terrible drug, heroin knows no economic or demographic boundaries. We have very capable leaders and dedicated forces in this battle.

Our public/private Pleasant Acres Nursing Home Task Force continues their work on identifying opportunities for improved efficiency and effective service delivery at our County Nursing Home.

On a different front, the commissioners granted to the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education a 99-year lease and easement on their 186 acres. This act allows our beautiful rural landscape to remain accessible to all our citizens.

Recently, the commissioners voted to authorize a $5 auto registration fee to be used exclusively for bridge repairs in our county. We recognize there is no positive way to add costs to anyone’s expenses, while also recognizing our responsibility for the upkeep and repair necessary to maintain safe structures on our roads.

An ordinance to increase the hotel tax from 3 percent to 5 percent was passed. The additional revenue generated will assist local organizations in their efforts to attract visitors and events to our area.

Two activities are taking taking place to improve transparency and efficiency in your local government:

1. The commissioners will meet with our state delegation on a quarterly basis to make sure we are current with legislation under consideration in Harrisburg and as a means to communicate to our legislators our local priorities and initiatives

2. We hosted a meeting with officials from York City, county and state administrators to discuss lean government and what actions we might consider to raise efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of county services

Personally, I had the opportunity to attend the Adult Treatment Court graduation ceremony — what a positive testament to our courts’ efforts on behalf of these individuals. Additionally, I participated in several strategic planning sessions with the County Commissioner Association of PA’s Behavioral Health Task Force.

To date, I’ve visited 28 of our 50 departments and will complete the remainder this year. It is an honor to meet our employees and thank them for their efforts on our behalf.

Last week, I witnessed the work of one our employees when I attended a seven-hour session on CPR and first aid delivered by correctional officer Chuck Pugh. Officer Pugh is a master teacher not only of the mechanics of CPR and defibrillation, but the process of thinking through an emergency scenario and its consequences. If you would like to raise your capabilities to respond to a family member’s or anyone else’s emergency, I encourage you to attend a CPR/first aid class. They are skills you don’t ever want to have to use or be without if you need them.

We distributed a number of commissioners’ Gold Coins over the past three months, including one at the opening ceremony of the York County Senior Games to Patricia Eggert, chair of the Area Agency on Aging Advisory Board, who has organized this community event for the past 15 years.

In closing, during these first six months of my term I’ve witnessed and experienced wonderful acts of caring and concern by York countians for their fellow citizens. We are inundated daily with national, international and state news that can seem overwhelming in its complexity and reach. However, we live in a community that always affords us the opportunity to offer a hand-up with a smile and know we are improving the life of a single person or family. This is our work and how we transform Ms. Church’s words into acts: “The good of the village depends upon the strength and energy with which each man/woman in his/her heart wills what is good.”

— Susan P. Byrnes is the president of the York County Board of Commissioners. Reach her at