EDITORIAL: Right step toward regionalization

The York Dispatch
West York Mayor Shawn Mauck, center, speaks about the York City Human Relations Commission's move to West York, as York City Mayor Kim Bracey, left, and York City HRC Chairwoman Karen Rollins-Fitch look on. Tuesday, March 22, 2017. Jason Addy photo.
  • The move is a far cry from a resource-sharing proposal West York officials rejected, in 2013.
  • Regionalization is one way Pa.'s patchwork of municipalities can save money and avoid duplication.
  • West York’s current officials deserve credit for taking steps, however small, in that direction.

Four years after West York officials literally shredded unopened regionalization proposals the borough had solicited from nearby police departments, the tiny but densely populated municipality is taking baby steps toward closer cooperation with neighbors.

After losing its office in the basement of the York County Administrative Building earlier this year, the York City Human Relations Commission (HRC) found a new home during the summer in West York’s borough building.

More:York City, West York working to finalize HRC move

More:West York approves temporary lease for York City HRC

It's a win-win for both municipalities — city residents will continue to have an agency dedicated to investigating claims of employment, educational and housing discrimination, and borough residents will receive assistance filing discrimination complaints with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

If the borough council approves its own anti-discrimination ordinance — and it should — West York residents will be able to receive more services from the HRC.

The borough held a town hall meeting with commission representatives Monday, Oct. 23, to introduce residents to the agency and explain what it can do for them.

It’s a far cry — in scope and reception — from resource-sharing proposal West York officials requested, then rudely rejected, in 2013.

With the borough’s police contract up at the end of that year, the council voted in February 2013 to request police service proposals from five area departments. Of those five, only York City and Northern York County Regional returned proposals.

In March 2013, after hearing nearly two hours of comments from residents — almost all of them supporting the borough's own police department — the council voted 4-3 against pursuing those offers.

Not only did the four council members who voted against consolidation not open the bids submitted by York City and Northern York County Regional, they also voted to shred the proposals sight unseen.

We noted at the time how shortsighted it was to not even examine the bids for potential cost savings.

More:West York considers tax hike to close budget gap

Sure enough, by 2015 then-borough council President Garrett Wampler was warning of a budget deficit, suggesting several options: merge with West Manchester Township, cut services such as fire and police or raise taxes significantly.

Wampler was the only nay vote when the council later voted to hike taxes by 1 mill, from 7.5 mills to 8.5 mill, costing the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 another $100 per year.

Regionalization is one way Pennsylvania’s patchwork of more than 2,500 municipalities can save money and avoid duplication by pooling resources to provide the same services to their residents.

And York County has been at the forefront of shared services in Pennsylvania, home of both the state's first regional police department — Northern York County — and fire department – York Area United.

Eventually, regionalization won't be an option – financially, it will be a necessity if our many small towns want to continue offering certain services.

West York’s current slate of elected officials deserve credit for taking steps, however small, in that direction.