EDITORIAL: Time to increase size of Springfield Township board
Volunteer and former park naturalist Jodi Sulpizio leads a Maple Sugaring Story Walk at Richard M. Nixon County Park in Springfield Township, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017.
Tucked away in mostly rural south-central York County, Springfield Township doesn’t often find itself in the news.
According to the 2010 census, the township was home to just more than 5,000 souls — 5,152 to be exact.
That may not sound like a very densely populated area, especially considering the township covers more than 26 square miles surrounding the borough of Seven Valleys. The township may be best known as the home of the bucolic Richard M. Nixon County Park.
The fact of the matter is, however, is that Springfield Township is growing rapidly. The 2000 census pegged the township’s population at 3,889. The census estimated that the township’s population was 5,731, as of July 1, 2017.
That means Springfield Township’s population has grown by more than 47 percent in less than two decades.
Yet, the Springfield Township Board of Supervisors features just three members.
That has some folks concerned — and rightfully so. It's also why normally quiet Springfield Township has found itself in the news lately.
The referendum: A township that is surging quickly toward 6,000 residents should have more representation on its board.
A number of Springfield Township residents apparently agree. That’s why voters in Springfield will be asked Tuesday, Nov. 6, if they want to increase the size of the township's board of supervisors to five seats.
If the referendum is approved, candidates would run for the two new seats in 2019.
Proponents of change: Lori Starz, who serves on the township’s planning commission, confirmed she circulated the petition for the referendum.
“We have had growth,” she said, and topics such as pay raises and health benefits require a more meaningful dialogue before a vote, which is currently not happening, she said.
“I respect the work that they’ve done,” Starz said of the current supervisors. “But maybe we could have more accountability.”
Ron Tombesi, president of the Loganville Borough Council, doesn't live in the township, but he does own property in Springfield. He said he also helped collect signatures for the referendum petition.
Tombesi, who is obviously experienced when it comes to serving as a public official, said he also would like more debate during supervisors' meetings.
“Springfield Township only has three township supervisors,” he said. “If one is not there, then there are only two who vote. There’s no room for debate; they only do what they want. As far as keeping the electorate apprised of what they are doing, they don’t explain why they vote the way they do.”
The concerns of Starz and Tombesi seem perfectly reasonable to us. It seems apparent there’s a transparency issue in the township.
Current board members "blindsided:" The current board members, however, seemed less than thrilled with the idea of increasing the board size.
Tom Wolfe, the chairman of the township's board of supervisors, said the current board felt “blindsided” when members learned of the referendum Tuesday, Oct 9.
“We never took a stance on it,” he said. “I can’t say I’m for it or against it. I don’t feel it’s needed. If it happens, it happens, and we’ll deal with it.”
That reaction is not surprising. Change can often be difficult to accept, especially when something has been done the same way for years and decades.
Referendum should be approved: Still, change is inevitable, and that's why we're hoping that the referendum is approved.
A larger board, with more diverse ideas and voices, would benefit the rapidly growing township.
It should lead to more discussion, more accountability and more transparency.
Those are virtues to be embraced, not changes to be feared.