Selinsgrove, PA – Although the very notion of a municipal comprehensive plan invokes ideas of inclusion and a well-represented cross section of the community, Borough Manager Paul Williams has reversed convention revoking the public’s invitation.
Following Monday evening’s Borough Council budget work session, SCC attempted to confirm the time and location of Tuesday’s Comprehensive Plan Drafting Committee meeting. However, attempting to close the last openings to a near complete exclusion of the public from the process, Borough Manager Paul Williams has unilaterally declared that the public is not invited to participate or be present.
“The public is not invited!” Williams screamed at SCC admin Vincent Stoops while he was confirming details with Borough Councilman Richard Mease. “You aren’t invited” Williams continued his loud tirade “you are not welcome and neither is the public!”
The borough’s comprehensive plan was last updated in the late 1960’s. The comprehensive plan is the borough’s guidelines for development, zoning, and community goals for the foreseeable future. The Council has contracted the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce (GSVCC) to coordinate the re-drafting at a cost of $8,000.
The GSVCC was the successful low bidder to provide the professional services needed for the project. Williams had attempted to appoint the GSVCC through a no-bid contract, however, Planning Commission members agreed with SCC’s public comment submission that a bid process take place and at least one other bidder be solicited.
During the November Council Meeting, although the GSVCC had encourage the appointments to the committee be open for any interested community member to apply, Williams revealed for the first time he had hand-picked and screened a list of individuals.
“I have discussed this with some of [Council] either by telephone, in person, or even electronically” Williams admitted immediately prior to unveiling his nominations.
Nominations were only submitted by Mr Williams and were not open for public application. Included on the list along with some members of council are former Council President, and current head of Selinsgrove Projects Incorporated (SPI), Carrol Handlan as well as SU VP of Finance and Operation Mike Coyne. Williams made a special plea on behalf of Handlan after council was reminded that the disgraced politician and Mr Coyne had been caught in multiple scandals surrounding the relationship between the borough government, SPI, and Susquehanna University.
Williams defended the scandal ridden SPI chair by saying “I can attest to…Carol Handlan.” Williams gushed “what [Handlan] does every day for this Borough” proves she is a community minded person.
Handlan and Coyne, who both serve as officers on the SPI board, are also the considered the architects of the university’s mandatory on-campus housing policy. Handlan ensured an exemption to the borough’s rental ordinance that allowed for SU’s lucrative policy of forcing students on-campus. The implementation of that policy has resulted in student residents crying foul over Orwellian basic civil rights abuses and sent rental property owners scrambling for new tenants.
In addition to himself, Handlan, and Coyne, Manager Williams also nominated: Councilman Marvin Rudnitsky, Councilman Pete Carrol, Councilman Richard Mease, Mayor Jeff Reed, Junior Councilwoman Isabel Moles, Recreation Coordinator Makenzie Stover, Planning Commission member Janet Powers and another commission member to be named later, Selinsgrove Chamber President Helen Walter, Bot’s Tavern owner Rich Shuck, school district Superintendent Chad Cohrs, Snyder County Planning Director Lincoln Kaufman as well as Councilman Grant Neff as an alternate.
Tentatively SU student Troy Spencer was also appointed. Williams explained that Spencer, a senior religious studies major, “has expressed interest and [Spencer] said he would be so honored” to participate. However, Williams had not met with and screened Spencer yet; Williams would only be submitting his name tentatively.
Over Williams enraged objections, Councilman Mease did confirm that the committee meeting will be held tomorrow, Tuesday November 21st, immediately following the Tree Lighting ceremony at the commons.
SCC will be at the meeting, camera in hand, asking that the potential next 50 years in our borough not be decided behind closed doors. While all of us Whos are watching the Christmas light arrive in the borough, we can hope that transparency is brought back to our community. It can come without ribbons, it can come without tags, it can come without boxes, packages, or bags.