Council Discusses Legal Action Against Drilling Law, Police Complaint Review Process
The Girl Scouts were also honored, a proposed logging ordinance was discussed and more at Monday’s Peters Township Council meeting.
The ongoing discussion regarding the passing of House Bill 1950/Act 13 continued Monday night when Peters Township Solicitor William Johnson addressed a preliminary draft for a potential legal challenge to the act that multiple boroughs were considering.
The draft identifies four main challenge areas proposing that the enactment of this legislation is unconstitutional in terms of individual rights, as well as could be considered a special legislation in favor of one industry. Also, the draft challenge states the bill violates constitutionally-mandated protection of the environment for municipalities as well as the concept of separation of powers because it interferes with judicial and legislative functions.
The legal action will most likely be a collective effort of 15 or more municipalities, but there hasn’t been a litigation budget set yet.
“We really have no choice but to pursue this,” said chairman Robert Lewis. "A good portion of Peters Township is 5+ acre properties, which have the most potential to be affected by this new law."
Council said it's “committed to moving forward” and Johnson thought it would be likely that the legal challenge will be ready for approval by the next meeting.
Council said it will also begin looking at their current ordinances to see what may need to be changed by the 120-day deadline in August.
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Police Complaint Review Process
At the previous request of council members, township Manager Michael Silvestri opened discussion on the current police complaint review process to determine if council would like to move forward with changing the policy.
As it stands, all complaints are reviewed by Peters police Chief Harry Fruecht and are then sent to Silvestri.
Council was divided on the issue and some felt that there wasn’t a reason to set up a formal review process because there weren’t many complaints. On the other hand, councilwoman Monica Merrell felt that “personnel has a process for appeals and citizens should have the same.”
Several citizens also voiced their complaints with the police department and lack of a review process.
Council agreed to update the procedure and requested to get a copy of the complaints given to Silvestri. It also requested the opportunity to review them and follow up if desired.
A new ordinance amending the logging requirements in the township was introduced and key changes include additional inspections and bonding requirements, plus a third party certified forester will have to determine the appropriate removal of trees and prepare a pre- and post-logging report.
Council did not vote at the meeting, but will put this on the next formal agenda to give the public the opportunity for comments.
A motion was proposed and passed to award the bond proposal to Reed Smith in the amount of $7,000.
Field five turf bids have been received and most are lower than the proposed $1.2 million budget. Various materials and options will be presented to council before a decision is made.
Council honored the Girl Scouts of America with a proclamation for their 100th anniversary, which was exactly at 7 p.m. on Monday, when the first Girl Scout meeting was held in Savannah, GA. Five local scouts from different troops brought in the flags and led the pledge of allegiance at the start of the meeting.
Council congratulated the Girl Scouts at being the “largest, longest-running, and most effective leadership program for girls—in not only the nation—but the world,” and recognized local troops for their service to Peters Township.
Council's next meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on March 26.