News Archive


Legal Ad Op-Ed: Share it Today!

Friday June 16th, 2017

The following PSATS op-ed, distributed statewide, supports Senate Bill 745, which would allow townships to post legal advertisements online and save millions of tax dollars a year. Members: Please encourage your local newspaper to publish it.


Online Legal Notices: Why Not?

An Op-Ed
by David M. Sanko
Executive Director, Pa. State Association of Township Supervisors



Back in the Sixties, Bob Dylan sang that “the times they are a-changin.’”

How right he was.

Still, no one could have imagined the impact that technology and the Internet would have on our lives. We live in a world – almost unthinkable 50 years ago – where news and so much other information are at our fingertips, and we can access it whenever and wherever we want.

Consider this: Last year, the Pew Research Center reported that most Americans prefer to get their news on a screen, whether it’s from a website or a social media app. In fact, Pew researchers say, just two in 10 U.S. adults get their news from print newspapers, a 23-percent decrease from 2013.

Is it any surprise then that newspapers are shuttering at an alarming rate, opting to publish less often, or move operations entirely online to preserve their bottom line and readership?

Meanwhile, technology has had an impact on townships, too.

A growing number of our members not only have websites but also Facebook and Twitter accounts to ensure that residents of all ages have access to information about their community in the format that’s most convenient for them.

This municipal march toward openness, transparency, and accessibility, however, is being stifled by an outdated law that still requires townships, school districts, and other local governments to publish costly public notices, often referred to as legal ads, in the local newspaper (that is, if one still exists in the community). These notices appear in the newspaper’s classifieds section and announce such things as meeting dates, ordinances and resolutions, bid requests, and budgets.

We wonder, though, is publishing legal notices in a newspaper of general circulation the most effective way to deliver this information to residents and conduct public business? And there’s another problem: This antiquated mandate is costing Pennsylvania taxpayers more than $26 million a year in legal advertising fees, Penn State researchers report.

New legislation, sponsored by Sen. John Eichelberger, a Blair County Republican, would offer a fix.

Senate Bill 745 would create a statewide public notice database, overseen by the state’s no-nonsense government watchdog, the Office of Open Records. Under this system, your community would be able to post its legal ads in a searchable database that’s accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This new, more open and efficient approach would not only save taxpayer dollars but also give the public what it’s come to expect and demand: instant access to information.

No more wasting time searching through back issues of the newspaper to find a legal notice buried in the classified section. And no more hoping you didn’t miss something important if you missed that day’s newspaper.

SB 745 includes other transparency protections for Pennsylvanians, too.

Municipalities would be required to provide copies of all public notices at their office, post them on their website for an extended period, and send the legal ads to the local newspaper, which could publish them as a public service, much like they notify readers about other important community events.

Also, SB 745 doesn’t stop municipalities from continuing to put paid legal notices in the local newspaper, if they choose.

How much fairer can a law get?

Look, I realize change isn’t easy, and I can certainly understand why newspapers would want to hold onto every bit of revenue, especially as more and more readers reject print publications in favor of news websites and social media.

But all of us have had to adapt to this new age of instantaneous information. We also must look beyond our own self-interests and focus on what’s best for our customers and constituents.

SB 745 is a common-sense reform that will save taxpayers millions of dollars a year. In a budget climate where every penny counts, it only makes sense to provide local leaders, the stewards of that money, with cost-effective options for posting public notices while promoting government transparency and openness.

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About the author: David M. Sanko is the executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors. With a broad background in local and state government, Sanko oversees an organization that is the primary advocate for the commonwealth’s 1,454 townships of the second class, home to 5.5 million Pennsylvanians.



URGENT! Participate in the Right-to-Know Law Survey!

Friday June 16th, 2017
 House Resolution 50 directed the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to study the costs of complying with the Right-to-Know Law. In June, the LB&FC sent surveys to townships to help determine these costs.
 
Please take the time to provide the detailed information requested by June 30, 2017, so that accurate information can be provided to the General Assembly about your township’s experiences with the Right-to-Know Law. Your help is needed even if you have had few RTKL requests or none at all. This information is critical to demonstrate the need for RTKL reforms.
 
Click here to complete the survey and be prepared to provide detailed information about your experiences, including the types of requests received during 2016, how much time was needed to respond to these requests, how many requests were denied, and how many were appealed. Please note that only one representative per township should complete the survey.
 
Questions can be emailed to Louis Day at lday@palbfc.us or Terry Beam at tbeam@palbfc.us or call them at (717) 783-1600. Thank you for your assistance!


PUC Announces Disbursement of Natural Gas Impact Fees

Thursday June 15th, 2017

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) announced that it collected $173,258,900 in natural gas impact fees for calendar year 2016, which will be distributed by July 1, 2017. This is roughly $14 million less than last year.

Checks are expected to be mailed by July 1, 2017. Click here to find out how much your township will receive and choose “2016” for the reporting year.

The PUC's press release is available here.



Grants for Rural Communities Address Community Development, Services for Disabled Citizens

Monday June 12th, 2017

Townships in rural areas may apply for grants under the Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI), a program from the USDA Rural Development’s Rural Housing Service. To be eligible, townships must act as intermediaries to the actual funding recipients and provide matching funds that at least equal the federal grant.

The grants are intended to help recipients such as private, nonprofit community-based housing and community development organizations, low-income rural communities, and Native American tribes undertake projects involving housing, community facilities, or community and economic development in rural areas. The program requires the intermediary, or grantee, to provide a program of financial and technical assistance to the recipient, which will, in turn, provide programs to their community.

For complete details, click here. Applications must be received by July 25, 2017. For information on electronic submissions, go to www.grants.gov.

Interested applicants are urged to contact Pennsylvania’s RCDI officer, Shaun Stehr, for assistance at (717) 237-2281.

Two additional grant opportunities for rural communities come from the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council.

Rural Responsive Resources grants are designed to ensure that information, training, experts, and services are readily and routinely available for disabled residents in rural areas. The deadline for proposals is July 27. A prepoposal online conference will be held June 29 at 2 p.m. Click here to register.

Volunteer Rural Transportation Cooperatives grants are intended to help communities create cooperatives to make transportation available to disabled residents through an Uber-like social media program. Possible solutions include using provider-owned vehicles that are not used to their capacity or using vans and buses that sit idly through the week at churches and other facilities. The deadline for proposals is July 12. A preproposal online conference will be held June 20 at 10:30 a.m. Click here to register.

For the complete RFP on these grant opportunities, go to www.paddc.org. Townships may also subscribe to the Council’s mailing list to receive updates about funding opportunities.



Help PSATS Recognize Youth Groups for Outstanding Community Service

Tuesday May 30th, 2017

Has a youth organization completed a community service project in your township or county? Has a Scout troop helped clean up a township park or a high school group developed an environmental program for residents? Has a local 4-H club held an event for children or adults or a church youth group volunteered to help elderly residents repair their homes?

Township supervisors and county association officers can help identify and recognize such outstanding examples of community service by encouraging groups to enter the annual PSATS Youth Awards Contest.

The awards program recognizes the contributions youth groups make to improve the quality of life in Pennsyl­vania’s townships. Entrants in this year’s contest will vie for cash prizes of $500 each.

To be eligible, projects must have been undertaken or continued between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017, and must have benefited a township of the second class.

Guidelines and entry forms were mailed to townships, county associations, 4-H groups, school districts, and Scout councils in April. Additional entry forms are available from PSATS. To download a PDF of the entry form, click here.  

Townships are encouraged to help youth groups submit their entry forms to the county association by July 1. County associations must sign off on the projects and forward the entries to PSATS by July 15.

Four winners will each receive $500 and a framed certificate, along with coverage in the Pennsylvania Township News and their local newspapers.

For more information, contact Brenda Wilt at PSATS at (717) 763-0930, ext. 123, or bwilt@psats.org.



Join in National Night Out on August 1 to Help Fight Crime

Tuesday May 30th, 2017

Townships are encouraged to plan community activities to observe the National Asso­ciation of Town Watch’s 34th Annual National Night Out on Tuesday, August 1.

In addition to the traditional vigil of turning on porch lights, many communities also sponsor block parties, cookouts, parades, police visits and demonstrations, neighborhood flashlight walks, safety fairs, contests, rallies, and youth programs and activities.

Townships that are interested in sponsoring National Night Out events should register with the National Association of Town Watch to receive a free planning kit, including sample news releases, artwork, and a promotional guide.

To register, call the association toll-free at (800) NITE-OUT (648-3688) or go to www.nationalnightout.org and click on the link for registration.



Financing Available for Alternative Energy Projects

Tuesday May 30th, 2017

Townships that want to begin using alternative energy may apply for grants or loans through the Commonwealth Finance Authority’s (CFA) Renewable Energy Program and Solar Energy Program. The deadline for applications is July 14.

These programs are jointly administered by the CFA and state Departments of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Community and Economic Development (DCED).

The Renewable Energy Program provides grants and loans to promote the use of geothermal and wind energy. Grants are available for wind energy generation and distribution up to $1 million or 30 percent of the project cost, whichever is less. Grants for planning and feasibility studies are available for up to $175,000 or 50 percent of the project cost, whichever is less.

Loans for geothermal systems or wind energy generation or distribution projects may not exceed $5 million or 50 percent of the project cost, whichever is less.

There is a match requirement of at least $1 for every $1 awarded and a $100 non-refundable application fee.

The Solar Energy Program provides loans to promote the use of solar energy. Eligible projects include facilities to generate, distribute, or store solar photovoltaic energy.

The maximum loan may not exceed $5 million or $3 per watt, whichever is less. There is a match requirement of $1 for every $3 awarded and a $100 non-refundable application fee.

For more information, call DCED’s Ryan Emerson at (717) 787-6245 or go to http://dced.pa.gov, hover over “Programs & Funding,” and click on “Commonwealth Financing Authority.” Hover over the “Programs” box and choose “Energy” in the pop-up menu.



Prepare Now for Winter Road Service Agreements

Tuesday May 30th, 2017

Townships that want to renew or establish winter road service agreements with the state Department of Transportation should notify their Penn­DOT district maintenance office now. For agreement renewals, the cutoff date for a municipality to legally withdraw in writing is July 31.

Under these agreements, which can have terms of up to five years, PennDOT pays municipalities an upfront annual lump sum to remove snow and ice from state roads from October 15 to April 30. PennDOT pays a winter severity adjustment at the end of the season, depending on how the winter relates to PennDOT’s five-year average historic cost.

PennDOT must approve all contracts before winter maintenance begins.    

To determine if PennDOT’s reimbursement rate will cover expenses, townships should look at the costs of purchasing salt, anti-skid materials, and other supplies and providing equipment maintenance, labor, and overhead.

Townships should also consider the legal ramifications of entering into such an agreement and review these contracts with their solicitor.

Fifteen percent of state roads are maintained through service agreements with townships and other municipalities.

For more information, including other agreement mechanisms and options, call your PennDOT district maintenance office. 



Learn Safe Excavation Techniques at Free Event

Thursday May 11th, 2017

Township officials and employees are invited to the Pennsylvania 811 Safety Days, which will be held at five locations this year.

These free events, which include safety demonstrations, exhibits by vendors and construction experts, and door prizes, are a great opportunity to learn safe excavation techniques and about the PA One Call System.

The following 2017 PA Safety Days are scheduled:

  • May 17 -- Mohegan Sun Arena, Wilkes-Barre;
  • May 19 -- Clinton County Fairgrounds, Mill Hall;
  • June 20 -- Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, Oaks;
  • June 22 -- York Expo Center, York; and
  • September 14 -- Monroeville Convention Cente, Monroeville.

Click here to register and for more information.



Guidance on implementation of local tax credits for volunteer emergency responders available

Friday May 5th, 2017

PSATS worked with the State Fire Commissioner, the Department of Community and Economic Development, and the other local government associations to develop guidance, including a sample ordinance, for implementing a volunteer emergency responder tax credit program under Act 172 of 2016.

Click here to view the Act 172 guidance document and sample ordinance.

Questions or comments can be directed to Holly Fishel, PSATS Policy and Research Manager, at hfishel@psats.org or at (717) 763-0930 ext. 138.



Townships Are Encouraged to Attend Local Government Safety Seminar

Tuesday May 2nd, 2017

The Pa. State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC), in conjunction with PennDOT and the Federal Highway Administration, is holding a Local Government Safety Seminar July 19, 2017, 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg.

The seminar will provide information on innovations that can help enhance safety on roads, prevent crashes, and save lives across the commonwealth as part of the national “Toward Zero Deaths” goal. Several local municipalities will share their success stories with participants. 

The seminar will address the following focus areas and topics:

• Safety Planning: Identifying the Problem — Topics include developing a transportation safety plan; PennDOT’s 2017 Strategic Highway Safety Manual; AASHTO’s Highway Safety Manual; and data-driven safety analysis.

• Safety Countermeasures: Finding a Solution — Topics include low-cost safety improvements; roundabouts, adaptive signal-control technology, rumble strips, pavement markings and signage, and high-friction surface treatment; and behavioral countermeasures, including education, enforcement, and creating a safety culture.

• Safety Programs and Funding: Deploying the Improvement — Topics include available grant funding, such as the Green Light Go and Automated Red Light Enforcement (ARLE) programs; infrastructure funding, such as the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP); and technical assistance programs.

Townships may participate in three ways:

• Attend in person at the Pa. Farm Show Complex, 2300 N. Cameron St., Harrisburg, PA 17110.

• View the seminar remotely at your local PennDOT district office.

• View the seminar online at your desk.

To register, click here. The deadline for registrationr is June 23, 2017.

For more information, contact Danielle Klinger-Grumbine at (717) 787-9880, dklingergr@pa.gov, or Daniel Hartman at (717) 736-7225, danhartman@pa.gov.