As I go around Solebury, I realize that many people have questions about how township government works. Here’s the scoop:
1. How many supervisors are there? There are 5 elected supervisors in Solebury. They are: Bob Heath, Chairman; Jim Searing, Vice Chairman; Dominic Marano; Ed McGahan and Paul Cosdon.
2. What is the role of a supervisor? We are the elected representatives for the citizens of the township. A Township Supervisor is responsible for deciding issues of public safety, spending, growth management, zoning, roads and streets, code enforcement, environment and how to pay for it all. Supervisors also enact new ordinances, set the tax rates, incur debt, oversee finances and operations, decide on requested variances, make decisions on preserving land, appoint a township manager to run the township’s operations, and appoint residents to township committees.
3. How often do you meet? The Board of Supervisors generally meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7pm in the township building at 3092 North Sugan Road in Solebury. During June, July and August, the board meets only once, on the third Tuesday. These are public meetings and time is allotted for public comment. We also attend township committee meetings in a liaison role, serve on committees or take on special tasks as required, and meet in executive session in some narrowly defined circumstances.
4. Are the meetings well attended by the public? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It depends on whether there are big issues that affect large groups of people, or if there are purely administrative matters on the agenda. At any given meeting, there can be three members of the public, up to as many as 100. Usually, the press is also at the meetings.
5. How do we know what is on the agenda? Meeting agendas are posted on the Friday before the board meetings at: http://www.soleburytwp.org/index.php/township-government/meeting-agendas
6. What are the township committees? They include the Planning Commission, Environmental Advisory Council, Land Preservation Committee, and Parks and Recreation. There is also a Zoning Hearing Board to hear variance requests. Residents serve on these committees for defined terms, and are appointed by the Board of Supervisors. Residents with an interest in service on a committee or board should send a letter expressing interest and brief information on their background to the township for consideration
7. How long is the term? Supervisors are elected to a six year term. Every two years, two supervisor positions come up for election; every six years, one supervisor position comes up for election, so that the terms are staggered.
8. What is the compensation? Supervisors are paid a maximum of $2,500 per year; this is mandated by state law.
9. Why are township supervisors called ‘supervisors’? Other states call members of their town councils ‘councilmen’ or ‘councilwomen’ (for instance, NJ); or selectmen (Connecticut and Massachusetts). (Actually, I’d be interested about the history of the term ‘supervisor’ here in Pennsylvania!)
10. When is the next election? There will be an election on November 5th to fill two open supervisor seats.
When I started out as an associate member of the township’s Environmental Advisory Council in 2007, I had all these questions! I hope it spurs your interest in your township’s government.
Jim Searing for Solebury