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Sadsbury Township Residents to Vote on Adding Board Members in November Election

By Karen Neuhauser Ruppert 08/15/2002

As a result of a petition circulated amongst Sadsbury Township residents, registered voters will have the opportunity to vote for or against increasing the number of members of the township's board of directors.

A binding referendum question will ask voters if they support increasing the board from three members to five.

In an interview Friday, a clerk in the office of Chester County's Voter Services department (who asked to be identified by only her first name, Sue) said a petition asking for a referendum on increasing the size of Sadsbury's board had been presented to her department by a township resident. She went on to say that the petition had 100 signatures and, since only 70 were required, the referendum question would appear on Sadsbury township's ballot for the regular election on Nov. 12.

According to the clerk, the signatures were not verified because signatures are only verified when they are challenged. She said that, in the event of a challenge, the petition would then go to the Court of Common Pleas, and the judge assigned to the case would have to decide whether or not the signatures were valid.

The clerk went on to say that, if the increase is approved by voters, the election for the two additional seats would be held in November 2003. She also said that because municipal elections are held only in odd-numbered years, and because directors' terms, which are for six years, are staggered so they do not all expire at the same time, one of the new directors seats would be for a shortened term of four years.

According to the county's records, the terms of the current township directors expire as follows: Terry Franciscus in 2003, Ralph (Joe) Garris in 2005, and Doug Dorratt in 2007. If two more directors are added, the short term would expire the same year as Dorratt's, and the regular-length term would expire in 2009, along with the term of the seat currently held by Franciscus.

During Sadsbury Township's regular supervisor's meeting on Aug. 6, one resident expressed concern that adding two seats to the board would increase the tax burden to residents. He said he was a senior citizen and therefore, could not afford a tax increase. (In December 2000 the board voted to decrease the township tax from .89 mil to .5 mil due to a funds surplus)

Board Chairman Joe Garris expressed sympathy for senior citizens and other property owners about taxes, but said he didn't think board meetings were the appropriate place for political discussions. "There are some things the board really can't get involved with," Garris said.

Neil Heineman, a former supervisor who lost his seat to Dorratt last November, said that, because a supervisor's salary is only $1,800 per year in Sadsbury township, adding two seats should not involve a tax increase since it would only increase costs to the township by $3,600.

In an interview after the township meeting, Bob Silvernail, a resident whose business is also located in the township, said that the petition to add seats was circulated by residents and presented directly to voter services, bypassing the board of directors as prescribed by law. Although some voter referendums must be initiated by a municipality's governing body, one to increase the size of the board may be initiated by residents.

According to Silvernail, the petition needed to be signed by at least five percent of the township's registered voters, or 70 people and, because the number exceeded that requirement by almost 50 percent, voter services was bound to put the question on November's ballot.

When asked about his involvement with the petition, he said that he went door-to-door in the township soliciting signatures. "It was a way to get out and talk to residents," Silvernail said. "[Many of them] wanted to know what was happening [in the township]."

Silvernail said that, during his years in working in the township on the planning commission, he has seen an increase in development pressure in Sadsbury Township, as well as other western, rural townships in the county.

Silvernail went on to say that the planning commission was increased from seven members to nine in order to spread out the increased work load on the commission, and that he felt the same concept should be applied to the board.

"They have a lot of work," he said of the supervisors.

When asked if supporters would try again to increase the board if the move is not approved by voters in November, Silvernail said, "Probably not."

If Sadsbury township voters approve increasing the board to five, they will join 12 other third class townships in Chester County that have five members on their boards of directors. Those townships are Valley, Schukyll, Thornbury, Penn, New Garden, London Grove, East Marlborough, Franklin, East Goshen, Charlestown, North Coventry and Easttown.

İCoatesville Ledger 2003


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Last modified: 12/01/07