(1/2012) On November 8th, 2011 the citizens of Adams County elected three new County Commissioners: Jim Martin, Randy Phiel, and Marty Qually. Since that date, all three of us have noticed how often people ask, "How are the three of you getting along?" Prior to this election, there was no reason for the now Commissioners to interact. With
the exception of our love for Adams County and the commitment to serve our constituents; the voters could not have elected three more diverse people. After a long campaign season and countless social events, we did not know each other beyond where we stood on the issues. We did not know how we would work together as a team. Knowing that good communication is the
basis for every good relationship; we set up eight meetings between Election Day and the Swearing-In Ceremony on December 30th. Those meetings were used not just to get to know each other, but to determine our goals for the next four years. In this article I will highlight our goal of improving communication between Adams County government and the citizens of the
County and how we plan to achieve this.
We have started by fulfilling our campaign pledge to open up County government. Much of that effort to date has focused on our weekly Workshops and Commissioners’ Meetings. Every other Wednesday, at 9am, we hold a public workshop in our meeting room. In this meeting we discuss items to be placed on our regular meeting Agenda. In the past
these workshops were rarely attended by the public; now we regularly have members of the Press and public at the workshops. Commissioners’ meetings were also poorly attended, with the exception of meetings that addressed highly volatile issues. Too often, past decisions were made with little or no explanation of how or why Commissioners came to their conclusions.
We have changed the flow of both of these meetings by requiring that County Directors and elected officials, who have items on the agenda, be at the meeting to discuss their topic. Having directors and other elected officials available hopefully has greatly enhanced the public’s understanding of our decision making process.
On January 23, 2012 we, the newly elected and sworn in County Commissioners, were invited to appear on Fred Snyder’s Breakfast Nook. Since then Fred has invited us back each 3rd Tuesday to discuss County issues. In the past these interviews consisted of the Commissioners talking to Fred about issues facing Adams County. We have changed this
format to include not only a County Commissioner but also additional guests. February’s show highlighted Commissioner Jim Martin who was joined by Planning Director, Nick Collona, and the Director of the Adams County Economic Development Corporation, Robin Fitzpatrick. They had an enlightening discussion on the future of Economic Development in Adams County. On
March 13th at 8:30 am, I will be joined by the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Adams County Council of Governments (ACCOG). We will discuss how the County, School Districts, and Municipal governments are working together to save tax payer dollars. By bringing guests to Freddy’s Breakfast Nook we are showing the listeners that we as Commissioners are a part of a much
greater team serving our County.
We realize that not everyone can make it to the weekly Commissioners’ meetings. In an attempt to facilitate citizen participation in local government, we are scheduling evening Community Forums to be held bi-monthly in areas such as East Berlin, McSherrystown, Littlestown, Cashtown, Fairfield/Carroll Valley, and York Springs. These forums
will focus on a specific issue currently facing the County or on a hot topic in the area where the forum is being held. And at the end of each forum there will be time for citizens to bring their concerns directly to the Commissioners.
Our first forum will be held on March 13th from 7:00 to 8:30 PM at the East Berlin Community Center. We will again be focusing on Economic Development with Nick Collona and Robin Fitzpatrick. They will take the lead in explaining the County’s role in bringing more jobs to Adams County. One of the topics to be discussed by Nick and Robin
will be the creation of a survey designed to obtain citizen input in Adams County’s Economic Development Plan. With input from the ACCOG, the County Commissioners plan to distribute the survey to municipal leaders and citizens to determine the economic needs of the various regions of Adams County. In updating the County’s plans for future economic growth, we
thought it appropriate to obtain as much input from as many people as possible. The old paradigm of the County Commissioners telling municipalities what businesses they needed is out of touch and needs to be changed. At the risk of sounding redundant we want to make sure that the public has every opportunity to provide input on how and where their government moves
into the future.
Speaking of more input, March 7th at 7:00PM in Valentine Hall of the Lutheran Seminary, Gettysburg’s Democracy for America will host a discussion with the County Commissioners. We will continue to outline our priorities during our term in office during this discussion. The event will be open to the public and is to be moderated by former
County Commissioner Harry Stokes. In the past, Democracy for America has held forums for local Legislatures and candidates, but this is the first time that a Board of County Commissioners has taken the stage. This is just one more example of how this Board is opening up the channels of communication to the citizens of Adams County.
A few times in this article I have mentioned the ACCOG, a group that many in Adams County should become aware of. Their mission statement is: "to provide a forum by which governmental entities of Adams County may meet to discuss issues of mutual interest, and to coordinate joint activities between members on an as-needed, voluntary basis."
You can find this and information about the council on their website www.accog.us.
In a time when public confidence in elected officials is low and few believe that they can work together, this group is breaking that perception. As County Commissioners we have made it a priority to attend the ACCOGs monthly meetings; in fact the membership was pleasantly surprised to see all three Commissioners attend both the January and
February meetings. In working together the Townships, Boroughs, School Districts, and County Commissioners in Adams County have come up with more ways to save money than they could have individually. Recently, the ACCOG has testified in support of Prevailing Wage Reform in Pa. Reform would enable local workers and local pay rates to be used to complete municipal
projects, instead of having to use non-local Union-rate companies. Together the ACCOG was a much louder voice than each municipality individually bringing their concerns to the State. The ACCOG has helped municipalities and School Districts get better prices on goods and services, thus saving members money on projects. Only a few municipalities are not members of
the ACCOG and as Commissioners we felt that our active participation was a priority. In order for Adams County to really hear the concerns of the municipalities, we need to be an active member of the ACCOG. I encourage every reader to learn more about how the ACCOG is helping County government save money.
By being more open to the public at our meetings, having public forums throughout Adams County, enriching the monthly Commissioners Show on Freddy’s Breakfast Nook and by being actively involved with organizations outside of the Courthouse, this new Board of County Commissioners is working to enhance communication between government and
citizen. This enhanced communication will help citizens understand how County government works and will help to bring the right economic development to the right places and will help to reduce the costs of County government in Adams County.
Read other articles from Adams County Commissioners