Wanted: Replacement commissioner
If you’d like to be called commissioner and live in Bethlehem Township’s third ward, now’s your chance. Kim Jenkins, who is only in her second year of elected office, has resigned for personal reasons, effective July 5. At a special meeting on July 31, the four remaining commissioners will choose her successor, but only until the end of the year.
Voters in the third ward will make the ultimate selection in this year’s Nov. 7 municipal election. They will choose from among two candidates to be nominated by the Democratic and Republican parties, or may choose a write-in candidate. Whomever is elected will serve for only two years, when Jenkins’ term expires.
At their meeting on July 17, President Michael Hudak described the procedure that will be followed to name an interim commissioner. Under the First Class Township Code, commissioners have just 30 days to fill a vacancy. Candidates are limited to persons who have resided in the third ward for at least a year. Bethlehem Township just redrew its ward boundaries last September, so it’s unclear whether a candidate must be a person who lived in the ward as it exists now or as it was when Jenkins was elected. Interestingly, there was no motion to accept Jenkins’ resignation. In some municipalities, boards with a vacancy will delay the acceptance of a resignation to give themselves more time.
Jenkins is a Democrat. In the municipal race four years ago, she defeated Republican Phil Barnard by a scant eight votes.
Because of that vacancy, commissioners voted unanimously to table an offer from the Housenick Estate to accept $1.3 million for the exterior stabilization of the Archibald Johnston mansion. Hudak and Davis were both leery that the one bid received was nearly $500,000 more than industry professionals had estimated. “What’s the harm in doing our due diligence? he asked. At the same time, he warned that the actual cost to renovate the interior of the mansion will be $4-5 million.
While Davis agreed with Hudak to delay this matter for a full board, she stressed the importance of acting quickly. She also said that she would oppose the use of taxpayer funds to rehab the mansion.
In other business, commissioners voted unanimously to seek proposals from five firms for a new parks and open space plan. At the request of resident Dennis Brennan, the board agreed to include the detention pond at the end of Gloucester Drive.