The debate over a possible move from township to city was the hot topic at the Whitehall commissioners’ meeting Monday night. Since the board’s last meeting, the mayor of Whitehall appeared on 69 News to speak about his desire for Whitehall Township to become the City of Whitehall.
According to the board, this was an assertion made entirely without their knowledge or consent despite the fact that they would play a key and central role in any movements made in that direction.
“It has to get on a referendum for the voters and it can only get on a referendum if this board of commissioners approves it to be,” Phillip Ginder, vice-president of the township’s board of directors, said in the midst of the heated debate. “Please everybody, we are not pushing for this. I can assure you that anything that happens would have to go through the board and the voters.”
The debate began after Linda Snyder, the president of the board, read a letter from a concerned future resident of Whitehall Township. The author of the letter plans to move from Allentown to Whitehall and fears that with a decision to become a city, Whitehall may face negative changes after the creation of a mandatory housing authority and the required low-income housing. This was a sentiment echoed by various residents present at the board meeting.
Board members who also serve on the legal and legislative committee said that the idea originated in their last meeting as part of a conversation about why townships seemingly miss out on the grant benefits given to cities. This initial notion set in motion a fact-finding mission about the difference between a city and a township, but did not result in any finalized decision about changing the township’s status, according to Ginder.
“The way to bypass politics on a county level and how things are dispersed is to be a city and go right to the state. Still, I was stunned about the mayor being on TV. We need to get a lot more information. We have six things on the agenda for legal and legislative but becoming a city is not one of them,” Dennis Hower, a commissioner and member of the legal and legislative committee, said.
Despite the possible benefits of grant money, many residents and commissioners feel sure that the move from township to city will be a mistake.
“Is this really what you want, looking around at what we call cities in this area?” asked Snyder. “Take a look around at the examples here. See what they are going to try to force us to do to make those grant funds available. The money is not worth sacrificing the residents.”
The mayor was not present at the meeting to defend his position. In his absence, the board of commissioners pushed residents to become aware of the various upsides and downsides of the possibility of becoming a city and to express their viewpoints at future board of commissioners meetings.