November 7, 2012
Voters on Tuesday approved referendum questions in Pittston and Kingston Township and narrowly voted down a referendum question in Butler Township, according to unofficial election results.
In Butler, the question was whether to expand the three-member board of supervisors to five.
The referendum failed, with 1,845 votes for the expansion and 1,938 votes against it.
Sue Rossi, a resident who formerly served as the township's tax collector, has said the petition for a referendum to expand the board stemmed from frustration with the current majority, which consists of Charles Altmiller and Chairman Brian Kisenwether.
Ransom Young, who challenged state Rep. Tarah Toohil, also of Butler Township, for her seat in the 116th Legislative District this election, is the minority supervisor.
Back in August, Rossi had said voter approval of the referendum would pave the way for candidates to run for nomination in the primaries of 2013. Prospectively, the nominees would be running with Young, the lone supervisor up for re-election next year.
The political scene heated up in the township in January when Altmiller and Kisenwether voted to fire township manager Steve Hahn and replace him with former Luzerne County commissioner Maryanne Petrilla. They also voted to terminate Young as road foreman and Jim Caffray as code enforcement officer.
Hahn had said he thought Young's and Caffray's terminations were political payback.
In Pittston, voters gave their approval to a home rule charter by a vote of 1,659 to 1,021.
Pittston operates under a commission form of government – a five-member city council, with the mayor as chairman and each council member heading a department. A city treasurer and city controller are also elected.
The home rule charter proposes a council-manager form of government. Voters would still elect a mayor, four council members, a treasurer/tax collector and controller. The controller position would be phased out by the end of 2017, replaced by an auditor.
The mayor would have defined executive powers while the council would have legislative powers and would hire and appoint a city administrator, who would be responsible for all administrative matters and work under the mayor's direction.
Study commission member and former mayor Mike Lombardo has said the switch to home rule would allow city council to enact a wage tax to generate revenue and in turn lower property taxes, which the current form of government does not allow.
In Kingston Township, supervisors should have an easier time running the government, as voters approved amendments to the township charter by a tally of 2,163 votes to 1,006.
Kingston Township Supervisor Chairman James Reino Jr. has said the supervisors wanted to change one section governing how administrative codes are modified to make the process less time-consuming.
One amendment would revoke a requirement for an ordinance to amend the administrative code or alter any township office or departmental structure. Currently, the charter states administrative codes can be changed only by creating an ordinance.
The other changes to the administrative code include:
• Making ordinances effective five days after their passage.
• Authorizing supervisors to sign municipal supplies contracts that meet or exceed state bidding limits.