RICE TWP. – Township supervisors held a special meeting Wednesday morning to fill a planning commission vacancy.
In an empty room that is usually filled with vocal residents, the supervisors unanimously appointed Robert Smith of Wilderness Drive, Mountain Top.
Smith, 55, a lifetime township resident, said he hopes to serve his community as a sort of watchdog.
Smith, a registered independent, said he is not interested in the politics of local government; rather, he wants to protect the community as it grows. He referenced a worrisome large-scale sewage project cutting through the township and the residential development, Polonia Estates, the developer of which has maintained a roadblock on his property and restricted traffic for several years.
I just want to see that things are done responsibly, Smith said. If it starts to get political, I won't be there long.
Smith is a self-employed professional painter who works with new-home builders. He said his ancestors served the Rice Township government and he felt it was his time to contribute.
Supervisor George Venesky said he has known Smith for years and commended his eagerness to assist the community.
Supervisor Marcia Thomas could not attend the 9:30 a.m. meeting in person – she works part time for an area newspaper, The Mountaintop Eagle – but was able to vote from work using speakerphone.
During the meeting, Thomas asked if Smith is a township resident and whether he had submitted an application in writing stating his desire to sit on the commission, a requirement the township has enforced in the past.
Smith had asked Chairman Miller Stella about requirements for appointment after the Jan. 7 supervisors' meeting but never submitted a letter.
Venesky said the planning commission has a meeting next week, and they were eager to fill the vacancy promptly.
Thomas seemed dissatisfied with the early morning meeting. She would have appreciated if the meeting had been scheduled to coordinate with her work schedule, she said. This is the second month in a row they've called a special meeting (in the morning), Thomas said.
Last month she was able to adjust her schedule and attend, she said. This month she could not.
Venesky said special meetings held in the early hours are common. Some municipalities and school districts hold their regular meetings at early hours without trouble, he said. He added that he would never consider moving the regular meeting to an earlier time.
Venesky said the township's solicitor is more available in the morning and, when the agenda calls for only one item like it did Wednesday, they see no need to meet later.
The supervisors hold regular meetings at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month. State law requires special meetings to be advertised at least 24 hours in advance.