State College

State College Borough Council delays plan to withdraw from Centre Region Code Agency

In a move acknowledging that borough staff won’t be ready to assume new duties at the start of the year, Borough Council on Monday repealed an earlier decision to withdraw from the Centre Region Code Agency.

In December, council voted to pull out of the agency effective Jan. 1, 2014. The move came after a recommendation from borough staff and after concerns were raised about duplication of services and complaints were heard from borough residents about having to deal with both the agency and the borough.

Council had since been considering whether to make a complete withdrawal from the agency, or whether to ask the Council of Governments to allow State College to take over certain code responsibilities within the borough — including the permitting of rental proprieties.

But now Borough Manager Tom Fountaine says staff would not be ready to take over key functions from the agency by January. That prompted council on Monday to repeal its notice to withdraw.

If the discussion at Monday’s regular meeting was any indication, however, the repeal will only be temporary.

Council President Don Hahn and others said they believe there is a consensus among council about bringing some of the code functions in-house.

“We have concerns over negative feedback from property owners,” Hahn said.

“We are concerned about the financial impact on the program and its employees (if the borough withdraws), but I think it’s important to reiterate that there is a problem here and it needs to be addressed.”

Council also voted Monday to set a September deadline to consider which withdrawal options it wishes to pursue and to present that to COG. The borough would have to receive permission to partially pull out of the program.

Officials said they will not wait until September to begin discussing the issue. But at least one council member is ready to act now.

“I don’t see what’s so complicated,” said Ron Filippelli.

“I think we’ve been ready to make the decision for quite some time.”

Filippelli said he believes there is consensus on council about addressing the issues that have been of concern to the neighborhood associations.

“I think there are a couple of areas that are really big, which include permitting and the inspection of the 1,200 student housing areas in the borough,” he said.

“That’s what’s on the minds of the neighborhoods. And that’s what they want. And I think COG understands that.”

If they again decide to withdraw from the code agency, council could make the change effective Jan. 1, 2015. Or officials could potentially work with COG to make the switch sometime in 2014, Fountaine said.