With unanimous agreement, the State College Borough Council voted Monday to add neighborhood and community services to the borough’s list of departments.
The plan is slated to take effect Sept. 1, according to a brief by borough Manager Tom Fountaine, after the retirement of State College police Chief Thomas King on Aug. 31. King will then be appointed to the new position of assistant borough manager and will oversee the newly formed department.
According to the brief, under the existing borough structure, enforcement exists in four areas — health and neighborhood services division, headed by the planning and community development director; Office of Community Engagement under Fountaine; parking enforcement, headed by the parking manager; and the police department under King.
“The borough has had challenges coordinating and integrating the myriad of enforcement responsibilities,” the brief said. “Much of this challenge results from the current organizational structure.”
The proposed neighborhood and community services department would better coordinate and integrate the enforcement services, the brief said, adding it would be in the borough’s best interests to retain King’s skills and connections.
The new department will include health and restaurant inspection, ordinance enforcement, community engagement and animal control, the brief said.
An overwhelming majority of the new department will be picking up services of other departments, Fountaine said Monday, “basically restoring the previously known department of health,” which was moved into the planning department in the mid-2000s.
Highlands Civic Association President Susan Venegoni commented on the plan, questioning if the borough had the budget for the new department and saying she was concerned about another big tax increase.
The new department will represent a budget increase of seven-tenths of 1 percent, Fountaine said, adding that cross-training and consolidation will result in a net savings in overall enforcement. It would, however, take several years before the borough saw these savings.
“We believe, based on our previous experience,” he said, “that it provides for a more efficient allocation of resources to better serve the community, particularly with enforcement activity, which most directly affects the neighborhoods.”