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Cumberland’s exit means hiring freeze for regional planners

The Tri-County Regional Planning Commission is planning for life after Cumberland County withdraws its share of administrative funding

Breaking up is hard to do, but at least this split seems civil.

Members of the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission accepted Cumberland County’s decision to withdraw from the 49-year-old agency “with regret” during an executive committee meeting this afternoon.

The commission is losing more than a member. Cumberland contributes 39 percent of the commission’s budget, compared with 43 percent from Dauphin County and 17 percent from Perry County, officials said.

The commission’s executive director, Timothy Reardon, told board Chairman Scott Wyland he would talk with staff to determine what steps need to be taken as the agency moves into transition mode prior to Cumberland’s Dec. 31 departure.

One step the board voted to take immediately was a moratorium on hiring. Communications coordinator Craig Layne said the commission employs 13 staff members, and has 1.5 planning openings, which will remain vacant under the moratorium.

Cumberland County Commissioner Jim Hertzler appeared before the commission to present a letter from the county board informing the planning commission of the move, which was approved on Wednesday.

According to Hertzler and the letter, Cumberland County will continue to fund and participate in the Harrisburg Area Transportation Study, as well as the Unified Planning Work Program and the Regional Growth Management Plan.

But Cumberland County formed its own planning department in 2003, the letter points out, and since then, “the need for TCRPC to provide regional, county and local based planning services has diminished.”

Hertzler noted that his county’s total contribution to the commission increased by more than $20,000 this year, and Cumberland was facing a similar increase in 2016. He and others have been questioning what return Cumberland was seeing on the $80,000 the county has been contributing toward nontransportation costs.

“Cumberland County will no longer financially support the administration of an organization that provides so few services to the county,” the letter states.

Talks on amending the contribution formula to create a three-way split were unsuccessful, despite “a yeoman’s effort” to find a solution, Hertzler said.

Layne said the formula is based on the counties’ respective populations.

Hertzler said Cumberland County will continue to work with colleagues from Dauphin and Perry counties on planning items of mutual concern.

Roger DuPuis
Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at [email protected].

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