With 72 governing bodies, the towns and townships of York County are an illustration of the local-rule vision of the state's founders.

But modern times are posing real challenges to some small municipalities struggling to find residents to serve on boards. Especially when the guidelines for those boards are often more than 100 years old.

After about a decade of failing to keep a fully seated borough council, Windsor is the latest municipality to downsize the number members. Mayor Larry Markel said there are always two vacancies on the board anyway, so the move from seven council seats to five is "common sense."

The rule setting the number of council members at seven is likely as old as the town, which was incorporated in 1905, said solicitor Greg Gettle Jr.

While the town's founders might not have envisioned a day when it would be impossible to find seven residents eager to serve on the borough council, Markel said he can't envision a day when it will be possible.

"It's been too long ago to remember when we had all the seven members," he said. "It's a waste of taxpayers' time and effort to try to fill somebody's vacant seat that they don't want."

The town's leaders recently petitioned the state to reduce its number of borough council seats from seven to five, and a hearing will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, March 13, at the York County Judicial Center to hear from "any persons with valid objections ..."

Gettle doesn't expect a crowd. Lack of interest is the whole reason the change is being made, he said.


No interest: Windsor was one of many towns and townships in a bind for the last general election, when there were no candidates for dozens of open seats, including mayoral and council seats.

As a result, positions in many municipalities were filled by write-in votes, with some winners winning with only one vote.

Gettle attributes the lack of interest to busy lifestyles, and the fact that some borough council members and township supervisors do a lot of work for little pay.

Many municipalities pay around $300 to $500 per year in exchange for what is, in some cases, hundreds of hours of work sitting in meetings to make decisions about topics such as water runoff and sewage pumping stations.

It takes a civic-minded person to find the reward in the job, said Felicia Dell, director of York County Planning Commission.

The number of board seats was set under state codes at a time when the boroughs were actually the most populated areas of the county. Times have changed, and now some of the smallest areas of population have the biggest boards, she said.

For its 1,300 people, Windsor has seven council members. York Township has a population of almost 28,000 with a board of commissioners of only five.

But for all the discussion about regionalizing and consolidation in the 1990s, York County's political boundaries have remained unchanged. Closing a municipality is harder than it might seem, Dell said, and small town residents enjoy their autonomy.

Loving little: Dell said it's up to residents to decide what works best for them, and, in at least one small rural town, more is better.

In Yorkana, one in every 32 residents of the borough sits on the council. There's a board of seven for a town of 230 people, and councilwoman Ruthann Palacios wouldn't want it any other way.

"We've never had any trouble," said Palacios, who's married to Mayor Robert Palacios. "We've always been able to fill positions."

She suggested harmony is what makes Yorkana different.

"I think people like the town," she said. "It's a nice quiet town, no problems with vandalism. It's got the feel of a town but it's rural."

The town is so small, it also comes without some of the big work of some other municipalities. There's no town hall, so Ruthann Palacios just walks across the street to the fire hall for monthly meetings. For the 1-to-2-hour meetings, she's paid $40 per month, she said.

— Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.