Fountain Hill Hires New Zoning Officer After Contentious Discussion

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Over the protests of council members who argued that either the borough can’t afford to pay a full-time zoning official’s salary or that the candidate’s qualifications were “irregular,” among other things, Fountain Hill Borough Council voted 4-3 Monday to hire Thomas Wargo as its new zoning officer.

Wargo was offered the position after council’s personnel committee reviewed nearly 100 applications and decided he was the most qualified, borough manager Anthony Branco said.

Councilwoman Helen Halleman was not assuaged, however, arguing that the papers council received documenting Wargo’s qualifications were “very irregular” and that she was upset that a job offer had been extended to him before council voted to hire him.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Things are changing and I don’t think for the better. It’s very upsetting.”

Branco asked Halleman whether she would prefer that council committees make hiring decisions or that “it…go to full council.”

Both routes have been taken when hiring a borough staffperson in the past, he said, adding that he would like clarification from council on what it wants.

Halleman also criticized what she called Wargo’s “pending litigation,” which Branco said are outstanding non-traffic citations he wrote as a zoning official in Birdsboro, Berks County, where he was most recently employed.

“If he doesn’t attend (those hearings), the magistrate will throw it out of court,” Branco said.

“As a borough, we would hope our zoning officer would do the same if he moved to a different borough,” added council president Leo Atkinson.

“Mr. Wargo is highly qualified,” he asserted.

Councilman Philip Trabel said he would prefer Wargo be hired as a part-time staffer, in spite of the fact that council previously endorsed hiring him full-time by a vote of 7-0.

“He is going to work all day, every day,” councilwoman Annamarie Jordan said. “There are so many (outstanding) zoning issues. You can’t have a part-time zoning officer.”

Day-to-day Wargo will be doing things like conducting residential inspections and issuing certificates of occupancy, Jordan said.

Halleman was not moved by any of the arguments in Wargo’s favor.

“We need to be making cuts here,” she said, adding that she would like to see him walk the borough rather than use a vehicle at the borough’s expense.

She also criticized his resume for not listing the spans of his prior employment.

Halleman, along with Trabel and councilman Fran Ferencin, voted against hiring Wargo.

After council narrowly voted to hire him he was briefly introduced at the meeting, although Branco chided Halleman, “you’ve probably embarrassed him.”

The next Fountain Hill Borough Council meeting will be held Wednesday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. at Borough Hall, 941 Long St., Fountain Hill, Pa. Meetings are open to the public.

At the Oct. 23 meeting a public hearing will be held regarding a proposal to create a municipal stormwater authority in the borough, which would have the authority to levy fees. The possible formation of an authority is an outcome of what Atkinson termed unfunded state and federal stormwater mandates for municipalities known as “MS4.”

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