Borough council meets outside to prevent spread of coronavirus

Shawn Hardy
Greencastle Borough Council members said the Pledge of Allegiance around the flagpole at borough hall Monday night to start their meeting which was held outside to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. From left: Councilman Joel Amsley, Police Chief John Phillippy and Councilmen Larry Faight and Matt Smith. SHAWN HARDY/ECHO PILOT

Greencastle Borough Council members, many wearing masks, assembled 6 or more feet apart around the flagpole outside borough hall for their meeting Monday evening.

Council President Steve Miller decided to hold the meeting outdoors to follow CDC open air guidelines in light of COVID-19, according to Borough Manager Lorraine Hohl.

Most council members stood on or at the edge of the driveway, a tape recorder rested on the curb, Councilman Wade Burkholder brought his own chair and a seat was provided for Mayor Ben Thomas Jr., who recently underwent ankle surgery.

Reflections on the outbreak 

"This is historic," Miller said as he opened the meeting. He limited citizen and council discussion to three minutes to keep the meeting short — it lasted half an hour — while doing the minimum to keep borough services operating.

Hohl provided most of her monthly report in writing, but did read a statement concerning coronavirus.

"Our goal at the borough during this time is to provide the community with a glimpse of normalcy when everything seems to be out of place or uncomfortable," she said. "Water must continue to flow, wastewater collected and street emergencies may happen and, as such, we work hard to bring you services you need in order to keep your dwelling operational and safe."

The borough office is closed to the public and staff members who can are working remotely as much as possible.

"While adversity brings out the worst in some, I'm proud of our community and its response to the virus," Police Chief John Phillippy wrote in his report. "We have seen many examples of neighbors helping neighbors, generosity among many and a commitment to just doing the right thing. Greencastle is a great little town."

The chief's report also said the department is having difficulty with scheduling because one officer is off pending results of COVID-19 testing, another is off waiting to see if he was exposed and a third is sidelined by a non-work-related injury.

Phillippy also gave a reminder that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and that in 2019 Franklin County's Over the Rainbow Children's Advocacy Center saw 315 victims of abuse.

"I appreciate our front-line employees who continue performing their tasks in serving our community providing life sustaining services, be it water, sewer or public safety," Mayor Ben Thomas Jr. said in his written report. "When the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the Borough of Greencastle must support our citizens and businesses to help them get back with our supportive role for recovery."

From the borough manager's report 

  • A formal request has been mailed to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to reduce the speed limit on Route 16 where it enters Greencastle from both the east and the west from 35 mph to 25 mph. PennDOT will conduct a traffic study in relation to the request.
  • Representatives of religious organizations, small business, large business and large property owners are still needed to serve on the MS4 stormwater management work group. Anyone interested in being part of the group can call the borough office at 717-597-7143.

The current members of the group have already met, but decided to take no further action pending the outcome of a request to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for a waiver from the costly stormwater management mandates.

  • Volunteers also are needed to serve on the zoning hearing board, sidewalk board of appeals and civil service commission.
  • Staff is stepping up code enforcement, which has been "one of the borough's most neglected areas." They understand "the confusion and immediate irritation this may cause property owners due to historical lack of attention." Residents with questions and concerns are encouraged to contact borough hall.


  • Council voted to withdraw from the agreement of Oct. 26, 2004, that established the Franklin County Joint Municipal Board of Appeals and execute an agreement allowing the Waynesboro Building Code Board of Appeals to serve as the building code board of appeals for Greencastle.
  • Agreed to close streets Monday, May 25, for the Memorial Day parade organized by VFW Post 6319 and American Legion Post 373, subject to postponement because of COVID-19.

Citizen input 

Kendra Pheil, the sole resident at the meeting, took issue with the way the previous council meeting was handled. She said an effort to make the meeting go more quickly came across as abrupt and made it seem as if council wasn't interested in what people had to say and was "just going through the motions."

She added she knew it was not meant that way and prefers the camaraderie of other meetings where citizens spoke more freely.

She also asked council not to go overboard on the burning ordinance it is considering.

Councilman Joel Amsley said there are a lot of issues concerning burning and council will need to settle on what suits everyone best.