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Commissioners to task next manager with promoting Penn Township

| Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, 1:18 p.m.

The next Penn Township manager will be responsible for designing a township-marketing program targeted to businesses and developers and outlining long-range planning for the municipality.

In refining the manager's duties as they prepare to search for Bruce Light's successor, township commissioners have created more standards for the municipality's top administrator and — for the first time — given the manager the authority to suspend or discipline employees, with the exception of police officers.

Commissioners last week voted unanimously to approve revisions to the ordinances that established the manager's tasks and employment terms. They intend to begin advertising in January for a replacement for Light, who will retire in the spring, nearly two decades after he became the township's first manager.

“Bruce Light has done a great job over the last 20 years, and I think we'll be lucky if we can find somebody who can do anywhere near what he has done,” Commissioner Ed Sullivan said.

Though commissioners laud Light's experience — particularly his background as a public-works director — they decided they wanted to refocus the position with more community-development assignments in mind.

Sullivan, who worked with Commissioner Larry Harrison to update the job duties, said he thinks the township could be marketed better if the manager attends more functions to network with community-development groups and developers.

Harrison said the township is doing “little or nothing” to promote itself as a viable place for a business to relocate or expand. Some companies might look at North Huntingdon Township or Murrysville first, he said.

“We are kind of on the back burner,” Harrison said. “We've just kind of let things take their natural course.”

A new marketing plan could help to publicize any significant changes to the township's zoning map. In anticipation of a hearing in January or February, officials are reviewing proposed changes that would make sections of the township more conducive to businesses, Harrison said.

Another change enables the manager to discipline some employees. Previously, the manager only could recommend that commissioners discipline, suspend or fire employees.

In the case of an employee accused of theft, harassment, fraud or making a derogatory comment, a manager should have the power to discipline that employee without waiting for commissioners to act at the next meeting, Harrison said.

“I think it's absolutely necessary that the township manager can take action when some situation arises,” he said.

Long-range planning also will be a priority for Light's replacement. Commissioners will require Light's successor to prepare a five-year plan pertaining to all issues of municipal government. They will review, update and approve that plan on an annual basis.

Though the township has a comprehensive plan and an informal list of goals, it lacks long-range planning, Sullivan said.

Coupled with that is the new requirement that the manager search for public and private grants to enhance the township's infrastructure, services and recreation facilities.

“They may be small, they may be large, but they're something that I think the manager really needs to concentrate on,” Sullivan said.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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