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United Way of Lancaster County


Lancaster County awaits tweak to county code before electing Class 2A status

Lancaster County Government Center, 150 N. Queen St. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

Lancaster County Government Center, 150 N. Queen St. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)
Lancaster County Government Center, 150 N. Queen St. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

Update: Gov. Tom Wolf signed House Bill 2143 on Thursday, Feb. 17.

Previously reported: 

A bill now on Gov. Tom Wolf's desk could give Lancaster County the green light to become a Class 2A county at last.

House Bill 2143 would authorize counties to keep the current make-up of their prison boards when they transition to 2A. The state's law for Lancaster County's current classification, Class 3, includes provisions for prison boards, but the Class 2A county code is silent on the matter.

It's a "huge gap" in the law, county Solicitor Jackie Pfursich told the commissioners this week.

Pennsylvania counties are classified based on population; for Class 2A, the threshold is 500,000, a level Lancaster County attained in the 2010 census. At the time, changing to 2A status would have cost close to $1 million in state 911 funding and potentially caused other legal and administrative complications. Accordingly, when the state passed a law allowing counties to forego the change, Lancaster did so.

This time around, the only concern appears to be the prison board question. Given that Lancaster's board will be taking votes on the upcoming prison construction project — projected to the biggest capital project in county history — the commissioners agreed it's vital that it have firm and explicit legal authorization.

Accordingly, while generally favoring the move to 2A, the commissioners agreed to wait and see until H.B. 2143 becomes law.

It has all but done so: It passed the state House on Feb. 7 and the state Senate on Feb. 9, both by unanimous votes.

The commissioners have until Feb. 22 to pass a resolution affirming a move to Class 2A. If they don't, Lancaster County remains a class 3 county for another decade.

The change to 2A would oblige the county to create a board to oversee its investments, and would afford a few additional administrative options, such as the opportunity to create an airport authority. For the average citizen, though, "It's not going to make any difference," Commissioner Josh Parsons said.

Pfursich said it was she who brought the absence of a prison-board provision in the Class 2A code to state officials' attention.

Lancaster County would be the only county switching to Class 2A this year, but other counties with growing populations are likely to do so in coming decades. Chester County also had the option this year but declined.