Community leaders provide updates regarding construction projects, teacher crisis, collaborative efforts

YORK – Each first Thursday morning of the month, community leaders get together on Zoom to discuss their ongoing projects, successes and concerns, which has proved to be a valuable conversation over the course of several years as the practice started during COVID.

Today, the conversations are much more positive – mostly focusing on construction and renovation projects – while also noting challenges and concerns being faced in the various community sectors.

Mayor Barry Redfern talked about city-related topics, saying he was really pleased “with another great thing the city and the school district are working toward together, for a new service officer at the school.” This will financially be a collaborative effort where a York Police officer will be the school’s service officer with the city and school sharing the cost of that position. He noted the city council would be acting on that contract at their meeting Thursday, April 4.

“The shading project at the ballfield complex is getting done,” Mayor Redfern said. “It will be ready for the first event on April 19. The soccer fields are off and rolling – the irrigation work was completed and play has started out there. East Hill is under construction” as the turf project gets underway, “and Blackburn Avenue is under construction which will be a huge improvement when it is done.”

York Public Schools Superintendent Mitch Bartholomew echoed what Redfern said about the school service officer arrangement. “The school board has approved this and as he said, it will go before the city council tonight. When I was first principal in 2010, anytime there was a squad car outside, we would get multiple calls from parents who were asking what was wrong. We’ve made a lot of strides in showing that just because officers are at the schools doesn’t mean there is anything wrong. It is common for officers to be at the schools, for a variety of reasons. And this officer will be able to establish strong relationships with the kids. And this will be a definite enhancement of our safety and security plan. It will also enhance our relationship with the city, as this is an effort for the community.”

Regarding the possible future expansion project at York Elementary School, Bartholomew said work continues on the scope of what this project might look like. He said project managers, architects and staff have been working together to determine what the scope might be. “The community education about this project will really amp up in mid-to-late summer,” with the intent to bring the matter to a vote of the people in the November General Election.

Bartholomew also said he wanted to publicly commend York Public Works Director James Paul for his constant and thorough communication with the school district regarding street closures and detours as the city’s had many construction projects over the course of the last few years.

“And there is one thing I want to talk about, which can be scary to talk about, but it is something that has to be talked about,” Bartholomew said. “We have a teacher crisis. Yes, some call it a teacher shortage. But it is a teacher crisis. York Public Schools is not immune to this. It is very scary to know when we have an opening we may not get one application for that position, not one.”

He noted that in the past, when a position would come open, there would be often more than 100 applications for each.

“That is certainly not the case now,” Bartholomew said. “We are going to have to look at some different things, some options, as there are multiple schools that have multiple positions they cannot file as this teacher crisis continues. It is something we need to talk about. It is a very legitimate concern.”

York General CEO Jim Ulrich mostly talked about construction updates regarding the Hearthstone renovation/expansion project. “We are making progress and yes, we are having some material delays. But we are making progress.”

He noted that when renovation projects take place in facilities such as nursing homes, the work cannot be done all at once because of the nature of residents living there. “But we are moving along and we believe completion will be this fall.”

Regarding the upcoming Willowbrook construction project, he said bids will be in soon which will then require action by the board of directors. Once all that takes place, a groundbreaking ceremony is expected to take place sometime in May.

Ulrich also briefly talked about a recent accident at the hospital campus where a vehicle hit the side of the medical clinic. He explained how it was just an accident and thankfully no one was hurt – but because of the way the structure is built, windows will have to be replaced in that area of the facility.

“I’m going to continue the construction theme,” said Four Corners Health Department Director Laura McDougall. “Our board has approved our plans and subcontractors as we are renovating half our building. It used to be the old medical clinic and really nothing has been touched since the 1970s.”

She encouraged the public to participate in two separate surveys being conducted by her agency – with links that can be found on the Four Corners website.

McDougall also noted her department is watching outbreaks of Measles in different parts of the country, “and we will continue to do so. We have a plan in place, should we see it pop up here.”

And with the arrival of spring and eventually summer, she noted her agency will start sweeping for ticks and trapping mosquitoes, as an effort to avoid occurrence of disease including West Nile.

York County Development Corporation Director Lisa Hurley announced several upcoming events, noting they will be publicized further. She also acknowledged the upcoming retirement of longtime YCDC employee Deb Heskett – and said the organization is currently in the phase of trying to find someone to fulfill Heskett’s duties.

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