Berlin supports PA Senate Bill 841

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BEACH LAKE, PA — During its April 14 monthly meeting, held live one hour earlier than usual to accommodate a COVID-19 8 p.m. curfew, the Berlin Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to support Pennsylvania Senate Bill 841. At almost the same time, Gov. Tom Wolf was signing into law the bill drafted to give local governments special powers to deal with realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Masked and alone, supervisors Cathy Hunt, Rob Mahon and Charlie Gries conducted a brief meeting aimed at keeping the township’s essential business going during the pandemic shutdown. Hunt repeatedly tried to call someone, to find out if the bill had passed. Unbeknownst to her, Wolf was signing it as she dialed.

PA Senate Bill 841, sponsored by Sen. Scott Martin (Republican) of Senate District 13 (Lancaster County), does the following:

  • Reauthorizes the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council and requires it to study the impact of COVID-19 on hospitals and health systems.
  • Allows local governments to conduct remote public meetings.
  • Provides property tax relief by allowing taxing districts to waive late fees and penalties for property taxes paid by December 31, 2020.
  • Allows school districts to renegotiate contracts with service providers to ensure payment of personnel and fixed costs during the school closure.
  • Allows remote notarization of documents.

Among other things, Senate Bill 841 enables three actions: online sales of vehicles, restart of construction projects statewide beginning Friday, May 8, (changed on April 23 to May 1), and curbside pickup of wine and spirits ordered by phone at select Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board locations.

Although the bill leaves waiver of late fees and penalties for property taxes paid by December 31, 2020 to the discretion of local governments, Hunt indicated that Berlin intends to honor that provision. “People need all the financial help we can give them right now,” said Hunt.

The meeting adjourned with supervisors remarking on each other’s masks and where each had been sourced. Taking her homemade mask apart to show how it was constructed, Hunt said a friend had made it from materials available at the local Dollar General. Mahon would say only that his mask was custom-made, to accommodate his full beard. And Gries joked that his bandana was left over from Wild West bandit days.

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