Emery whittles Canonsburg Borough Council down to seven members

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And then there were seven.
After an hourlong hearing Thursday morning, Washington County Judge Katherine B. Emery ordered that Canonsburg Borough Council be reduced from nine members to seven, after supporters of the plan submitted petitions to the county signed by voters in Canonsburg.


In the hearing, Councilman Rich Russo, who has been spearheading the effort to trim the size of council for about a year, argued that council would operate more efficiently if there were fewer members and the borough would save $5,000 annually thanks to the $2,500 individual stipends that would no longer be given to two council members.


He also pointed out that Canonsburg’s population had declined from 12,000 residents to a little under 9,000 over the last 30 years.


“Nine has been a difficult number to reach conclusions,” said Russo, who has been on council for 11 years.


After backers and opponents of the decision had their say, Emery said she felt her role was primarily administrative and that, thanks to the roughly 450 signatures that had been gathered in support of the measure, a sufficient number of the electorate had spoken.


The change will be effective next year. Rather than having three representatives from Canonsburg’s three wards, two will come from each of the three wards, with an additional at-large member. Ironically, Russo will lose his seat, since the two other council seats in the 2nd Ward are not being contested in 2013’s election.


Former Councilman Joe Milioto testified against the plan, and current council members Paul Sharkady and Fran Coleman also informed Emery that they opposed it, though they did not appear at the hearing. Councilman Tim Bilsky, who was elected last year, spoke out in its favor, as did former Councilman Ron Cianelli.


Milioto explained that having more members on council could generate “better ideas” and “I believe the worst thing you can do is silence anyone.”


At the hearing’s conclusion, he said, “Whatever the judge’s decision, it’s not something you can really be disappointed in. So we’ll live with it.”


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