Apollo gets to work under new leadership

| Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, 12:51 a.m.

Apollo is turning a new leaf with a different mayor and restructured council that will soon add two members.

The new council met for the first time on Thursday and elected veterans Cindee Virostek and Mark Greenawalt president and vice president, respectively.

Virostek brings more than 12 years of experience to the table. She served on council from 1989 to 2001 and was reappointed in September 2012. Council voted 4-1 to name her president.

“I'm honored to be president, and I'm looking forward to having everyone work together to push Apollo forward,” Virostek said. “We have a good new group in here. I think we'll be able to do some great things.”

Mayor Jeff Held, in his first meeting as an elected official, swore in newcomer Cheryl Swank.

Held, a Democrat, garnered 125 votes in the Nov. 5 election to oust Republican Karen Kenzevich. Swank joined incumbents Greenawalt, Gabrielli and Virostek in securing enough votes for a four-year term.

Longtime councilman and former president David Heffernan did not retain a seat. He came in fifth for the four open seats and lost to Virostek and Gabrielli for two seats carrying two-year terms. Both council members relinquished those seats in favor of the four-year terms.

Council is now accepting applications to fill those vacant seats. Applications will be collected at the borough building along First Street through Jan. 24, with council voting a week later. Three applications have so far been submitted, according to Virostek.

Council is accepting applications for two vacancies on the zoning hearing board and looking to appoint someone who could provide a tie-breaking vote in the mayor's absence. Among Held's duties as mayor is to serve as a tie-breaker when council finds itself in a stalemate.

He presides over the police department, which is short one member because part-time Officer Jason Kerr quit one week after the borough hired him in November. Held said borough officials are reviewing the 20 or so applications they have on hand and will accept others. He could not say when the hire would be made.

Without Kerr, Apollo has two part-time officers and a part-time sergeant. The department covers roughly a third of a square mile and serves about 1,600 people.

Sewer fees may rise

Apollo residents' monthly sewer fees could increase next month when council decides how it will repay the principal it owes the Pennsylvania Infrastructure and Investment Authority, commonly known as PennVEST.

Borough officials believed the $1 million loan that the municipality took out for its sewer separation project included a 30-year term, according to borough Manager Cynthia McDermott. In reality, the loan had to be repaid in 20 years with a 1 percent interest rate.

The mistake occurred because of a miscommunication between PennVEST and the borough, McDermott said.

PennVEST is giving the borough two options to repay the $70,000 it owes the investment authority: It can either pay the principal up front and continue its regular monthly payments or reduce the loan's term from 20 to 17 years, which would increase the borough's monthly payments.

Apollo collects a quarterly sewer fee of $28 from its residents. Should the borough go with the latter option, that rate would most likely go up, according to Virostek. She didn't know by how much.

If the principal is paid up front, it could have a significant impact on Apollo's 2014 budget, Swank said.

Council has until Feb. 5 to make its decision.

Held sets office hours

Held will open his borough building office to residents with complaints or concerns from 5 to 7:30 p.m. every Thursday beginning Jan. 16.

Held said he encourages people to schedule meetings during those hours but will accept walk-ins.

“I want to be accessible to residents here and be able to hear their concerns firsthand to work with council toward a solution,” he said. “I'm anticipating an amicable relationship between the mayor's office, all council members and Apollo residents. I look at this as a new era in Apollo.”

Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or bashe@tribweb.com.

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