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St. Clair Township officials question overpayment to Seward firefighter fund

| Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

St. Clair Township and Seward Borough are feuding about St. Clair's contribution to Seward's firefighters workers compensation insurance.

St. Clair pays a portion of the workers compensation insurance to Seward and New Florence boroughs because St. Clair does not have its own fire department.

St. Clair Secretary Kristina Clark reported to supervisors on Feb. 13 that Seward, during the last several years, has repeatedly sent bills requesting payment for 50 percent of the total cost of its insurance.

A 1988 agreement between the two municipalities reads that St. Clair is responsible for 33.3 percent of the total cost.

Clark said when she started last year, she paid 50 percent and then realized there was no update to the agreement.

“Last year, I sent them a letter saying that they owed us nearly $500, because we should have only paid one-third,” she said. “We never got the money. This year I'm going to send them a copy of the agreement and only pay one-third.”

The difference in the two payments totals $467.

Solicitor Judith Ciszek said there's a concern that St. Clair has been accidentally paying too much for at least five years. St. Clair contributes 33.3 percent of the cost of workers compensation insurance to New Florence.

Phone calls to Seward Borough officials were not returned.

Also at the Feb. 13 meeting, Ciszek told supervisors that dangerous conditions on a blighted property along Route 56 will be remedied. The cement factory, known locally as the abandoned Batch plant, is a nuisance and a hazard, Ciszek said.

She contacted the West Virginian bank that owns the property and the bank agreed to hire local New Enterprise Stone to clean up the property within 30 days.

“I don't think (Mike Lewis of United Bank) believed me when I told him about the property. There's equipment that could fall on children, there's rebar sticking out of blocks of concrete. The doors of the buildings are hanging wide open and there's stuff on the counters like people just stepped out for lunch,” Ciszek said.

“But when I sent him the pictures so he could see the kind of liability that was there, those pictures were worth 5,000 words,” she said.

Ciszek said officials at New Enterprise Stone wanted to know what needed to be done to bring the property into compliance.

“They need to tear down the building or secure it permanently,” Ciszek said.

In addition, supervisors appointed Rayla Durler as an auditor to replace Paula Edwards. Durler's term will expire at the end of this year, after two auditors are elected in November.

Supervisor Fred Clark noted that he will refuse to accept the minutes from January's supervisors meeting and the police incident report from that month. Clark said the minutes did not accurately reflect concerns he's been voicing for the last year regarding the police department.

“Based on the number of incidents and tickets written each month over the last year, I'm concerned that there may be too much police coverage in the township,” Clark said. “The lack of incidents resulting from all those patrol hours, indicates to me that there isn't much of a crime problem.”

Supervisor Richard Hill, the township's police administrator did not attend the meeting, but said over the phone that he attributes the lack of incidents to the police presence.

“There was a time (last year) when the department was laid off and our crime increased quite a bit,” Hill said. “I think our police department is very good and their presence keeps crime down. In fact, I would like to have more hours of police coverage.”

Ligonier Valley School District officials Ed Moran and Wayne Waugh attended the township meeting to commend police Chief Mike Fusco on his work with the elementary schools.

Elementary Principal Moran said Fusco implemented a lockdown drill at Laurel Valley Elementary School last week.

“We managed to teach 257 kids in grades K-5 what to do if, God forbid, there's an active shooter in the building,” Moran said. “The police chief has been very supportive and very helpful in the procedures on what to do. He represents the township very well.”

Vice Principal Wayne Waugh said Fusco used his day off to attend R.K. Mellon Elementary's lockdown drill two weeks ago.

Jewels Phraner is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or

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