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No tax hike for Monessen

| Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, 12:16 a.m.

Monessen City Council will introduce a tentative 2014 budget Wednesday that does not include a property tax increase, according to city officials.

City administrator John Harhai and clerk Rosalie Nicksich said after Monday's work session that the budget will include a fixed tax rate of 35.85 mills.

Council is also planning to approve a $500,000 tax anticipation note for 2014 at Wednesday's regular agenda meeting. The PNC Bank loan carries a 1.9 percent interest with a maturity date of June 30. The money is used for expenditures until all taxes are collected.

Other figures, such as budget's estimated expenditures and revenues, were not disclosed Monday.

However, Harhai and Mayor Mary Jo Smith vowed the city will be “in the black” when mayor-elect Lou Mavrakis takes over Jan. 1. Smith said Nicksich has been working on the budget since August.

In addition, the Monessen police department should soon have its first full-time officer in nearly a decade.

At the request of police Chief John Mandarino, council is poised to hire Rebekah Shrader as a part-time police officer. Mandarino said adding a female officer will help his department “cover all the bases.”

“Many times we have a female under arrest and male officers can't search certain parts of their body,” Mandarino said. “They know this and that's the first place they'll hide drugs or weapons.”

Mandarino said Monessen police have had to repeatedly call in a female officer from a neighboring department in such cases, and sometimes they're unavailable.

“We're going to be able to call (Shrader) out and search a prisoner when we need it,” he said. “Plus, women seem to relate to other women and children a lot better, like when discussing trauma or a physical or sexual assault.

“Times are changing and it's just smart to have a female officer available this day and age.”

Council on Wednesday is also expected to approve a $22,000 loan for the purchase of a new police vehicle. Smith said approximately $13,000 of that money will be provided from the salaries of elected officials including herself, controller Wayne Vlasic and council members Dr. Martin Dudas, Lucille D'Alfonso and Bill Manus.

Council also plans to award the installation of a Brown Street Clock to low bidder Esken Landscaping for $16,950 to be paid from Community Development Block Grant funds. Harhai said the clock should be installed before Christmas near the Public Safety building on Donner Avenue.

The city purchased the rare timepiece, thought to be manufactured around 1910 in either Monessen or Donora, earlier this year through public and private donations.

A similar clock stood at 532 Donner Ave. more than a century ago.

At the end of Monday's work session, Mavrakis asked Smith if she received a letter requesting that council “refrain from any further hirings and expenditures other than those which have previously been mandated.”

The letter also requested that Mavrakis and incoming council members Patricia Bukowski and John Nestor be permitted to attend all sessions regarding the formulation and adoption of a 2014 budget.

“Did the city get my letter dated Nov. 11?” Mavrakis asked.

“Yes, we did,” Smith replied.

“No response?” he said.

“Nope,” Smith answered.

Council then went into an executive session to discuss personnel issues, according to Smith.

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2635.