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Smithton Borough drop box issue remains unresolved

| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 10:19 p.m.

Several residents were in attendance at Monday's Smithton Borough Council meeting after having discovered that the drop box normally found in the municipal building for Municipal Authority payments had been removed.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, council was asked about the drop box. What ensued was a lengthy, mostly contentious discussion of the events that led up to the removal of the box.

For over eight years the authority and borough shared ownership of the box and both used the box for collection of payments. Since the borough used the box for collection of police fines, the police possessed a key to the box, as did the authority.

When Sgt. Jim Phillips left the department in April, he relinquished the police department's key to Councilman Carl Cathers, who is also an employee of the authority.

Council later asked for the key to be returned and Cathers refused to do so. Subsequently, solicitors for both the authority and the borough advised that the box not be shared. The authority offered to buy out the borough's share of the box, to which council counter-offered to buy out the authority's share.

Council President Dan Barthels removed the box at the beginning of November after the authority failed to meet a deadline set by council in its last correspondence to the authority.

Many citizens present voiced little concern for the reason behind the removal of the box, instead wanting to know when it would be put back and what they should do in the meantime to make their payments.

Tom Haynes, representing the authority, was present at Monday's meeting to discuss the authority's latest proposal—to install a box for the borough in the vestibule outside the borough office and label it however council would like, with a box for authority payments also installed there.

Council voted 6-1 to table the proposal until next month in order to get more information from the borough's solicitor and insurance carrier regarding possible liability issues. Cathers was the dissenting vote.

Meanwhile, Barthels advised residents that they can mail their authority payments to the authority's mailing address or drop off at the authority's physical address. Both are listed on the bill, he said.

In other business, Mayor Christine Tutena reported that the borough's Christmas light-up event is Dec. 1 with the parade starting at 6 p.m. She invited all the borough's clubs, organizations, ball teams and anyone else interested, to participate. She also noted that donated cookies are again needed and appreciated. “People really like the cookies,” she said. The committee also provides hot chocolate.

Council will hold a budget meeting on Monday at 6 p.m. and at the Dec. 10 council meeting will consider contracting with an animal control officer and open bids for garbage hauling.

William S. Zirkle is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-872-6800.