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California mayor wants proof booze fee 'illegal'

| Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, 1:52 a.m.

CALIFORNIA – An ordinance designed to impose fees on California University of Pennsylvania never came up Thursday at a borough council meeting.

After the session, however, Mayor Casey Durdines said he would like to know what part of the borough code was being violated by the ordinance, which will require Cal U to pay fees based on attendance at its convocation center events at which alcohol is sold.

At a council meeting last week, Craig Butzine, Cal U vice president for marketing and university relations, called the ordinance “unnecessary and illegal.”

“I've researched Pennsylvania borough code and our own borough code, and I see nothing that we're violating,” a code book-wielding Durdines said Thursday.

“He's saying in the papers that we're violating the code, but he's not saying what part of the code. If he'd like to reach out to me and tell me exactly where I'm not looking, I'm open to that.”

No one from Cal U spoke at the meeting Thursday.

Durdines said the ordinance, like any other passed by the council, is in a 10-day review process. The mayor has the power to either sign the ordinance or veto it.

The ordinance sets the following fees, based on attendance:

• Up to 1,499 attendees, $750.

• 1,500 to 2,999, $1,500.

• 3,000 to 4,499, $2,250.

• 4,500 to 5,999, $3,000.

• 6,000 or more, $3,750.

Butzine said last week that the university tried to resolve the borough's issues with alcohol sales at the facility.

“They have ignored our efforts to the point where they now seem to be undoing any progress we made to this point,” Butzine said.

He added that the ordinance will “illegally restrict and tax what the university can do on its property.”

Butzine added that the ordinance violates state law because it taxes the university.

Durdines did not disclose whether or not he will sign the ordinance.

Crow? No!

In borough business, council is prepared to handle the roosting crow problem that plagued the community last November. Council entered into an agreement with Ehrlich, the same pest control company Cal U used last year.

“If we sign this agreement and they're not needed, there's no cost to us,” Council President Jon Bittner said. “They use a thermal fogger, which I believe is extracted from grapes, and bright lights. It's all nonlethal and humane.”

Bittner added that bangers and screamers, which use loud and high-pitched noise to discourage crows from roosting, will not be used at the present time.

The measure was unanimously approved and will cost the borough $2,875 for a 5-day cycle and an additional $575 per additional day. The motion included a stipulation that the borough will not extend the agreement for more than five additional days.

Around the block

Council said the 2013 Community Development Block Grant will be $202,402.

Bittner said the borough is trying to acquire property from George Ruscitto, who owns a dilapidated building at 401 Third St.

“The estimate to demolish and do what we need to do to that property is near $120,000. The Redevelopment Authority has already been involved there,” Bittner said.

Solicitor Keith Melenyzer said Ruscitto is willing to deed the property to the borough if local, county, and school taxes are waived. The borough waived its taxes and will ask Washington County and the California Area School District to do the same.

The remainder of the CDBG money will be used to continue the cast-iron lighting project from Union Street to Wood Street.

Such a deal

Council approved the sale of two police vehicles. A 2007 Ford Crown Victoria will be sold to Grace Quality Used Cars for $2,137. A 2002 Ford Explorer will be sold to Chicago Motors for $1,207.

Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2667 or