Council logs spark spat in Ford City
FORD CITY — Discussions about the future of the borough's water treatment plant and the development of borough safety programs were raised during Monday's council meeting.
But it was the method of how best to record the minutes of council meetings that took up much of the time causing squabbling among some council members.
Councilman Jerry Miklos raised concerns over meeting minutes that he said recorded only the bare minimum of information on certain topics, thereby skirting sections of the Sunshine Law.
“We're not going to have verbatim minutes,” said Councilwoman Kim Bish, arguing that it would be too labor intensive. She went on to read sections of past meetings that sounded as if paragraphs had been recorded word for word.
As Miklos and Bish continued to argue, President Lou Vergari brought the meeting to order.
“(Lisa Bittner) has been borough secretary for at least 15 years using these methods, and I think her minutes are fine,” said Vergari, adding that Miklos had interrupted Bittner at her work on several occasions to amend the minutes of past meetings. Miklos denied this had been the case.
“Lisa has filed a grievance against Miklos about it,” Bish said.
Another argument arose between Bish and Miklos over council's proposal to authorize Vergari to sign an agreement with ASH, an organization to develop customized safety programs and booklets in the amount of $1,200 for borough employees, including training to be billed at an additional hourly rate.
Council voted 5-1 to authorize signing the agreement. Miklos opposed the measure.
“Show me where we are required by insurance to do this?” Miklos asked.
Bish said the safety programs are required in order to get insurance coverage.
“We had so many buildings condemned,” she said, adding that the borough is under a microscope because things were neglected for so long.
“Now an insurance group is willing to cover us if we do this,” she said.
A measure of calm resumed as Greg Scott, senior project manager with Buchart Horn Inc., brought up the topic of the water treatment plant.
He said the Department of Environmental Protection is holding up the release of a permit for the sedimentation basin roof on the borough's water treatment plant. The cost of the pre-engineered roof is $15,964.
The reason for the delay, said Scott, is that the DEP had no record of meeting minutes from 2010 showing that Ford City Council had discussed a possible cost-sharing option of combining water facilities with Manor Township.
The DEP is using state-funded money and is looking at efficiency issues, said Scott, adding that it “wants to make sure that public dollars are used as wisely as possible.”
That consolidation option is only a possible scenario, but DEP wants to have a record that the issue was explored through discussion, said Scott.
He estimated it would cost Manor Township approximately $6 million for a water plant expansion. Once Manor compiles its cost study, supervisors can pass that information on to Ford City Borough for further discussion.
At that point a report can be sent to DEP, he said.
Running pipes from Manor Township to Ford City would cost an additional $470,000, said Scott.
He said he believes making repairs to the borough's water plant seems to be the most cost effective plan.
In other matters, council:
• Voted 5-1 to advertise the 2013 tax ordinance with the total millage being 18.15 which includes an increase of 1.5 mills. Miklos, who arrived late for the preliminary budget meeting in November opposed the measure, saying he had not been consulted on the tax increase.
• Voted 5-1 to advertise an increase in the water rates — up $3 from 2012. Miklos opposed the measure. “I was never consulted. I disagree with it and I'm not going to be a party to it,” he said.
• Announced there will be no garbage pickup on Dec. 26. Garbage will be picked up the following day, on Dec. 27.
• Voted to approve the minutes for five meetings dating back to May 14.
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.