Kittanning council appoints president
Kittanning Borough Council appointed a new council president on Monday and took on some tough issues with possible repercussions for the police department and the budget.
Randy Cloak became the new council president. After a 4-4 vote, Mayor Kirk Atwood broke the tie.
Cloak, who voted for himself, received votes from newly elected Councilman Dave Croyle and from Councilmen Andy Peters and Richard Reedy.
Council members Ange Turco, Betsy Wilt, Joie Pryde and Kim Fox cast the dissenting votes.
Council voted unanimously to reappoint Peters as council vice president.
Just one week after the 2014 budget was approved, Croyle voiced concerns over particular items and council agreed to reopen the budget.
Among his concerns was a contract services listing that had leaped from $500 to $10,500.
Borough Secretary Betty Thompson said that the large increase had to do with repairs for a borough-owned front loader, much of which will be paid for with grant funds.
Another similar item, under other operating expenses, showed an increase from $10,000 to $23,000.
Jim Mechling, streets supervisor, said that money was allocated for a borough garbage truck that needs to be repaired.
Croyle said his largest concern regards revenue projections from the local services tax.
“This will affect the borough with two schools closing,” he said.
Kittanning Middle School and Kittanning High School are set to close when the new Armstrong Junior-Senior High School opens in Manor Township in 2015.
According to Croyle, that revenue loss could be up to $60,000.
“We have to prepare for that loss,” Croyle said.
Council agreed, 8-0, to scrap the budget and pass a preliminary budget on Feb. 3. A special meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 13 to pass a new budget.
New council nixes police dog
In an unexpected move, council withdrew its support for the proposed police dog fund and voted to return the money raised to donors.
The vote was 4-4, with Mayor Atwood again breaking the tie.
Reedy raised concerns about the costs associated with adding a drug dog to the police department, including potential police overtime.
“I think it's time borough council divorces itself from this,” Reedy said.
Police Chief Bruce Mathews said he agreed that more discussion was needed. He suggested council seek public comment and to present the public with a K-9 demonstration and cost breakdown.
Mathews said the police department had to request a police dog from elsewhere twice last year.
“But the times we needed one on the spot were immeasurable,” he said.
Fox, who had spearheaded the police dog fundraising, said the costs would be much lower than the initial projection of $54,000.
That initial projection included training and veterinary costs and a new police car.
The actual initial cost, Fox said, without adding a car, would be closer to $17,000. It would cost about $3,500 a year after that, he said.
Fox noted that donated funds amounted to $16,660, including a $10,000 Ben Roethlisberger grant.
But Croyle said it was a legal and ethical matter for him.
“If something happens to that funding, we (the borough) would have to pick it up,” he said.
Resident Diane Acerni told council that she thought the issue needs more public discussion.
“The things I heard are disturbing,” she said. She was concerned that council had not listed the issue on the meeting agenda.
The vote to drop the police dog project was 4-4. Cloak, Peters, Reedy and Croyle voted to drop the project and return all fundraising and grant money back to donors.
Wilt, Fox, Pryde and Turco voted to go forward with the project.
Atwood broke the tie in favor of dropping the project.
No garbage collection
Council announced garbage collection for today will be moved to Wednesday. There will be no garbage collection on Jan. 20.
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.