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Mt. Pleasant council questions Business District Authority budget

| Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Despite questions about the Mt. Pleasant Business District Authority's budget, borough council voted this week to approve the spending plan.

“I think there was a lot of questions on this budget because each item was presented as one lump sum, and there were no breakdowns,” said borough manager Jeff Landy.

Two questions included what projects were planned for $10,000 allocated for beautification and why $750 was budgeted for travel and expenses.

Another question concerned the rent charged for Angie's Cafe, the main business in the authority's business incubator.

Nino Barsotti said the owner pays $1,850 a month, but $350 of that is erased because she cleans the building.

At $1,500 a month for 12 months, the rent for the business totals $18,000. Total utilities bill came in at $17,000 for the year.

Council questioned if the business owner was paying a fair share.

Although renters from some apartments in the upstairs of the building pay their own electric bills, they do contribute to some of that utility bill, Barsotti said.

Council President Joe Bauer questioned why the business was still in the incubator.

“The restaurant is a good thing to have, but if I had a business in town and I was paying taxes to the BDA, I would be screaming about that deal,” Bauer said. “I thought it was an incubator — two years and then you're out.”

Barsotti said the authority's board thought the business would be a draw for people to come into the building.

In other business, council agreed in December to send a letter to the authority stating its support of the glass museum's renting a space in the incubator at a reduced rate.

Councilwoman Cynthia Stevenson said the authority met last week and it would be looking for an $800 payment from the museum for the month of January that would include a $400 security deposit as well as a $400 rent payment.

From there it would expect $500 in rent in February, $600 in rent for March, $700 in rent in April and $800 in rent in May.

Stevenson said January's payment, along with February's payment, “far exceeds” what the museum has right now.

“I can understand if you have someone come in that's willing to pay $1,200 a month or something for the space,” Stevenson said. “At that point, the museum would definitely be out. But until that point, why not let the glass museum rent for a minimal amount? It's better than the space sitting empty.”

The board was concerned about what the historical society would think if it had to pay rent and the museum was given a break, Barsotti said.

The historical society pays only $250 a month in rent, Stevenson said.

Barsotti said he would go back to the authority's board and recommend that it make the museum's rent as low as possible and on a month-by-month basis in case another business willing to pay full price expresses an interest in the space.

In other business, Bauer said that within the past month, a street department truck and a police department vehicle were involved in accidents.

Unfortunately, neither accident was reported to Landy.

Finally, Medic 10 ambulance service is hoping to make a trade with Norvelt Ambulance Service.

Medic 10 will get a 1998 fully loaded Ford ambulance that has 81,000 miles on it in exchange for a Gator, an all-terrain vehicle used twice in two years.

Landy said he wants to get a maintenance report on the ambulance, but none was available.

“I don't want to take someone else's headache,” the manager said.

The public safety committee will meet with Medic 10, then make a recommendation to council.

Rachel Basinger is a freelance writer.

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