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Council members aim to defuse public outcry in New Stanton

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By Kate Wilcox
Thursday, July 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

New Stanton council's decision to pursue a borough manager has caused public outcry, but several council members insist the move will be a boon to the community.

With a population of 2,173 and 4 square miles in size, New Stanton would be one of the smallest municipalities in Westmoreland County with a borough manager.

At least three others have borough managers: Scottdale, Irwin and Mount Pleasant.

Officials in those municipalities rave about their decision to maintain the position.

Mayor Dan Rose was on council nearly 40 years ago when Irwin borough, population 3,973, added the position of manager.

“Well, everything was out of control at one time,” he said. The council members would receive bills that couldn't be explained and no borough department was required to get pre-approval for expenditures. (Now) we have a good organization as far as borough manager and we're able to keep our finances under control.”

Several New Stanton taxpayers have argued the borough already has two secretaries to keep the borough running efficiently.

Council Vice President Linda Echard agrees and voted against the decision to hire a borough manager.

“What a borough manager would be doing, all the responsibilities, are currently being accomplished by somebody else,” she said.

Echard pointed out that economically, it is a bad time for the borough to hire, because it is in the process of an expensive renovation to its public works building.

Irwin had two secretaries at the time it hired a borough manager, Rose said, and still has two.

He said a borough manager has different responsibilities than the secretaries and has more power.

Shelley A. Houk, director of research for the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs said borough councils dictate managers' responsibilities, ranging from budget preparation to hiring staff.

New Stanton officials emphasize that creating the position of borough manager is not a done deal.

“I'm not in favor of hiring one just to hire one,” said Councilman Dean Clark, who said he's hopeful a full-time manager would bring in grant money for borough projects.

“We need somebody to help promote the borough a little more than has been done in the past,” said Scott Sistek, council president. “I think you know a lot of times we'd like to see more businesses come to the borough, we need to attract the right kind.”

Some boroughs in Westmoreland have considered adding the position, but, because of concern for funding, have not.

Youngwood borough, just down the road from New Stanton, with a population of 3,050, has a secretary/treasurer.

“We backed off (from hiring a manager) and the main reason is cost at this time,” said council President Lloyd Crago. The borough is currently building a new borough building.

Sistek said that the New Stanton council's personnel committee is currently working on a job description to advertise the position. The salary could vary based on the applicant's qualifications, but the borough is aiming for $40,000 to $50,000, similar to what other borough managers in the county are paid.

As for residents' concerns that taxes will be raised to accommodate a new position, Sistek says they are unfounded. There already is a budget line item for the position of borough manager in this year's budget.

Kate Wilcox is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or kwilcox@tribweb.com.

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