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State offers to review Jeannette finances

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By Richard Gazarik
Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, 11:36 p.m.
 

The state has offered the City of Jeannette a top-to-bottom review of every department to improve management and cut costs so it can avoid being declared financially distressed.

The review will allow Jeannette officials to have “a stronger foundation to make decisions,” said Michael Foreman, a specialist in municipal government with the Department of Community and Economic Development in Pittsburgh.

Foreman said his agency would provide consultants in specific areas such as fire, police and city administration. The state will pay the “lion's share” of the costs, but the city will have to ante up $10,000, he said.

“This is going to take some money,” Foreman told council this week. “Mainly ours, some of yours. You'll have to have some buy-in on this.”

The state has provided consultants to the city before at public expense.

In mid-2010, the state paid most of the $82,000 cost of hiring of Delta Development, which made a series of recommendations for improving city finances. Council at the time largely ignored those options, but they were reconsidered last year.

Civic Research Alliance of Mechanicsburg was paid $26,000 last year to conduct a manpower study to recommend the number of employees the city needs to operate efficiently.

Management is one area that could use technical help, said Kerry Moyer of the Civic Research Alliance. Jeannette is managed by city clerk Mike Minyon Jr., a former councilman. Both Moyer and Foreman said hiring a professional city manager could help with budgets and financing, “which hasn't always been consistent in the past.”

Foreman said the city also needs to develop a comprehensive plan to chart its economic future.

City officials have debated eliminating a paid firefighting force and reducing the size of the police department.

They need to decide how many police officers the city can afford, Moyer said.

Councilman Gabriel Homan said he will research whether the city should maintain a paid fire department or convert to an all-volunteer force.

Moyer advised the city to separate its public works and sanitation departments rather than have workers doing both jobs.

Other recommendations Moyer made:

• Forming a labor committee to prepare for contract negotiations with the police, firefighters and public works employees.

• Better tracking of financial information.

• Creating a regional recreation authority and using local games of chance revenue to fund recreation and upkeep of city parks.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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