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Jeannette passes $4.6 million budget

| Friday, April 27, 2012, 12:43 a.m.

Jeannette council had a full agenda Wednesday, and before the meeting was gaveled to a close, the city had a 2010 budget, a new fire chief, an interim city clerk, a request for a financial review from the state and a vow from the mayor that bickering among council members would cease.

A capacity crowd filled city hall last night for the special meeting. Some had questions about a budget that was two months overdue. There also was an appeal for council members to put aside differences and work together.

"It's obvious you guys are divided," resident Randy Highands said. "I could care less who likes who. We've got to pass a budget. This has to stop."

Mayor Robert Carter also called for cooperation among members of council in the public interest.

"I'm taking control of this," he said. "We have to move forward."

A $4.6 million budget was passed by a 3-2 vote, but not without more debate on the spending plan. Councilmen John Busato and Jeff DePalma said they thought discussion still was needed before it could be considered for approval and voted against it. Carter and councilmen Ron Dinsmore and Mark Clark voted in favor of it.

"I cannot vote for this budget," DePalma said. "None of us know enough about it."

The levy on real estate will remain at 32.62 mills, with no tax increase.

Council also voted unanimously to demote Mike Bertolino from the position of fire chief he's held since 1999 to the rank of captain and promote Randy Dubich from captain to chief. Dubich is beginning his 17th year with the city.

When questioned why the change was made, council members said it was a personnel issue.

Former councilman Mike Minyon, who recently retired from the Elliott Co., was named interim city clerk beginning Monday at a salary of $40,000.

Stella Rebitch was terminated Monday from the post she took over Dec. 31, 2008. That action was ratified last night by a 3-2 vote, with DePalma and Busato voting no.

"I felt we didn't even discuss it," Busato said. "It wasn't right the way it was handled."

No reason was offered for Rebitch's dismissal, which was deemed a personnel matter. Rebitch said Monday that Carter, Clark, Dinsmore and Solicitor Gary Falatovich were upset with her for complying with the state Right-to-Know law by filling requests for information from the Tribune-Review.

Carter said Minyon, who served on council from 2004-07, brings necessary experience to the position.

"He's a numbers person, and we can get him here and start getting our books straightened out, start paying some bills and know exactly where our dollars are at, at this point, and where they can be," he said.

Council voted unanimously to advertise for a new city clerk.

Also approved was a motion to contact the governor's office to request a Pre-Act 47 review. The state law authorizes the Department of Community and Economic Development to declare a municipality financially distressed and set up a recovery plan, but Carter said at this point the city is merely asking for a review.

"We're going to have a review of our accounts and finances to see exactly what we need to do to get our books and our city moving in the right direction," Carter said. "It's not to say we're going to Act 47. It's just to have a study started to see where we are, so we can move forward."

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