Lansford Borough Council on Tuesday again plunged into Lansford-Coaldale Joint Water Authority business as it voted to appoint a new member to the agency and agreed to meet with Coaldale about the authority officials' controversial salary/benefit packages.
A vote on the new member, who would replace Frank Horvath on the authority for a five-year term, ended in a tie.
Councilman Tommy Vadyak nominated Chris Ondrus, who was a Lansford councilman and now serves on its police force. He was backed by council members Lenny Kovach and Adam Webber.
Three other council members – Mary Kruczek, Danielle Smith and Robert Hackash – voted against Ondrus' appointment.
Kruczek had nominated Charles Whitehead, but that proposal died for lack of support.
Council tied on Ondrus' nomination when President Bob Gaughan said he was not going to vote "at this time."
That left it to Mayor Ron Hood to break the tie. Hood has five days to make a decision.
Solicitor Robert T. Yurchak said, as council headed into an executive session to discuss personnel, that council could reopen the question again at another meeting and take fresh votes.
Before it considered the appointment, resident Don Gildea cautioned council to ask questions of all nine people who applied for the five-year water authority position.
Gildea asked whether council had interviewed the applicants. Kruczek said she has called those she didn't know.
Gildea said council should ask potential candidates their opinions on the salaries and benefits water authority officials give themselves.
The salaries have come under fire by Vadyak and some Coaldale council members who believe they are too high.
Water Authority officials say the compensation is justified because they devote many hours to the jobs and are on call 24/7.
Lansford appoints three authority members and Coaldale two. The officers set their own salary and benefit packages. According to water authority records, the board chairman makes $15,000 a year; the vice chairman/superintendent $47,000; the treasurer $8,000; the secretary $8,000 and the assistant secretary/treasurer $6,800. In addition, the chairman receives a $2,250 annual stipend; and the vice chairman, treasurer, secretary and assistant secretary-treasurer each receive an annual $2,150 stipend. All employees, including the officers, who define themselves as full-time employees, are eligible for medical benefits.
In a related matter, council agreed to meet with Coaldale Council to discuss the matter. A date and time have yet to be scheduled for that meeting, which Gaughan wants open to the public.