Lansford Mayor Ron Hood at a special meeting Friday evening cast the deciding vote against holding executive sessions before instead of after council's public meetings, and against allowing secretary-treasurer Renee Slakoper to work from home due to a mold problem in the borough offices above the American Fire Co. No. 1 on East Patterson Street.
Hood's vote was needed because council, with one member missing each time, had twice deadlocked on the matters.
Hood said he opposed allowing Slakoper to work from home because "That's part of her job description, to deal with the public" and she needs to have borough information "at her fingertips," he said.
Hood did not explain his opposition to holding the executive sessions before the public portion of their regular meetings. They are currently held after the public portion.
At the start of Friday's special session, resident Rita Klekamp spoke before council on both matters. A retired nurse, Klekamp said the type of mold present in the offices was dangerous to the health of all three women who work there, and she urged council to get them new quarters as quickly as possible. The fungal growth, triggered by a leaking chimney, also puts at risk the people who visit the office on business, especially the elderly, young children and those with compromised immune systems, she said.
Klekamp said she has gotten the report on the mold, and that it was determined to be Aspergillus. It's a common mold, but can be detrimental to health, especially to those with respiratory conditions.
Klekamp blamed the lack of proper maintenance for the leaky chimney and the deterioration of the office and other borough buildings.
In a related matter, council agreed to solicit quotes for the job of abating the mold problem. Councilman Lenny Kovach described how a company certified in mold abatement would sand down walls and use special cleaners to get rid of the mold.
Councilman Tommy Vadyak had previously suggested moving the offices to the community center on Ridge Street, where public meetings are held. Councilwoman Danielle Smith said she learned earlier that day that there may be a mold problem in the code enforcement office upstairs at the center, and in the police station, which is on the ground level. At her behest, council agreed to have Seitz Brothers test the air in the entire building.
Council will also scout out bargains on room dividers. Council will also need to arrange the transfer of telephone lines and Internet service to the community center, should it make that move.
Klekamp also cautioned council about when it would hold executive session, saying that holding them prior to the public portions would discourage residents from attending. Klekamp suggested holding the closed meetings on a night when no other meetings are scheduled.
"That's going to stop elderly people like me or anyone else from coming to the meetings, because you will not have a definite time for executive sessions to be complete, and we will be left out in the cold or the rain or anything else," she said.
Council last month agreed to hold two meetings a month, on the second and fourth Wednesdays, instead of one in an effort to shorten them.