It takes a lot of money to keep a borough running and no one wants to see taxes raised. Projects are given priorities and some have to wait years to be completed. So, when a surplus of funds is discovered, community leaders go back to their priority lists to see which projects come next.
Such was the case with Tamaqua Borough Council last night, as Borough Manager Kevin Steigerwalt announced there was money left from the borough's Community Development Block Grant Program. Now the community has to decide which of the many unfunded, or partially funded, projects left on the to-do list have priority.
The unspent funds are from the 2008-2009 CDBG programs. Money had been allocated each year to clean and repair the Wabash Tunnel after heavy rains caused severe flooding along the Wabash Creek. After the flood, the Wabash Tunnel was inspected and found to be in a serious state of disrepair, with some sections partially blocked. The tunnel became a top priority. In addition to putting aside money from the CDBG funds, council also dedicated a half mill of taxes to the Wabash Improvement Project and applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for funding.
FEMA approved the funding request and the tunnel repair project was completed. The CDBG funds weren't necessary for that phase of the project, resulting in the surplus.
Council members debated last night whether to use the funds for repairs to a sewer main along Swatara Street, which is impacted by the Wabash Creek, or to repair walls to the Wabash Tunnel in the area of the Tamaqua Public Library. Both projects were deemed priorities and Council President Micah Gursky noted both were eligible under the CDBG guidelines. Council members John Trudich and Brian Connely lobbied hard for repairing the tunnel wall as another hole has been discovered to the rear of the library. Under the discussion, Gursky noted the sewer line repairs might be more feasible using the CDBG funding, while the tunnel repairs could come from the tax generated money in the Wabash Improvement Fund. Steigerwalt noted there could be enough funding to do both projects.
A few other changes were proposed, including using funds allocated for repairs to the Tamaqua Public Library roof for a waterslide at the community pool and using funds meant for repairs to the parking lot at the Tamaqua Community Center for demolition projects. The library board decided against replacing the roof and the borough is in the process of trying to sell the community center.
There is a time constraint concerning the CDBG funds and public hearings must be held to allow the community a chance to comment. If possible, that public hearing will be held before the next council meeting.
A condemned property at 208 Gay Street will soon be demolished. Borough officials have made every effort to have the owner take care of the problem, with no success. Demolition bids are being prepared and will be advertised within the next few days.
The borough received requests for two mutual aid agreements. Summit Hill is asking for an agreement for police protection, while McAdoo seeks an agreement concerning fire and EMS services. Both were approved.
Councilman Brian Connely offered council's thanks to the many volunteers who worked tirelessly to prepare for Superstorm Sandy last week. "While we were spared the brunt of the storm, emergency responders and borough workers spent many hours preparing in advance and working through the storm. We can't thank them enough."
In another bit of good news for borough residents, under public comment, Tony Rodrigue asked if the 2013 budget contained increases in the tax millage or water and sewer rates. President Gursky said there were no increases in the borough's draft budget.