The opinions of Carbon County Commissioners following the Carbon County court decision to uphold Mahoning Township's ordinances, which prevented the county from overruling the township's authority with regard to the ordinances governing the Packerton Yards project and its sidewalks, were answered by supervisors on Monday evening.
"The county commissioners mentioned all of the revenues the township, county and school districts are being denied by not having this project move forward, comparing it to Ametek," said Chairman John Wieczorek. "Do they forget early on that Commissioner (Bill) O'Gurek wanted to create a Keystone Opportunity Zone from Packerton Yards, which would have denied revenue to the county, township and borough and school district for several years?"
He also pointed out the commissioners' claim that they are in danger of losing $5 million in grants, which they called free money, but neglect to tell the public about the numerous revisions and rework they continually made to their plans. He said even the day of the hearing the county had another revision which was produced during the hearing.
Wieczorek also took exception to the idea that this disagreement over the sidewalks is being blamed by the county for everything from the 48 percent tax increase to the overloaded court system, as well as the lack of jobs in the county. Supervisor Linda Benner pointed out at least a few times in the past that the county has plenty of vacant space in the industrial park outside Nesquehoning and questioned if the commissioners were truly intent on creating jobs, why haven't they referred these prospects to that park instead of waiting for this project to be completed.
Supervisor Bruce Steigerwalt also spoke out and said that in the commissioners' opinions, the township and planning commission are doing everything they can to stop the project, but in reality, the board of supervisors have granted at least a half-dozen waivers to help the project along. He asked why the township would do that if the commissioners' perspective was accurate.
With regard to the jobs issue, Wieczorek observed that if the county was so concerned about them, why did the commissioners go outside the county to secure representation from a Philadelphia firm at a premium to the taxpayers.
Supervisor Todd Weaver opined that with the money the commissioners are spending on their engineer, their experts and their attorneys, they could have easily installed the sidewalks.
Wieczorek said the project apparently has a magical quality that appears to "unify the commissioners in the office" about it, which he found interesting considering "the two newer commissioners actively campaigned against it and another that was not re-elected in part because he supported it," managed to get reappointed anyway.
Wieczorek said the commissioners are laying the blame for the problems solely on the township, even though the township granted a half-dozen waivers to help the project along. He pointed out it was only after they refused to grant this one exception that the county basically told them they could refuse to comply with the township by asserting that county codes supersede township regulations, and that was what led to the appeal.
He also said directly that the township's insistence on sidewalks is not a scapegoat that the commissioners should be using to justify a 48 percent tax increase, the overloaded court system and high unemployment rate. As Benner said, there is space in existing parks for business.
Wieczorek concluded by saying the commissioners need to "stop blaming others, roll up their sleeves and begin performing the job that they are supposed to do."