Summit Hill Borough Council agreed last night to keep its trash collection ordinance intact, and approved more exemptions.
As a result, it has renewed the exoneration for 52 properties from last year, and approved 10 additional exemptions.
The action for renewing the exonerations was by a 5-1 vote, with one abstention. Councilman Bill Chapman abstained, he said, because he is on the exemption list. He owns a business which utilizes a dumpster.
Harry Miller Jr., a council member, said he also is on the exemption list because he has a dumpster but voted to approve the list.
The only dissenting vote was by councilman Michael Kokinda. He said his "no" vote was cast because some of the exemptions are for "habitable properties."
The vote for adding 10 more properties to the list passed 6-1, with Kokinda again opposed.
The ordinance, amended last year, states that properties vacant for at least six months can be on an exoneration list whereby the owner won't have to pay the $200 annual trash collection fee. It also says that people utilizing dumpsters also can be exempted from borough trash collection.
Last year, exonerations occurred on a monthly basis. Beginning this year, the exoneration list will be approved only in January, the ordinance states.
Kokinda said he feels six months isn't long enough to qualify for the exemption; that the property should have a full year of vacancy.
He also asked Borough Secretary Kira Michalik, "Are we sure all of these (exemptions) are legitimate?"
Miller said he personally checked every property on the exemption list.
"Suppose, in six months, we throw this ordinance out?" Kokinda asked.
The borough's solicitor, Attorney Joseph Matika, said the exemption is based on the current ordinance and applies until the ordinance would be changed.
He also said that the council is obligated to approve qualifying properties on the exemption list since the ordinance presently applies.
Miller indicated he would be in favor of changes to the ordinance because "it is creating an Excedrin headache."
Another council member, Michael Alabovitz, said he feels that no changes should occur until next year. "You dangled the carrot," he said regarding offering the exemptions to residents. "You should have worked on this in December."
One borough resident spoke opposition to the exemptions.
Larry Marek stated that Larry Wittig, the president of Tamaqua Transfer, was present at a prior meeting of the council and warned that the current exemption policy will result in higher garbage collection rates in the future for borough residents. "I'm going to resent that these people are getting exemptions and I'm going to pay for it," he said.
Council President Joseph Weber said the borough has a multi-year contract with Tamaqua Transfer for trash collection. He said it is possible that Tamaqua Transfer might not even be the low bidder when future contracts are due.
He said of the exemptions approved, "Most of these are significant, long-term vacancies."