At last night's meeting, Nesquehoning Borough Councilman David Hawk announced the preliminary figures for the 2013 budget, which includes a .5 mill increase.
Citing recent improvements in the borough, such as various road projects along with increased expenses, Hawk said "It is in the best interest of the borough right now, with the improvements we have been doing to incur that increase."
"One of the biggest burdens we are going to have now is to start paying off the loans that we consolidated and improvements we are doing with the street program," said council President Frank Jacobs. "Half a mill, I don't like to see us raise taxes, but we ground everything down as close as we could and that's where we come up with the half-mill increase," he added.
Hawk noted that even with the changes made with the borough's health care company in an effort to save money, the cost still went up 2 percent or 3 percent. Had the change in provider not been made, the cost would have been an additional 9 percent.
Council will adopt the official budget at the Dec. 19 borough council meeting.
During the hearing of visitors, Nesquehoning resident Sandy Gazdick expressed her dissatisfaction with the enforcement of ordinances in the borough and said that she was "flabbergasted" during last month's meeting with the way a recent donation made to the police department was handled.
"I never saw anything in my life where we look a gift horse in the mouth," said Gazdick.
The $3,567.91 check in question donated to the police department by Panther Creek Partners stirred much debate during the October meeting. The check was intended to be used to purchase a list of items such as a door ram, tasers and rifles, that Police Chief Sean Smith had given Panther Creek without borough approval. Council members felt that the items he requested were not necessary, and that the funds might be better used elsewhere.
In other matters, Fire Chief John McArdle discussed complaints he received resulting from Hurricane Sandy. Residents had made negative comments stating that they did not know where town shelters were set up or when they were open. McArdle suggested that council look into an automated phone system that would communicate information to residents in the event of an emergency. He noted that the Panther Valley School District uses such a system. Council agreed to look into the costs of such a system and also discussed other methods to disseminate information such as flyers, further utilization of the borough's web page and even a Facebook page.
McArdle then stated that there were several carbon monoxide calls made to the department as a result of improper usage of generators during the power outage caused by the storm. McArdle said that people "need to have generators located in an area that is ventilated well." He also stressed the importance of having carbon monoxide detectors, and said that citizens should be "proactive and use common sense." He later noted that since it is now the primary heat season, there are roughly 12 smoke detectors still available to anyone who may need one and said that if necessary, he will even drop them off.
McArdle then announced that the 1981 ladder truck had been sold to the Schuylkill County Fire Museum for $4,400 and requested that the funds received be used toward hose testing by a third party company in the spring.
He went on to acknowledge that 26 members are now nationally certified as firefighters, five as instructors and 17 as nationally certified aerial driver operators. These certifications will not only make the department more competitive when it comes to applying for grants, but should also reassure citizens that they are getting the protection they need from the fire department.
Regarding the narrow band radio project he said that everything is complete and that they are waiting for the county to make the switch over to narrow banding. The dates for the changeover from wide to narrow banding are Dec. 6 for EMS, Dec. 10 for police, Dec. 12 for fire and Dec. 19 for paging.
Finally, McArdle complimented borough superintendent Louis Paul and his crew for their assistance in a recent accident on Route 54, and said that while the individual was trapped in the vehicle, borough workers kept the area secure and controlled traffic until the arrival of the fire department.
As part of his report, Mayor Tony Walck read a letter he received from Jim Thorpe Police Chief Joseph Schatz. In the letter, Schatz said that a call for backup went out for an incident that occurred on Oct. 11, and within minutes, two members of the Nesquehoning police department (Tim Wuttke and Chad McGowan) had responded and assisted in the matter.
"Without their diligent response and assistance, I believe this incident could have taken a serious turn for the worse," read Walck. Shatz had requested that a copy of the letter be placed each officer's file.
Walck then announced that there will be no Crime Watch meetings until April.
Various road material bids were awarded to Lehigh Asphalt, Eckley Asphalt and Hazleton Material.
On Sunday, Dec. 16 at 1 p.m., the Junior Recreation Committee, along with Santa Claus, will visit the residents of Maple Shade Meadows "spreading Christmas cheer" and participating in a sing-along. He also noted that the committee prepared fruit baskets for needy individuals for the Thanksgiving holiday.