A $3,567.91 check donated to the police department caused some debate and eventually, finger pointing during Wednesday night's meeting of the Nesquehoning Borough Council.
The check, which was donated by Panther Creek Partners, resulted from a request made to the company by Police Chief Sean Smith to cover the costs of purchasing a door ram, Tasers and rifles. Following the original letter that accompanied the check, a second letter was received from Panther Creek stating that the check was "not limited to the police department," and Councilman Don DeMarco wanted to know who went to Panther Creek to have them change the language of the letter and why the check was not being used for the items that were requested.
Councilman Robert Marouchoc stated that council had denied the purchase of the requested items and questioned solicitor Robert Yurchak as to the appropriateness of the chief soliciting funds to which he responded "Only with the approval of council," which Smith did not have.
This then sparked a debate as to whether or not council had actually ever voted on the necessity of the items to be purchased during any previous council meeting. It was also noted that the chief has solicited donations for other things in the past such as for D.A.R.E. and the Trick-or-Treat program, and that those solicitations were acceptable.
Marouchoc reiterated that Smith was not authorized to solicit funds. He noted that the department was not in "desperate need" of the three items as was indicated in the letter, questioning the need of rifles that would be kept in all police cars, when they already had two that are kept at the station. He pointed out that the department also had two Tasers.
"Do you wear a uniform and work here at night? Do you know exactly what goes on this town at night? Do you know exactly what goes on in this town 24/7, Councilman Marouchoc? Do you? Do you?" asked DeMarco, to which Marouchoc responded "Don't ask such a stupid question. Of course I don't."
"I know the feuds you are having with him (Smith,)" said DeMarco, "but that should have nothing to do with the equipment that he needs."
DeMarco later made a motion to utilize the check for the purpose of which it was originally intended. Prior to a vote, Councilwoman Mary Fox questioned the necessity of the door ram asking if it was standard equipment. Councilwoman Rose Walck was concerned about the liability that could result should someone become injured during the use of the door ram, and pointed out that during a dangerous situation such as a shooting, state police or the S.W.A.T. team, who are trained in the use of such equipment, are typically called out.
DeMarco asked Fire Chief John McArdle how they enter a building in an emergency.
"We have a massive sledgehammer," McArdle responded.
"It's the same thing. What they do (fire department) is no different than what they need here," said Marouchoc.
"The cars have sledgehammers, also. And that is what they have been using for years," said Mayor Tony Walck. He also added that as per the chief, the police department only had to use a sledgehammer to enter a building one time.
Council President Frank Jacobs couldn't see spending the money on "something that they really don't need."
Fox questioned whether or not there were other items that the police department actually needed, so that the donation could be put to better use.
Following a 4-3 roll-call vote, council denied the request to purchase the items requested by Smith.
Marouchoc brought up the police department budget, stating that as of the end of July it was over budget by 22 percent. He estimated that it would possibly be over budget by 35 percent by the end of year and wanted to ensure that the donation would be "more appropriately used" than what was listed in the letter.
Regarding the budget, DeMarco pointed out legal expenses that were taken out of the budget to pay for an attorney to represent the borough in the contract dispute between the borough and Smith.
"You can't take money out of his budget and use it against him (Smith). That is what you wanted to do with that check that we have from Panther Creek, use that money to pay your lawyer to promise you the Brooklyn Bridge," said DeMarco.
Jacobs admonished DeMarco, stating that he is "making a big issue" over the police and pointed out that he resigned off all committees and "votes down everything."
"We have over $400,000 debt sitting here because you sat here with M.E.M. You never mention anything about that," said Jacobs. "We have to pay off that commitment every year," he added.
Marouchoc jumped in saying, "You were the president and I told you about them. I warned you and you said, 'I'll take it under consideration.'"
"If we are going to point fingers at what everybody votes on, M.E.M. was a big mistake, and yes, we're paying for it. Lots of mistakes were made and pointing fingers doesn't do anything for it," added Fox.
In other business, McArdle provided an update on the new FCC mandated narrow band radios, stating that the county has begun the installation on the fire frequency radios and expected to have Nesquehoning's radios installed by mid to end of October. He also added that there would be some additional expenses incurred for headsets and cabling. He asked council to approve the purchase of two low-band radios at just under $1,000 each and installation of $750 to satisfy their mutual aid response.
Council also voted to ratify resolutions authorizing the submissions of grant applications and appointing an official to execute documents to apply funds from casino proceeds for the fire company and sewer department.
Liquid sludge hauling bids were received from Aqua Wastewater Management, Inc., Liquid Motion and R.C. Stahlnecker Co., with the bid being awarded to Liquid Motion at 7.20 cents per gallon.
Borough secretary RoniSue Ahner noted that effective Jan. 1, residents will no longer be able to throw out any type of electronics.
Fox suggested that the borough come up with some type of inventory system and photograph or video all equipment that belongs to the borough. Councilman Mark Stromelo stated that he thought if the borough contacted its insurance company, it would come out and do it.
Trick-or-Treat for the borough of Nesquehoning will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 31 from 6-8 p.m.
The Crime Watch meeting is on hold until further notice.