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Italian club sign issue is still unresolved

Published January 20. 2010 05:00PM

An 80-year-old civic club in Tamaqua is asking Tamaqua Borough Council to consider exempting it from the historic district regulations regarding internally lit signs.

Recently, the Christopher Columbus Club, also known as the Italian Club, replaced an aged, broken sign on its facility at 103 Schuylkill Ave. Because of the fact that the club was replacing an existing sign, members of the club were under the impression that they did not need to get a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic and Architectural Review Committee. However, after the new sign was installed, they were notified that they did in fact need the appropriate permits and the certificate of appropriateness and that the new sign that was installed did not meet the requirements.

Italian Club members Howie Boyer and Bill Vacula attended last night's borough council meeting to request that council consider allowing them to operate the internally lit sign. The sign is currently in place, however, it is not turned on.

Council initially tabled a motion to approve a certificate of appropriateness for the sign, as long as it was not internally lit, pending further review. Council president Micah Gursky said that the borough has run into this situation before. "Wachovia Bank has signs that are designed to be internally lit and they had to install a row of lights," he said. He also added that many other businesses in the historic district, including Turkey Hill, had to conform with the standards that have been set by the borough for the historic district.

"We're not Wachovia. We're not Turkey Hill. We've been a part of this community for 80 years. The sign we just put up is smaller than the one that was up there for 40 years," said Vacula. "I just don't see why there's a big problem over this." Several other council members seemed to agree with the request to allow the sign to be internally illuminated. "If the sign was lit before, and they got a new one, why can't it be lit," asked Councilman Tom Cara. "If you took an existing sign that was not working and repaired it, what would happen," asked Councilman Brian Connely.

"That would be okay," said Gursky, who also added that they've had that situation occur before where businesses have opted to let an existing sign in place rather than replace it with one that would conform to the historic district standards. Connely asked if the historic ordinance could be modified. "It could," said Gursky. "You'll have to make a list of the people you want to have follow the ordinance and the people you don't want to have to have to follow it." The motion was referred back to committee for further review.

A motion was also made to allow the sign to hang as it is, as long as it's not illuminated, until the issue is resolved.

In other business, council approved the Tamaqua Adult Day Care Center's request to hold their annual 5K run/walk on May 8, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Borough Secretary Georgia Depos Dewire also informed council that the borough passed the audit of their liquid fuel funds.

Borough Manager Kevin Steigerwalt announced that the borough will be advertising for a waste water treatment plant operator and seeing proposals for electrician services. "Our full time electrician will be retiring shortly, and we're seeking a contractor for an as needed, on-call basis," he added.

The borough will also be advertising for bids on the police department's security camera project. Steigerwalt said that he hopes to open bids on February 11 for phase one of the project, which will include the installation of a base station at borough hall and the placement of a limited number of cameras.

Council also adopted a resolution appointing John Trudich as a representative to the county's earned income tax collection committee. Several members of council expressed concern that they have not been notified of the meetings of the committee. Currently, the borough's earned income taxes are collected by Berkheimer; however, Act 32, which was passed by the state requires each county to set up an agency to collect the earned income tax. "I don't understand how this is going to benefit Tamaqua," said Gursky.

Councilman Ken Smulligan also announced that the police committee is working on arranging for speakers to come in and meet with members of council and the police committee to discuss a regional police department. "We're going to involve the surrounding townships and boroughs, to see if there is enough interest to pursue it further," he added.

Resident Cathy Miorelli questioned whether or not an actual written agreement had been reached between the borough and the FOP regarding usage of the FOP's firing range in the Owl Creek section of the borough. According to Gursky, an agreement had been reached that the range would maintain a written log of anyone who used the range, in addition to taking some other steps. Miorelli asked if talks between the borough and the FOP have continued. Cara responded that there haven't been complaints about the range for months. Miorelli responded that there have been complaints made to the police department.

Mayor Christian Morrison asked the borough to consider eliminating the curfew siren, as it is costing the Citizens Fire Company about $500 annually to blow the alarm nightly. The matter was referred to the public safety committee. Morrison also reminded the community of the importance in participating in the 2010 census. According to Morrison and Gursky, the amount of grant money that the area is eligible for is dependent on the census numbers. "It's up to us to make sure we're counted," said Morrison.

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