Beleaguered Lansford council accepts services of Bob Silver
Lansford businessman and former mayor Bob Silver is stepping in to help get the borough's finances back on track.
Silver offered his services free of charge, and council accepted at a special public meeting held Tuesday.
Council is racing to craft a 2012 spending plan, which must be in place by Dec. 31 or the borough will not be able to spend money, including to pay its employees. But the course is muddy, pocked with fiscal potholes and poorly marked.
An auditor from Kirk Summa has been working with new secretary-treasurer Beth Seymour to organize the current budget and bring it in line with a standard form advised by the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
But some figures have yet to be entered into the system, and so the budget summary to date is inaccurate. Council is late starting budget talks this year, and the financial mess has made the process all that much more difficult.
Budget sessions on Nov. 21 and Nov. 30 had to be canceled due to lack of quorums. One held Monday drew enough council members to be held, and officials began the task of reviewing and tweaking amounts.
The next budget meeting is planned for 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the borough office, above the American Fire Co. No. 1 on East Patterson Street.
Council members Tommy Vadyak, Lenny Kovach, Danielle Smith and President Adam Webber attended Tuesday's meeting.
The current budget is fueled by a 32.47 mill property tax levy. That means the owner of a property assessed at $25,000 paid $811.75 in real estate tax this year, up $76.50 from last year. In 2012, each mill is expected to generate $34,085 in revenue. That's slightly more than this year, when a mill generated $33,880.
Tuesday's special meeting was called to discuss hiring a clerk to help Seymour while assistant secretary Karen Burrell is on leave. However, after Councilman Tommy Vadyak told council members that Silver had offered to help, the motion to hire a clerk was tabled until the Dec. 14 regular council meeting.
In a related move, council agreed to have computer expert Jeff Leslie search an office computer to see what has been accessed and to clear it of all but borough business.
An executive session had been planned after the public part of the meeting; however, that was canceled for lack of a quorum when Vadyak left.
In other matters, Vadyak took Webber to task for holding too many meetings, criticizing fellow council members on a Blue Ridge Cable television news interview for missing budget meetings and for telling Vadyak in emailed messages to not bring up the Lansford-Coaldale Joint Water Authority at public meetings.
Vadyak spoke during the public courtesy part of the meeting.
He said Webber missed the Nov. 21 budget meeting. Webber acknowledged he missed the meeting.
"You just schedule meetings to have meetings to have meetings," Vadyak said. "It's ridiculous."
As for the email message, Vadyak told Webber that he had "violated my civil rights" by telling Vadyak he would not allow him to talk about the water authority any more. Vadyak contends that he is allowed to speak on any subject during public sessions.
Webber denied sending the emails.
Vadyak, who has long contended that the water authority is flouting the law by giving its board too much in salaries and benefits, said he will take his complaint to the American Civil Liberties Union.
In other matters Tuesday, council agreed to table until Dec. 14 whether to start the $15,000 first phase of a project to stop flooding at the Sports Zoo on the west end of town.
Vadyak opposed having borough workers do the job because they have too much work to do as it is.
His motion to seek bids died for lack of a second. Smith had moved to start the project, which Kovach said would start with doing inlets to drain storm water.
Kovach also asked that residents who have piles of leaves raked up should call the borough office at (570) 645-3900 to have borough workers pick them up, free of charge.