Website critical of Slatington officials
SUSAN LAYLAND/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Signs depicting a controversial website in Slatington are cropping up in the community.
All but one Slatington Borough Council member is being subjected to tough criticism on a new website that is recently gaining popularity in the Borough of Slatington.
The website asks borough residents to take action by posting signs around town, distributing flyers and to advertise the web address on other websites.
This request is being taken seriously by some borough residents, who have already made homemade signs and planted them on their lawns, like Lou Yurasits of Slatington. His house faces busy N. Walnut Street, where he placed a sign with the www.improveslatington.com web address prominently displayed for passing motorists. In a phone interview, Yurasits said a friend asked if he could place the sign on his property. Yurasits agreed because he concurs with what's being said on the site. Yurasits said he's been to council meetings several times and, in his opinion, council members are very inappropriate in the way they dress and in the way they conduct business.
The site links viewers to videos on the site under the heading 'Slatington Government Profiles.' Every Councilman (except one) and the mayor are portrayed in videos showing unprofessional behavior. President Galen Freed, for example, is shown with his head down. Red Z's appear under the video to suggest he's sleeping while a concerned citizen is making a presentation. Other videos show council members, such as Paul Hoffman, spitting chewing tobacco during a meeting.
Resident, and former mayor, David Altrichter is 'upset' over the site. In an open letter at the monthly Slatington Borough Council meeting Altrichter expressed his displeasure. He said the website upset him because the current council has worked hard for the community and should be commended for their efforts. And, although the site attacks the borough council and makes a plea for concerned citizens to get involved, the site does not list any contact names nor the authors of the site.
At a recent council meeting, resident Mel Gildner was questioned about who developed the site. He replied it doesn't matter as long as people are informed. But, it does matter to some residents who feel the authors should come forward and say who they are.
In a phone interview Councilman Bryon Reed said the website is disturbing because it's discouraging many hard working former volunteers from getting involved in the community. He's contacted several people who have volunteered in the past and they told him they do not want to get involved with what's happening right now. Reed continued to say that many of the members on the Council who are being discredited are long-time residents of Slatington and have volunteered many hours in order to pull projects together.
With four Borough Council seats opening up in 2011, the website developers see the coming months as a window of opportunity to try and infuse the council with new blood. They make a plea for 'decent folk' to take action and have their town returned to them. The crux of the message is clear; they want people in Slatington to register to run for one of the open seats.
One of the issues on the site claims that the Slatington council voted to increase taxes by one mill in 2011 because they could not meet their budget is only the first of many issues featured on the site. Other issues that fuel the site include council rejecting council member Kris Burek's offer to maintain the borough website free of charge. Instead, the borough decided to opt for five hours of website maintenance through the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs for a fee. Councilman Bryon Reed said that the Council already had an agreement with the Pennsylvania Borough Association to maintain the site. It was decided to continue with their service when after several requests to Councilwoman Burek to remove perceived derogatory pictures from the site were ignored.
Other issues include the space NOVA occupies in the Borough Fire Department building. According to the site, NOVA previously paid the Diamond Fire Company of Walnutport $600 to occupy space, which NOVA now occupies in the Borough free of charge. When questioned, Reed said that the borough tries to look after the health and the welfare of the Slatington residents. Reed said, the Borough Code clearly reads that the Borough should be responsible for assuring that fire and emergency medical services are provided within the borough by the means and to the extent determined by the borough. Having the NOVA in the borough ensures faster service to the community and adheres to the code. 'The fuel' Reed added, 'is split between Washington Township and the borough.