Furloughing of three full-time officers still a hot subject
CHRIS PARKER/TIMES NEWS Coaldale resident Francis Hutta commends council on furloughing its three full-time police officers and two borough workers.
Reverberations from Coaldale Borough Council's Feb. 14 decision to furlough its three full-time police officers and two borough workers to save money continued at a public meeting Tuesday.
Angela Krapf, wife of furloughed Sgt. Keith Krapf, asked council why directions in 2011 to Chief Timothy Delaney to not guarantee part-time officers a set number of hours was not being enforced.
All three officers who were laid off have asked for part-time work. But Krapf was given only one shift per week. The two other officers, Criminal Investigator Todd Weiss and Officer Charles Blesse, are also working part-time hours.
The officers' contract - council was negotiating a new contract at the time of the furloughs - includes a provision that any officer who is laid off is to be given first rights to any open part-time shift.
Angela Krapf said that despite the directive to not have part-time officers work overlapping shifts, that has been happening anyway. She said that at one point, three part-time officers were working at the same time.
"You knew you were having money issues" at the time of the 2011 Police Committee meeting at which Delaney was given the directions, Krapf said.
Councilwoman Nancy Lorchak said council was clear on it's directions, and that she would check into the situation.
Krapf said she is concerned because not only did her husband lose his job, their young children have been left without health insurance.
She also asked about council's promise on March 14 to hold a special meeting in a venue larger than the borough hall to allow the public to comment about the furloughs. The crowd at that meeting spilled out of the doors. A petition to have the meeting held elsewhere to accommodate the crowd had been denied.
That special meeting was never held.
In a related matter, resident Francis Hutta spoke to council, commending it for making the decision to furlough the officers and borough workers.
"Somebody had to start somewhere," he said. "These people (council) are the ones who have to straighten this mess out, and it's been a mess for years."
Borough Fire Chief Richard Marek also spoke, wanting to know how much the borough has paid labor lawyer Jeff Stewart, who is handling the police contract negotiations.
So far, Stewart's bill has tallied between $2,500 and $3,000, said secretary Louise Lill.
Marek also wanted to know how the borough planned to pay for any lawsuits that the furloughs and their consequences may generate. He said the borough has budgeted nothing for such an event.
Also on Tuesday, council:
• Scheduled the annual borough yard sale from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 12, with a rain date of May 19;
• Agreed to arrange to meet with Brian Laslo of Liberty Towers to tour a site on which Laslo wants to erect a cell tower at Sixth and Lehigh streets. Councilman Tom Keerans said he would also like the borough engineers to attend the meeting;
• Learned from Code Enforcement Officer Jamie Lee Nicholas that a vacant, mold-infested house at 132 W. Ridge St. has finally been condemned. The house, which is owned by a Lisa O'Brien, has been vacant since April 2010, when O'Brien was evicted because of ongoing water leaks.
The couple who live in the adjoining house, Ruthanne and Ron Kehl, have been asking for help for years from council, and state and federal government agencies, all to no avail.
The condemnation is the first step in being able to apply for funds to repair the house, said solicitor Michael Greek.
The only problem is that O'Brien must be served with notice, and no one has been able to find her.
• Will ask the state Department of Transportation to perform a traffic study aimed at reducing the speed limit on Route 209 from 45 mph, in the area of the entrance to St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital. Also, the speed limit on Ruddle Street between Seventh and Manila Grove Road will be reduced to 10 mph. That's the section of the street that runs through the hospital's parking lot.
• Landlord Thomas Peto, of Langhorne, Bucks County, asked council to do whatever needs to be done to collect the $70,000 in outstanding trash collection bills owed by homeowners. Greek said the borough is doing all it can to collect the money.