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Council disputes amount spent on legal fees for chief's contract

Published April 25. 2013 05:04PM

The ongoing case involving Nesquehoning Police Chief Sean Smith's contract still remains a source of great contention with some members of borough council as was made evident during last night's monthly meeting.

Council member Don DeMarco spoke out against payments being made to the legal firm Norris McLaughlin and Marcus, which was hired to represent the borough in the contract dispute.

In a 4-3 vote in December of 2011, council members approved the police chief's contract, which included a 9.4 percent salary increase.

After the March 2012 meeting, council entered into executive session to discuss the contract and have since hired an attorney to dispute it.

DeMarco questioned council President Frank Jacobs as to why council is still paying the bills and why council didn't get a copy of a recent ruling from the judge. Jacobs responded that a copy had not been given to council.

Solicitor Robert Yurchak noted that it did not need to be brought before council as the ruling in question was a "motion for summary judgment by the borough which was denied by the judge." He then added that the case "proceeds on a normal course at this point.""

DeMarco then asked if the borough was paying for the mayor in the lawsuit, to which Jacobs advised that the mayor had nothing to do with it, that it was based on the council members that had taken part in the vote.

DeMarco then alleged that council has spent $30,000 so far in legal fees and for the time spent by borough secretary RoniSue Ahner on the matter.

Jacobs responded that the borough had not spent that much.

DeMarco then questioned Rose Walck as to the monetary gain to the borough by engaging in the lawsuit. Walck responded with regard to "future contracts" as well as the "9 percent raise." She also said that she disagreed with his numbers, stating that "I got some figures, but nothing near $30,000."

Walck added that "it seems like this is very political right now," at which point Jacobs put a halt to the discussion.

Councilwoman Mary Fox also questioned where DeMarco was getting the $30,000 figure.

Under the hearing of visitors, Patty Ann Mansberry questioned council on what was being done regarding carbon monoxide emanating from a home on W. Mill Street and into the home of her elderly parents causing them to be "chased out" of their home on nine occasions, with her father ending up in the hospital on the most recent one.

Council responded that code enforcement was looking into the matter and that the owner of the other property would be cited and that if the problem was not corrected that further action would be taken.

Following Mansberry, resident and former councilman Michael Sniscak addressed council regarding a sewer line on his property that he claimed was "close to collapse."

According to Sniscak, a right-of-way was given to the borough to install a sewer line on his property. Sniscak claimed that he told the borough what they needed to do with the end of pipe to avoid erosion, and that after being told three times, the borough did not do it.

He then asked for council members to come to his property to view the trench that is eight feet deep and 150 feet long as a result.

Councilwoman Fox asked how long it had been going on and Sniscak responded that it had been going on for 10 years.

Fox reminded him that he was chairperson of sewer at that time.

Fox then stated that she had been on the committee for four years and this was the first time that she had heard anything on the situation and added that she wished Sniscak would have come to her to discuss the problem sooner to which he replied, "It doesn't work that way."

He added that he "told them what they had to do."

"The engineer and Frank ignored me. I told them from the beginning so I don't want to hear a song and dance," he said.

Jacobs and Fox agreed to come to the property and investigate the situation.

In other matters, council voted to appoint Matthew Miller as the emergency management deputy local coordinator for the borough.

Fire Chief John McArdle reminded council that there is an alerting system being put into place that can be utilized by borough residents to be notified of a snow or other weather emergency as well as any changes to garbage collection. Telephone numbers will be needed for all residents to be entered into the system for notification and participation in the alert system is free.

McArdle added that Carbon County is having a Safe Day program at Mauch Chunk Lake Park on May 4 from 10 a.m. until noon.

He then informed council that testing would need to be completed on the hoses at each fire company to ensure that they would be prepared with reliable equipment for the next fire emergency. Recently, a hose had burst. Any hoses that do not pass the requirements would need to be replaced in order to properly and quickly respond to any emergencies. He added that the next project would be to certify each of the engines at a cost of $1,000 each.

A dedication for the new fire truck will be held on June 22 starting off with a parade at 1 p.m., followed by the dedication at 2 p.m.

He requested that overflow parking for fire equipment participants in the parade would be made available on the 700 and 800 block of E. Centre Street.

Councilman Mark Stromelo informed council that the street sweeper was not working and that he will be looking into the purchase of a new sweeper, which may cost between $130,000 to $140,000.

Frank Jacobs reported that he met with PUC regarding the condition of the railroad crossings within the borough and stated that the repairs will begin on Monday at the Co-Gen plant on Industrial Road, followed by Allen Street in May and then, in the latter part of July or August, at Mermon Avenue. Cross arms will be installed at the Mermon crossing in the near future.

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