Biechy named chief
Brian Biechy, a 25-year veteran of the Lehighton Police Department, has been named the borough's chief of police effective Dec. 21.
Earlier last week, Biechy was named officer-in-charge of the department.
The council named Biechy chief at a special meeting Friday morning.
He succeeds Scott Prebosniak, who was serving as the officer-in-charge for about the last six months. The borough council sought applications for the police chief position, but Prebosniak indicated he wasn't interested.
A total of 14 applicants were received, with Biechy being the unanimous selection.
The council gave final adoption to its 2014 budget which calls for a one-mill tax increase.
Nicole Beckett, borough manager, said this is the first general purpose tax increase since 2011, when a quarter mill was added.Two years ago, there was a two-mill tax hike but it was strictly for assisting with the financing the construction of a new fire station.
She said in the last eight years taxes have increased just 2.25 mills, which includes the fire station construction project increase.
Council had agreed to place one mill of tax on for security in borough hall, projects and systems for employee accountability. There is also an increase in costs in employee benefits including health care and pension.
The council also adopted a local services tax, which is $52 per year, replacing its $10 occupational privilege tax. The Local Services Tax is expected to bring in an additional $50,000 in revenue. That revenue is allocated for public safety and public works.
Beckett said, "We are one of the last municipalities in Carbon County to increase the tax. Our intentions for the revenue in 2014 are to be used for the purchase of a new police car, evidence processing equipment, police supply, fire department supply and training and public works supply and equipment."
No TV cable franchise fee was included in the budget. Last month, the council directed its solicitor, Attorney James Nanovic, to look into an ordinance regarding a 5 percent cable franchise fee.
"While Lehighton may be better off, the residents receive many services that other local municipalities do not provide," Beckett said. "Our electric rates are comparable to other publicly owned small utilities and investor owned utilities as displayed in the 2012 charts. The residents receive excellent customer service, minimal outages, and quick response time. The borough has assets uncommon in Carbon County. We are not paying thousands of dollars for street lights, our electric department maintains the borough buildings and we can complete a lot of projects in house."
She added, "While L&P contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars to the general fund, this offsets property tax increases. Electric bills are paid y all residents compared to those who own property. We have infrastructure, parks, a large police department, new buildings and much more to pride ourselves in.
"While other municipalities struggle, we attempt to maintain a fine line on property tax and use our resources to the best of our abilities. Ten percent of the total real estate tax is received by the borough. Carbon County is receiving 16 percent and the Lehighton Area School District is receiving 74 percent of the total real estate revenue.
"Lehighton Borough Council has avoided increasing taxes for many years. There are no doubts an increase is unpopular but by no means is it unjustified. Our budget highlights and explains all line items. We remain accountable to the residents of the borough and pride ourselves in maintaining a straight-forward budget."