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Garbage fees questioned

Published July 03. 2014 04:00PM

A handful of Schuylkill Township residents continue to question the supervisors about the amount they pay for garbage, the enforcement actions of the township's police officer and the availability of the financial records of the township.

During the public comment portion of the township meeting held Wednesday, Dan Gray, Brockton, asked the supervisors why they don't provide line-item budget reports.

"We have repeatedly asked for line-item budget reports, a simple and reasonable request, and you tell us you won't because you don't have to," Gray said, reading from a prepared statement. "One of us 'little people' even showed you how other municipalities do it and offered to help you set it up."

"It's our money you're refusing to account for," he added. "Why are you forcing us to file Freedom of Information Act requests, and charging us the maximum amount?"

During last month's meeting, resident Paul Benulis said he had attended New Philadelphia meetings and gave the Schuylkill Township supervisors a copy of the financial report New Philadelphia provides at public meetings. At that time, Benulis said he would volunteer to do the reports and make them available to the public.

During the public comment portion Wednesday night, Benulis again questioned the amount of the garbage bill per household. Benulis has filed right to know requests for the past five years of garbage contracts for the township. He said that according to his calculations, the garbage contract is for $170,000 a year, and there are 540 households; meaning the cost should be $160 per household rather than the $185 per household rate currently charged.

"You overbilled us," Benulis said. "I'm asking you to explain, and it's a different answer every time. It's not your money to keep."

Chairman Charles Hosler pointed out that the yearly garbage bill used to be $210; but it dropped to $185 because the township dropped the allowed bags per week from five to three. He said that extra monies stay in the garbage account, where the funds may be used in the future for a town cleanup or electronic recycling.

Resident Mary Van Pelt complained that township police officer Jennifer Dempsey was not patrolling in her neighborhood often enough. Residents also complained about the township's purchase last month of a new police car; the supervisors said Dempsey's patrol miles had declined because of the poor condition of the prior police car. Hosler also said that Dempsey has collected more than $4,000 in fines since the beginning of the year.

Both Benulis and Gray questioned the township's hiring of an auditor, rather than using three elected auditors from the township, to review the books. Benulis pointed out that the township had paid an auditor $3,100 when an elected auditor is paid $10 per hour. In his statement, Gray implied wrongdoing by the township.

"You probably entered public life to be of service what happened to you along the way?" Gray said. "Way I figure it, either you're arrogant as all get-out and think the job belongs to you, or you're really up to something shady.

"All across America, there's an undercurrent of unrest, an uprising of the people," he continued. "We are ignored and mistreated; our cries for justice denied."

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