Middletown Borough Council Minutes

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December 3, 2013

December 3, 2013 Middletown, PA 17057 The December 3, 2013 meeting of the Middletown Borough Council was called to order at 7:04 p.m. by Council President Christopher R. McNamara. Following the Invocation by Pastor Jerry Cowan of Valley Baptist Church, and the Pledge of Allegiance, the following Council members answered roll call: Barbara Arnold, Donald Brooks, John Brubaker, Robert Louer, Christopher R. McNamara, Judy Putric, Scott Sites and Sue Sullivan. David Rhen was absent. Also present were Mayor Robert Reid, Borough Manager Tim Konek, Borough Secretary Chris Courogen and attorney Adam Santucci of McNees, Wallace and Nurick, the Borough’s solicitors. PUBLIC COMMENT Jack Still read from the minutes of a July 12, 2011 meeting regarding previous consideration of a new zoning law and questioned how the then Council president could make motions from the chair. Rachelle Reid commented on the new zoning law, saying alleged errors should have been fixed before passing the ordinance. Council President McNamara said based upon the advice of the solicitor, it was better to go ahead and adopt the ordinance and then make curative amendments. Rachelle Reid also questioned the amount of police overtime. Council President McNamara said he did not know where she got her numbers from, but offered to check on it if she forwarded the information. Rachelle Reid also asked why the police chief was not on hand at the meeting to answer her questions. Council President McNamara explained Council and the Borough Manager have no operational jurisdiction over the police department and that if she had issues with the police, she should address them through the Mayor. Jack Still also commented on the letter to Council penned in 2002 by then Manager Michael Booker, saying those who question the reports of Borough financial consultant “boggle” his mind since Morgan’s reports echo what Booker said more than 10 years ago. Mike Bowman said former Council President Rodney Horton put out memos saying Council meetings were not for question and answer sessions and those citizens should ask questions of Council members before, or after, meetings. At 7:14 Council recessed for an executive session to discuss matters pertaining to personnel and potential litigation. Council reconvened at 8:10 p.m., with Council President McNamara

Middletown Borough Council Minutes

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December 3, 2013

reporting matters pertaining to personnel and litigation had been discussed, but there were no action items forthcoming. Councilor Sites was not present following the executive session. Councilor Rhen made a motion to authorize advertisement of Ordinance 1299 of 2013, an ordinance amending Chapter 16 of the Borough Code dealing with emergency management. The motion was seconded by Councilor Sullivan.

Mayor Reid asked about the content of the ordinance. Council President McNamara said it was adopting the recommendations of the committee that had been chaired by John Patten to review the Borough’s emergency operations plan and invited Mr. Patten to expand upon the recommendations. Patten outlined the committees report, and said the major recommendation involved placing the Borough Manager in charge during a disaster declaration in order to make operations as smooth as possible. Mayor Reid said that was already how the Borough operated, why change. Patten replied that the changes needed made to the law to make certain that was the way emergency operations flowed. The last disaster to hit the borough lacked a systematic, coordinated response. Mayor Reid blamed the problems in that case on two people, saying it was the result of a “cat fight.” The Mayor said he was in charge during Three Mile Island and argued the system did not need changed. Patten explained things are very different now than in 1979, adding these changes would eliminate the potential for another “cat fight” hampering emergency response.
Council President McNamara said the idea was to remove politics from the process and to put emergency operations in the hands of the hired professionals. He also thanked Mr. Patten, who is the former head of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, for his time and effort in leading the committee. The Mayor threatened to veto the measure if it receives final approval. The motion was approved by a 7-1 vote, with Councilor Putric dissenting (Councilor Sites absent). Mark Morgan, the Borough’s Early Intervention Plan Administrator and Financial Consultant, presented the proposed 2014 Borough Budget. Morgan reported the proposed plan increases General Fund spending by $583,000 over the 2013 budget, but will not require any increase in taxes or electric rates. The increased spending is mostly due to a $540,000 transfer from the General Fund to the Water-Sewer Fund. That transfer is necessary because the Water-Sewer Fund budget does not include any increase in sewer rates, which otherwise would have been necessary.

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Morgan told Council his objective in developing the proposed budget was to make as few changes from the 2013 budget as possible. “With four new Council members and a new mayor coming in, decisions under the Early Intervention Program should be left to the new Council. This is a balanced budget, which can be reopened in January,” Morgan said. "There is a list of issues for the new Council to address, but I kept them out of this budget to avoid handcuffing the new Council." Mayor Reid asked if there were any provisions for a rainy day fund. Morgan said it provides for a capital improvement fund, but any decision on a rainy day fund was left up to the new council. At Council President McNamara’s request, Morgan also addressed the Borough’s pension and OPED (other post-employment benefits) obligations, which amount to more than $8 million in combined unfunded liabilities. Morgan also advised Council should amend its 2013 budget to transfer an additional $250,000 from the Electric Fund to the General Fund to provide an end of the year cushion to ensure the Borough did not exceed its spending authority. Councilor Putric made a motion to advertise the proposed 2014 budget. The motion was seconded by Councilor Arnold and approved by a unanimous 8-0 vote. Councilor Brooks made a motion to authorize advertisement of Ordinance 1300 of 2013, fixing the Real Estate Tax rate for 2014. The motion was seconded by Councilor Putric and approved by a unanimous 8-0 vote. NEW BUSINESS Councilor Brubaker commented on the need for the Middletown Area Baseball Association to remove advertising banners at the Oak Hills baseball field in compliance with the Borough ordinance which governs such banners and asked MABA be notified to remove them. Councilor Brubaker also commented about boats being stored at the old Middletown Reservoir and asked that the Borough Manager call the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to inquire about the boats removal. Council President McNamara said there are several issues regarding the reservoir and the Borough Authority, which owns the property, is working on them, including the boats issue. Councilor Brubaker also inquired about the sale of a fire truck by the Middletown Volunteer Fire Department, asking if the truck had been purchased with Borough funds. Council President McNamara said some trucks had been purchased with funds from the former fire tax, but he did not know if the truck sold was one of them. Mr. Morgan said he was not aware of any agreements requiring any proceeds from the sale of fire department assets to be returned to the Borough the way they might have to be with some grants.

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December 3, 2013

Council President McNamara said to his knowledge there is only one piece of fire apparatus titled to the Borough and that was not the truck which was sold. He directed Public Safety Committee chair Councilor Rhen to contact the fire chief to gather further information. Councilor Brubaker also inquired about the $10,000 in capital funds appropriated to MABA last year. Council President McNamara said to his knowledge, MABA has not yet provided any accounting for what the money was used for. Councilor Brubaker made a motion to transfer $250,000 from the Electric Fund to the General Fund as per Morgan’s recommendation. The motion was seconded by Councilor Louer and approved by a unanimous 8-0 vote. Council President McNamara announced the December “committee of the whole” meeting would be held December 17. Mayor Reid asked if a flag at the athletic field at South Union and Susquehanna streets should be taken down for the winter since youth football was done for the season. Secretary Courogen said he believed that was done last year and that he would direct Public Works to do so if they had not already taken it down. Councilor Brooks made a motion to adjourn. It was seconded by Councilor Sullivan and approved by unanimous consent. At 8:59 p.m., the meeting was adjourned.

Borough Secretary