Editor’s Note: As stated earlier this morning, I was not in town for last night’s important council meeting. My thanks go out to Chuck Vail, who’s account I posted earlier this morning, and now Leslie Ely for allowing me to post her summary as well.
By Leslie Ely
It was a packed house this evening. Mayor Hagan welcomed everyone and opened the meeting by swearing in the newly elected/re-elected members of council.
The process of assigning committee chairs was next, followed by confirmation of the appointments of the Borough Manager, secretary, zoning officer, solicitor, etc.
The only agenda item was about the .45 mill increase for the fire tax. The tax ordinance will be re-worded in such a way that it is clear the monies from this increase are to be given to the Parkesburg Fire Company only.
There were a number of resident comments, as there was some confusion as to whether this tax increase had to do with the fire company consolidation currently being negotiated. As explained by Chuck Persch, right now the money will go to our fire department, however, if the consolidation goes through the tax will remain in place to be given to the consolidated fire company.
The meeting got off topic at this point, because there were many comments and questions about what happened at the December 20 meeting with the budget being passed with a 25% tax increase projected.
New Council President Kathy Rick said that the council met briefly prior to tonight’s meeting to discuss the budget and have agreed that it needs to be re-opened because “some things had come to light” that needed to be addressed. The notice is to be posted in the Daily Local today and they have to wait 10 days before they can officially reopen and discuss. According to Ms. Rick, this probably won’t happen until sometime around the 23rd.
There were some comments made about the police contracts with other municipalities and some residents didn’t’ think we should be doing it. One resident wanted to know why the police department was “untouchable” as far as cuts. Mayor Hagan explained that the idea of contracting out police services was his idea and that it does work. He also said that the borough police department does not solicit these contracts and that in every case the borough was approached by the other municipalities. Chuck Persch also stated that the police department is not “untouchable” and in fact has taken cuts equivalent to losing 3 full time officers.
Discussion turned to the proposed 25% tax increase. it was discovered through questioning the council that this increase is needed to fund the borough’s initial financial responsibility for the replacement of the bridge on West Bridge Street. The borough has to have on hand approx. $185,000 to be given to Amtrak. The replacement of this bridge has been in the works for 15-20 years, and was moved to the top of the project list after the successful completion of the State Street project.
One resident wanted to know why smaller tax increases spread out over the last few years wasn’t enacted instead of the 25% being requested now. The response was that the project had been stalled for so long and it only recently was expedited.
The consensus of the residents in attendance seemed to be that they are fed up with the solution to the Borough’s problems always being to raise taxes…people are concerned about their town and want to see it come back from the downward spiral it is currently in. They want the borough to come up with ideas to bring more businesses into the borough, and a few residents with business development experience offered to assist. I am hoping that the attendance at last night’s meeting will continue and that people will start questioning where their tax dollars are being spent and holding their representatives accountable for what is happening.
Mayor Hagan wrapped up by commenting that the council has a tough job, and no one wants to raise taxes because it stinks, however, the taxpayers/residents of Parkesburg need to start getting involved in the running of their town and not just show up to the meetings when it concerns a tax hike. Everyone needs to work together to try to solve the problems facing Parkesburg.
The next regular council meeting is on January 16 at 7 pm. I hope everyone who was at tonight’s meeting will be there.