Proposed police station at Reynoldsville sparks heated discussion at council meeting
Reynoldsville Borough Council met for close to two hours Wednesday night and, at times, the discussions were heated.
One controversial issue that was brought up by Councilwoman Robin McMillan was how much a council member can spend without a full council discussion. At the December meeting a figure of $5,000.00 was discussed, by McMillan felt the figure should be $500.00
The debate began when plans were drawn up for a proposed police station. At the December meeting, Councilwoman McMillan questioned spending $4500.00 on the plans without council discussion. In December, Councilman Ralph “Tucker” August stated it had been discussed.
At this meeting, Mayor Louie “Peach” Caltagarone supported McMillan’s $500.00 amount. He stated that, to his knowledge, $500.00 has been the amount for several decades.
Despite the raised voices at times, council moved ahead with motion made by Councilman William Cebulskie and seconded by McMillan to set the limit at $600.00 above normal operating expenses. That motion was approved.
On the subject of a new police station, discussion centered on the differences between the costs of a new station or rehabilitating the borough building where the station is now located or even taking over another building for the station.
Both Mayor Caltagarone and Councilman Robert Crosby, who was chairing the meeting, felt that a new station was too expensive. “The town can’t afford a new police station,” Caltagarone stated. Council member McMillan added, “We have not explored all the options available to us.”
It was decided to task Council President TJ Sliwinski, who was not in attendance at this meeting, to form a committee to look into the possibilities and compare costs.
On another police matter, the current borough police contract runs out at the end of this year. Negotiations for a new contract are tentatively set to begin in April.
Snow removal ordinance
The recent snow storm in Reynoldsville had the council considering a snow emergency ordinance to deal with cars parked on borough streets. Council initially considered a motion to direct Solicitor Joe Ryan to create an ordinance, but Ryan found there was already an ordinance on the books.
The ordinance stated that cars had to be removed from the street twelve hours after the snowfall. However, if the National Weather Service issues a Winter Storm Warning, all cars on Grant, Hill, Jackson and Main Streets have to be removed. If the Mayor declares a state of emergency, then all streets have to be clear of cars.
The ordinance is designed to help borough crews clear the snow from the streets. There was some discussion about problems on Grant and Hill Streets where the plows had barely enough room to maneuver in this last snow storm.
Failure to remove a car in time could lead to a citation that could include a $600.00 fine.
How to let the public know about snow emergencies was also a topic. The borough will be able to use its new web site to post an announcement. It is also looking into using an all-call system to call borough residents and warn them about the weather emergency.
On the subject of streets, Councilwoman Mary Jane Clark asked about cars being parked on sidewalks. She said as she walks around the borough, she is sometimes forced to walk on the street because a car is blocking the sidewalk.
“It’s hard for senior citizens to get around those cars,” she said. She also expressed concern for students walking to school.
Solicitor Joe Ryan said there is an ordinance that covers that and violators could face fines and costs.
Reynoldsville Solicitor retained; will attend all meetings
Reynoldsville Solicitor Joe Ryan had been retained for only six meetings a year. That was changed Wednesday night when the Reynoldsville Borough Council voted to adjust his retainer to $1500.00 so he can attend all the council meetings.
“I would be happy to be here,” Ryan said. Ryan also stated that under the old schedule, he would miss some meetings and had to be brought up to speed about what had occurred.
Dilapidated and vacant buildings ordinance
At the December meeting, council approved the first reading of an ordinance covering vacant and dilapidated buildings. It was to have been acted upon at this meeting, but there was some confusion as who should advertise the ordinance for 30 days. Since that didn’t occur, it will now be advertised and come up for a final vote at the February meeting.
On the same subject, Councilwoman Robin McMillan read a letter from a contractor that had several questions about the borough’s process of demolishing condemned buildings. Solicitor Joe Ryan stated the council is well within its legal rights to do what it has been doing.
Eventually it was decided to advertise for bids on the next demolition slated for a house on West Main Street.
Mayor Louie “Peach” Caltagarone informed council he was investigating buying new Christmas street lights. The current lights are in disrepair. There are 23 to replace.
“We need to start looking for next year,” he said.
Borough Secretary Jaqueline Dixon said there is currently $1,000.00 in the Christmas lighting fund. Some discussion was given to possibly getting donations or finding sponsors to help offset the costs.
War memorial park update
Dan Edwards and Francis Caltagarone of the Reynoldsville War Memorial Park committee attended the Wednesday night council session to provide an update on the progress of the park.
Edwards said that students at the Jefferson County-DuBois Area Vocational-Technical School (Jeff Tech) were working on site design plans. He said the committee has set a goal of $300,000.00 for the park.
The borough and the committee are looking at purchasing a piece of property in the downtown. Solicitor Joe Ryan suggested the committee purchase the property and then donate it to the borough. He and members of the committee are working on a proposal for the property owner.
Councilman Robert Crosby asked about the use of eminent domain in this case, but it was decided the current negotiations were the best way forward.
The Reynoldsville Borough web site has been posted. The address is reynoldsvilleboro.com. Councilwoman Robin McMillan, who was tasked with the project, said the site contains basic information right now but will eventually include a lot of important information for borough residents.