COAL TOWNSHIP - Coal Township is asking for the public's opinion on a proposed new ordinance, which could add a five-percent admissions tax to recreation parks such as the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA).

At its meeting Thursday night, the township's board of commissioners voted 3-1 to advertise the ordinance, which has yet to be drawn up, for the admissions tax. The tax would apply on all activities allowable under the Commonwealth's Local Tax Enabling Act "which would include, but is not limited to, campgrounds and outdoor recreation parks."

Board chairman Craig Fetterman made clear that Thursday's vote was merely to advertise and encourage public input.

"People feel strongly about this issue. I know our board of commissioners is divided on it," Fetterman said.

Commissioner George Zalar said the purpose of the tax is to reimburse the township for any wear and tear on equipment, such as fire and rescue vehicles, that might be needed in the operation of outdoor recreation areas of Coal Township.

"We need to protect the taxpayers, even though some of these areas is being set up for many out-of-town people," Zalar said. "So I don't think they will have an issue."

Commissioner Gene Welsh, who opposes the plan, said he doesn't think it's fair to tax a public entity, such as the authority that runs the AOAA for Northumberland County.

"We cut a deal with Reading Anthracite for five years with no tax and now we will have two different deals going on. I don't think it's fair to have a deal with one and not the other," Welsh said.

Fetterman reiterated that this tax would be on the admission price, not on the AOAA itself.

"But it could hurt the AOAA," Welsh said.

"Well, I certainly hope it doesn't," Fetterman replied. "I'm a big believer in the AOAA."

"My feeling is to let the park open first and then we could go from there," Welsh said.

In the end, it was Fetterman, Zalar and Paul Leshinskie voting to advertise and Welsh voting no. Commissioner Bernie Rumberger was absent.

The board also voted 4-0 to advertise a new peddling and soliciting ordinance, which would require anyone placing a stand for food and goods on township streets and sidewalks to purchase a permit, costing either $100 a year or $25 per one-time sale.

"We are trying to protect our local businesses by not letting these people come in and set up shop right next to local businesses that pay for licenses," Welsh said.

Another ordinance approved to be advertised will place a stop sign at the intersection of Webster Street and Maple Avenue, stopping traffic traveling west on Webster Street.

In other business

- David Munson was appointed to the township's Police Civil Service Commission.

- Street department worker Justin Wachter was granted a leave of absence for one year without pay, allowed under the union contract.

- The township will enter an agreement with the Housing Authority of Northumberland County to become a sub-recipient of Keystone Communities Program, receiving $125,944 in funds to help fight blight in Coal Township. The board publicly thanked Ed Christiano of the housing authority for all his work in securing the funds.

- Coal Township signed a letter of intent with the Department of Community end Economic Development to request technical assistance for a study on regional police consolidation. Township secretary Rob Slaby said that Coal Township is the first to sign a letter for intent for the no-cost study.

"We want to make clear that this is just a study, and no matter what happens, no police officer will lose their job," Fetterman said.