Engineer to provide estimate on borough building repairs
KULPMONT - Critics of the plan to construct a new borough complex have wanted to see written proof of the costs to rehabilitate the current building.
Following a one-hour public comment session at Tuesday's borough council meeting, a majority of council members decided they will get their wish.
A split vote of council approved a motion to spend up to $5,000 for an engineer to look through the building
and provide an estimate on what it would cost to fix the problems.
It was a 4-3 vote to spend the money with members Nicholas Bozza and Joseph Winhofer, who made and seconded the motion, Phil Scicchitano and Clarence Deitrick voting for the study, and Stephen Motyka, Stephanie Niglio and Bruno Varano voting against it.
"The taxpayers voted us in and trust us to make the right decisions for this borough. We have done the homework and analyzed this situation so many times," Niglio said during the discussion.
"All we are asking is to see this homework," Bob Chesney said. "Where is the proof that it will cost $400,000 to fix the roof, $250,000 for the masonry work and $100,000 for the heating system?"
The study will be conducted by the borough's engineers, KPI Technology, of Elysburg.
"If it comes back that it's more feasible to rehabilitate this building, we can go from there," Bozza said.
Council members became fired up after critics took a hour of time to express their concerns.
Resident William Maher asked what would be the harm of freezing plans to construct a new borough building and maintenance garage for six months to a year in order to allow the public to vote for or against it.
"By the time we do that, the complex could be done already," Varano complained.
"What would be the harm in doing that just to see who is for and who is against it?" Maher said.
"If we wait, the permits we currently have would expire," Deitrick said. "We could lose the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) loan guarantee, and the $40,000 to $50,000 we've already spent on engineering and design fees would be lost."
Maher talked about how the state architect said current plans indicated the building was too small. He then said that the money could be better spent in other ways.
"The way this town is going, we are going to need more police officers, and we have nothing for the seniors and the kids here now," Maher said.
"We were told to be very frugal for this building," Varano fired back. "We were told to take the senior center out because they wouldn't be in there. We were also told to lose a floor of the building, putting it all in one floor."
Chesney, who has collected 300 signatures on a petition against the building project, spoke about how seniors and those affected by the bad economy cannot take another tax increase.
"It's a burden on the taxpayers, the 1,300 Kulpmont borough homeowners that pay them every year," Chesney said.
"What do you want us to do?" Varano snapped back. "This building is falling down around us."
"Just put the brakes on, and let's form a committee to study all of the ramifications," Chesney said.
At that point, the discussion began to get heated.
"You know, I'm ready to stop the whole thing and let the building come down on us now," Winhofer said disgustedly.
"I'll make the motion right now," Bozza answered, "Let's put the money in here, on a building that is still owned by the school district that they won't give to us."
"This borough spent two years filling out applications to get this loan," Varano said. "I'm not going through that again,"
"Regardless of what we do, we are still going to possibly spend a million dollars and the taxes will still be what they had to be raised to," Bozza told the audience.
Maher said that the borough doesn't need the new study, but instead get bids from contractors, masonry companies and roofers. Winhofer explained that it wouldn't work.
"Many of those workers wouldn't give a bid without an engineer telling them how to do the work properly," Winhofer said.
"The people just want to be informed," Maher said. "However, I don't want you to waste money to do it. If it's put to a vote and the residents vote yes, then I'm all for the building, he continued.
"And if they vote no and it falls down on me, I'm suing every one in here," Varano said. "If you don't like what we are doing, vote us out of office."