Mount Carmel votes yes on sewer loan, but with stipulations
MOUNT CARMEL - Members of Mount Carmel Borough Council voted unanimously to guarantee a $1.25 million loan for the Mount Carmel Municipal Authority to repair one of the water tanks at the sewer plant near Den-Mar Gardens - but with three stipulations.
At a special meeting held Thursday night, council members want the authority to abolish the pension plan for non-uniformed employees, get rid of Brinjac Engineering and start following all the terms of a 1995 lease agreement between both parties.
The meeting started at 7:30 p.m. and council immediately entered into executive session. After an hour, they re-opened the meeting to the public, at which time they voted on two items.
The loan in question, which will be paid back over a 20-year period at a 2.29 fixed interest rate to UNB Bank, Mount Carmel, will cover expenses for a tank that was damaged during the Flood of 2011. It can treat approximately three million gallons of wastewater. Two other tanks at the plants are still operational.
Authority members need borough council's approval in accordance with requirements set forth in the 1995 lease agreement between the two parties.
Council had postponed the vote because information was received only three days prior its regular meeting.
Borough President Tony Matulewicz said the borough and authority's pension plans had been co-mingled for years, a practice the new actuary advised against because of costs.
The borough voted last year to terminate the non-uniformed employee pension fund, and they want the authority to do the same.
Councilman Joseph Lapotsky said the lease agreement calls for the authority to insure every building; however, a belt filter press that separates solids from water has gone uninsured in recent years.
Also, according to the agreement, the authority is supposed to return any monies in excess of $50,000 held by the authority to the borough at the end of each year, a practice that has not been followed.
"Clearly this violates their own lease," Lapotsky said.
The third stipulation is to terminate Brinjac Engineering, of Harrisburg, from any and all resident project services relating to tank repair and to agree never to hire the firm in any capacity once all current projects are closed out.
Matulewicz said the company should not be inspecting work when its own designs have broken. He was quick to note that he was not assigning blame to the firm for the damaged tank.
The authority expects to be reimbursed for the repairs by both Pennsylvania Emergency Agency (PEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The motion to approve the guarantee with the stipulations was made and seconded by Councilmen Clem Plisiewicz and Lapotsky. It was unanimously approved 6-0. Councilman Leroy "Chico" Moser was absent from the meeting.
Since the guarantee is contingent on the authority's agreement with the stipulations, the authority members will likely vote on this item at the next meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14.
Council members also voted unanimously to remove Joseph Swatski from the authority board and replace him with Matulewicz.
According to the borough president, Swatski was removed because Swatski has been a longtime supporter of former borough manager Joseph K. Bass, who was fired in 2009 for receiving raises that council said were never approved and using Matulewicz's signature stamp to approve checks. Bass has been at the center of several financial investigations from borough council as well.
Also, Matulewicz said, council members took issue with Swatski charging the authority in 2009 for $590 for his work as a project consultant. They didn't agree with him keeping his own hours, and when the issue was brought up with the authority, the members immediately revoked payment and moved on.
Swatski did not return a phone call Thursday for comment.
Council also clarified the term lengths of each member, as it was not officially known until Matulewicz reviewed years of minutes.
Swatski's term expired Dec. 31, 2011. Matulewicz's term will expire Dec. 31, 2017.
The term of Robert Barrett, who is also a borough councilman, expired Dec. 31, 2012, but council members voted to renew it. His new term will expire Dec. 31, 2016.
The terms of Glenn Wetzel and Raymond Rothermel will expire Dec. 31; the terms of John Buccanelli and Lawrence Czeponis Sr. will expire Dec. 31, 2014; and the term of Robert Shirmer, who is also a borough councilman, will expire Dec. 31, 2015.
The motion to clarify the terms and appoint membership was made and seconded by Councilman Lapotsky and Gary Hixson Jr. It passed unanimously 6-0.