SHAMOKIN - City council opted Monday to take advantage of a state law that reduces its obligation to an employee pension plan and should pad city coffers for the next two years.

The city will be allowed to reduce by 25 percent its contribution to its minimal municipal obligation (MMO) in 2013 and 2014, freeing up approximately $45,000 annually between its general fund and debt service fund.

About 10 retirees from the city police department are in the MMO, said Steve Bartos, city clerk.

The short-term relief is provided for in a law enacted in September 2009 to ease the financial burdens experienced by many municipalities across Pennsylvania.

William Strausser, city councilman, said a healthy stock market could further ease the MMO obligations in the years to come.

The city's account balance as of Oct. 1 was $310,536.55, including $212,737.53 in the general fund and $4,961.23 in the recreation fund, according to a monthly financial statement prepared by Brenda Scandle, city treasurer.

City council will set aside at least $1 from those accounts to purchase a vacant lot on North Shamokin Street, the site of a building collapse earlier this summer.

The asking price for the property at repository sale is $1.

The parcels at 709-715 N. Shamokin St., a former health spa, will be purchased from Northumberland County Tax Claims.

That building began to collapse in June and an emergency order was issued by the city to tear it down. A stalemate ensued between the city and a private contractor over the scope of work and a resulting $94,500 demolition invoice which has not yet been resolved.

Requirements for advertising and seeking contract bids for the work were negated since the situation is under emergency order, Theresa Elliot, deputy press secretary, Department of Community and Economic Development, told The News-Item in August.

Municipal entities are required to seek bids for work exceeding $18,500 under legislation signed into law in November 2011. The threshold had been $10,000 prior to that.

Those bid requirements are in effect for a project at Mill Road Square, North Franklin Street.

Two firms submitted bids to the city, which were opened at council's workshop session on Wednesday. However, council opted to reject the bids and re-advertise for renovation work at the last vacant storefront at the building, which will soon be occupied.

Bognet Inc., Hazle Township, submitted a bid for $162,765, while Moore Renovations, Coal Township, submitted a bid for $118,980.

R. Craig Rhoades, city councilman, said the bids were rejected because Bognet's exceeded the city's budget and Moore's bid bond was inadequate, perhaps due to clerical error.

Rhoades said council will discuss with the Shamokin Redevelopment Authority the possibility of dropping the bid bond request altogether.

Moore Renovations was awarded a much smaller contract Monday night.

City council approved a contract not to exceed $6,100 to complete plumbing work on bathrooms, excluding fixtures, in the basement of the American Legion Building. The basement is being renovated for a new community center.

Please reconsider

Roxanna Wright, co-owner of Ye Olde Coin Shoppe in downtown Shamokin, pleaded to city council to reconsider a plan to implement a local ordinance governing the trade of used goods such as precious coins and metals.

State laws she described as strict are already enacted to help prevent the resale of stolen goods, such as jewelry, and additional legislation would only bog down the enforcement of such laws.

The city's proposal which, among other provisions, would require items bought by a secondhand dealer be stored on site for 14 days, will cripple her business, she said, citing the potential market fluctuation in that time span.

"We're trying to be a legitimate, honest and ethical business in the community," she said.

She said there are 16 outlets outside the city for secondhand jewelry and metals to be traded, including visiting dealers which advertise in The News-Item, that can't be held accountable to the proposal.

Her family, including her husband and co-owner, Richard, spend money locally and operate a storefront that could go empty under the rules of the proposed ordinance. They have video surveillance at the store and photocopy customer's photo identification, and have cooperated in the past with city police to apprehend people who have attempted to sell stolen jewelry, including a case involving goods stolen from councilman Rhoades.

The city passed a preliminary version of the ordinance in August, but have not yet passed a final version.

Police report

For the month of September, city officers filed 30 criminal complaints; issued 22 traffic and 32 non-traffic citations, 53 parking citations, eight written warnings, 186 parking tickets, 81 street sweeper tickets and seven code violation tickets; responded to 1,581 calls, and patrolled 5,264 miles.

Fire report

Members of the Shamokin Fire Bureau responded to 32 calls in September, including five structure fires, two minor fires, two inside investigations, five outside investigations, six motor vehicle accidents, one rescue assignment, one standby assignment, six automatic alarms, two public service details, one traffic control and one medical assist. So far this year, bureau members responded to 245 calls.

Code report

The city code officer, Rick Bozza, received 43 calls, made 51 property visits with communication or visual checks in September, issued 13 citations and three written warnings, and responded to three walk-in complaints, one police call, two fire calls and two health inspections.

The code office generated $5,540 in revenue last month: building permits, $736; Dumpster permits, $450; excavating, $2,900; health inspections, $200; landlord registration, $250; paid parking, $459; restricted parking, $160; reserved parking, $10; peddlers permit, $50; code violations tickets, $325.

Other business

City council also:

- Approved an additional 50 hours of work from architect Baer Wolfe, not to exceed $2,100. The firm had been preparing specifications for infrastructure improvements at the American Legion Building;

- Voted to block off Spruce Street from Market to Sixth streets from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday for the Xtra Point Poker Run and Pig Roast, an organizer of which, Matthew Renn, told council members that all proceeds would benefit the Shamokin Youth Football League and its teams;

- Approved the county tax claims' latest repository sales list, which is available on the department's section of the county website,;

- Voted to seek an arrangement with PPL to do a free energy audit on all city buildings to find areas where upgrades could be made at a short-term cost to realize long-time savings in energy spending. Coal Township has already had the energy audit done on its buildings;

- Discussed finalizing a rental fee schedule for Claude Kehler Community Park;

- Heard from William Milbrand, city councilman, who said he thought the Fifth Street Playground would make for a good spot for an outdoor street hockey rink proposed by the Northumberland County Street Hockey League;

- Heard from Michael Snyder, city councilman, who said the city's street sweeper has undergone repair and is back in operation after its hydraulic system was damaged;

- Appointed Barb Moyer, Jeff Fromm, Matt Losiewicz and Tim Vincent to the planning board. The five-person board had been vacant. A fifth appointment is expected at an upcoming meeting as a vacancy on the zoning board is also filled.