Lucas resigns; board divided

LEWISTOWN – Lewistown Borough Manager Connie Lucas announced during a regularly scheduled council meeting Monday that she will resign her position effective Sept. 6.

Lucas’ announcement was met with mixed responses from council members. She has served as borough manager for the last 14 months.

In a four-to-three roll call vote, the board rejected her formal resignation, however Borough Solicitor Jeffrey Snook said Lucas was not bound by the vote and could do as she pleases.

Lucas’ resignation clearly displayed a schism within the board, with Board President Russ Rager, Vice President Greg O’Donnell and Councilmen Larry Searer and Lee Bollinger rejecting her resignation. Councilmen John Adams, Matt Moore and Justin Trego voted in favor of accepting the resignation.

Rager even tried a last ditch effort to get Lucas to stay, but she declined.

Searer briefly lashed out at Rager for not doing enough to encourage Lucas to stay on, calling Rager “the worst board president.”

Searer also said the board would not find anyone better than Lucas to serve as borough manager.

Lewistown Mayor Deb Bargo voiced her appreciation for Lucas’ service to the borough during her tenure as borough manager.

Searer said Lucas’ resignation was going to create significant issues for the borough and Rager agreed, given the need to produce a new budget in the not too distant future.

Rager said it will a be a big challenge for the board to produce a budget without a borough manager.

Adding to the drama of the resignation, which occurred as the last item on the agenda for the evening, the board adjourned before appointing an interim to replace Lucas. The next Lewistown Borough Council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 9, at which point there is not expected to be a borough manager in place.

Earlier during the meeting, Lewistown Fire Chief Bob McCaa spoke to a proposed fire ordinance the board had been mulling over for some time and was on the agenda for a vote.

McCaa’s concerns stem from language in a portion of this particular ordinance, which he and some other firefighters who attended the meeting feel may have lowered the bar when seeking out someone to replace him as chief, as well as other firefighting positions that may need to be filled in the future. McCaa previously announced his intention to retire.

McCaa said this portion of the ordinance would not be good for the borough.

“(This ordinance) can’t make it better, let’s not make it worse,” he said.

Searer said the board should take McCaa’s advice and revisit the ordinance.

The board unanimously agreed to send the ordinance back to committee for revision. Both the Fire Committee and Law and Ordinance Committee are expected to meet and hammer out a new provision to this ordinance. These committees are comprised of board members as well as firefighters.

Also on the agenda was a proposal to spend Community Development Block Grant funding on some road repairs in the borough, including the parking area for the main branch of the Mifflin County Library.

Director of the library, Molly Kinney gave an impassioned plea to the board, stating that the conditions of the parking lot had become dangerous to the public and if the board was not going to tackle this project, they should close the parking lot.

The board did approve the project, along with several other street projects in the borough.

Other items approved by the board include the following:

The council approved the minutes from their Aug. 12 meeting,

Proposals for computer programming services from Gannett Fleming for the Waste Water Treatment Plant related to the current construction,

Scanner maintenance agreement,

Rec park swimming pool exoneration for the sewer bill,

Friends of the Embassy Theatre – exoneration for sewer and refuse bill in the amount of $52.52,

Stoneroad Court sanitary sewer issues- the board agreed to discuss the matter with the four property owners this matter effects,

Authorization to survey and create sanitary and storm water easements for a private alley belonging to Max Corkins,

Authorization to perform a survey for sewer purposes on Woods Lane,

Authorization to advertise the Fair Housing Notice as part of the 2013 CDBG Application,

Authorization to reallocate 2012 CDBG funds from the Housing Rehab project to street improvements, and

Resolution 2013-18 – Appoint Howard Foss to the Parking Authority for a term of five years beginning June 1, 2013.