Lewistown Borough Council adopts 2014 budget

LEWISTOWN – The Lewistown Borough Council adopted the 2014 budget Monday night during its last scheduled meeting of 2013.

The 2014 budget did not include a tax increase. The millage rate will stay at 15.831 mills. Council member Gregg O’Donnell said the budget is “very tight this year.”

“We as a finance committee did our best to keep things under control,” O’Donnell said.

A notable difference in the budget is the there is money set aside to create a position at the Lewistown Police Department. This position would be for someone to act in an assistant capacity to Chief William Herkert.

O’Donnell told the council this position is something that the personnel committee has been talking about, but insisted that nothing is set in stone.

“We decided to set aside the money just in case we decide to hire someone,” O’Donnell said.

If the money is not used for the hiring of a position, then the money will become a surplus in the budget. The budget passed with council member Larry Searer casting the only dissenting vote.

Prior to adjournment of the meeting council member Lee Bollinger presented the council with a letter of resignation.

“I am resigning from this position, because of other obligations I have,” Bollinger said.

Council president Russ Rager asked Bollinger to reconsider and to “sleep on it,” but Bollinger said he wanted an answer during the meeting.

The vote ended in a tie with council members John Adams, Larry Searer, Justin Trego casting votes to accept the resignation and council members Matt Moore, O’Donnell, Rager casting votes against accepting the resignation. Mayor Deborah Bargo had to break the tie, and voted to accept Bollinger’s resignation.

Bollinger had been re-elected to the council for another term, which means the council now has 30 days to fill the position.

Prior to the executive session and Bollinger’s resignation, Searer presented a letter to the council, which he wrote.

“As an elected member of Lewistown Borough Council, I feel obligated to inform the taxpayers of the Lewistown Borough how some of their tax dollars are being spent,” Searer wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Sentinel.

In the letter, Searer expresses his disagreement with policies regarding public use of the Community Center and the Rec Park swimming pool, pointing out that borough residents have to rent the community center even though it is operated and maintained with tax money from the borough and that Lewistown residents must pay the same rates to use the Rec Park pool as the general public, even though borough tax money is used to help maintain that facility.

Searer wrote that the council appointed borough manger John White upon the recommendation of the mayor. Both the mayor and O’Donnell said this was not the case and refuted Searer saying White was hired based on his experiences and not “who he knows.”

Searer also touched on a variety of other topics including the handling of pension money owed to Mifflin County Regional Police Department and procedural issues within the council.

White presented some of the new updates the borough offices have received including a new security system, a protected Wi-Fi system and monitors showing a loop of messages to visitors. He also said the borough and LPD are talking with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation about updating some of the borough’s traffic lights.

The council will hold an organizational meeting at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 6. Following that meeting the council will regularly meet at 5:30 p.m. on the second Monday of each month during 2014 at the borough municipal building at 2 E. Third St.