Berrier: Taxpayers deserve an answer

LEWISTOWN — Questions remain after the termination of Scott Welham’s employment as Lewistown Borough manager last month.

During Monday night’s meeting of the Lewistown Borough Council, councilman Frank Berrier, who was out of town and missed the May meeting, demanded an explanation.

“What do you have to hide?” he asked council.

Vice President Dave Campbell said Welham was terminated as the result of “multiple personnel issues that compiled” over time. However, he and his fellow councilmen offered Berrier no specific details, saying the reasons are confidential and should only be discussed during executive session.

Berrier demanded more, insisting that both he and taxpayers deserve an answer.

“I’m not going to let this drop,” he said.

Berrier also asked for clarification regarding a bill set to be approved as part of the night’s consent agenda. He highlighted a $195 locksmith charge, which he indicated may be related to Welham’s termination. Berrier said Campbell called one day prior to council’s May meeting to request the locksmith’s services. This indicated, Berrier suggested, that a decision was made outside of council, prior to the meeting, to terminate Welham’s employment.

Campbell said locks were not changed a day prior to the meeting, as Berrier suggested.

Discussion of the matter ended as council President Venus Shade called for the order of the day.

The meeting also included deliberation over parking meters throughout the borough.

Josh Garver, of the Mifflin County Correctional Facility, expressed concern with the short time limit on meters.

“(MCCF) staff cannot get out to (pay) their parking meters,” he said, explaining that the facility employs 12 people per shift who are responsible for supervising about 150 inmates.

Employees have two short breaks during their shifts and do not have time to leave the building and pay their meters, resulting in parking tickets. Garver said MCCF staff cannot use other parking areas in town, specifically the library lot, because their vehicles have been targeted and vandalized in the past.

“I’m not asking not to pay,” he said.

Garver suggested making eight-hour meters available or offering quarterly passes.

Councilman Larry Searer said adding more eight or 12-hour meters for the jail may not be fair; other entities would likely want them too. Berrier added the purpose of parking meters is to encourage turnover and help business.

Shirley Briggs, a resident of West Third Street, stood to petition the council for more relaxed meter enforcement.

“I’ve lived in Lewistown for many years,” she said, later specifying that she moved to the area in 1971.

The previous enforcement officer didn’t issue tickets on Saturdays or after 4 p.m. on weekdays, she said. Tickets are now being issued during those times, despite a declining population of local businesses, she said. Briggs also told council it is her opinion that handicapped residents should not have to pay for parking.

Marlene Anderson, who has owned a business on Valley Street for 49 years, said she hasn’t heard many complaints about parking in the borough, until recently. She cited problems with meters steaming up and not working, resulting in tickets for residents who have already paid their share. She also said elderly residents may be at risk of falling while feeding meters frequently in inclement weather. Additionally, some of the services offered at her business take longer than the meter allows.

“I can give you a whole list (of concerns),” she said.

Campbell said Lewistown’s Law and Ordinance committee has been in discussion about how to best serve the community as it relates to parking meters. Short term, the committee may do away with Saturday enforcement simply by changing the enforcement officer’s schedule. Long term changes to ordinances are under evaluation, but will require further analysis and preparation, he said.

Also during the meeting, council approved:

¯ Minutes of the May 13 meeting, Law and Ordinance meeting on May 16 and Finance meeting on May 23.

¯ Treasurer’s report.

¯ Payment of borough, specialty, refuse, wastewater collection and treatment and state liquid fuels bills.

¯ Receipt of tax collector’s report and commissions.

¯ Facility use forms for Friends of the Embassy Theatre Inc., Let Freedom Ring Concert and Liberty Fest, June 28-29, rain date of June 30, contingent upon fees being paid; farmer’s market for June through November; Juniata River Valley Chamber fireworks display, June 29, rain date of June 30; Lumina Center, water day for Rainbow Summer, June 26; Lewistown Panther Football and Cheer organization, June 15 to Nov. 30, contingent upon receiving liability insurance.

¯ Receipt of Fame meeting minutes from May and response statistics from April; Comcast letter; Downtown Lewistown Inc. information; municipal authority audit; Mifflin County Parks and Recreation Council minutes; Juniata River Trail Phase 2 information; letter from Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board; PA Department of Transportation letter meeting minutes for SR 0022 Sextion 722 project; PennDOT bridge replacement letter; assessment change for 672 and 674 Valley St.; Municipal Authority Operation and Maintenance Waterworks System calendar year 2018 engineer’s annual report; Keystone Collections Group financial reports for 2017 and 2018; and Mifflin County Commissioners letter regarding maintenance for the cemetery at Third and Juniata streets.

¯ Emma McClure’s wedding reception, Oct. 26, with alcohol.

¯ Matt Kreider and Katlyn Weaver’s wedding reception, Aug. 10, with alcohol.

¯ Rec Park pool fee of $1 per child for Children of the Ark.

¯ Back to School party, July 23.

¯ Adoption of school resource officer agreement with Mifflin County School District.

¯ Hiring of three summer interns for streets.

¯ Execution of HRI Field Site Agreement, which allows utilization of South Main and Elizabeth streets during construction.

¯ Execution of the highway occupancy permit for Valley Street, allowing engineers to finish their design.

¯ Release of CDBG funds for 2016 and 2017.

¯ Bidding of 672 to 674 Valley St., with a $4,000 reserve placed on bids.

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