LEWISTOWN – Several members of the public expressed concern at the Lewistown County Council’s monthly meeting of the municipality on Wednesday that this will allow the Lewistown County Council to take over authority.
When asked directly by Lewistown-based Mark Baker what the benefits of a loan refinancing ordinance recently passed by Lewistown Borough Council earlier this month would be for the agency’s interest payers, Chairman Ben Rager made a number of points, including debt servicing reductions and debt servicing the reduction of legal fees. Directors’ attorney David Gaines added that if action is ultimately taken it will have no impact on MABL’s annual budget.
Rager was then asked by Baker if there was any type of agreement and, if so, what type of agreement he had with the county regarding his appointment to the board.
Gaines intervened, saying that Lewistown Borough Council had legally appointed members to the MABL board and that he could not speculate as to why they picked the members they did and referred those questions to the county.
“I also think this whole process is, in my opinion, unethical.” Said Baker. “I think it smells like arrogance and I think it shows a lack of consideration for the opinions of elected officials from the townships of Armagh, Brown, Derry, Granville and Union, and from Burnham Borough, Juniata Terrace and the Mifflin County Commissioners as the ones Interest payers concerned about this problem. “
Bill Gomes, the president of the Mifflin County Municipal Authority, asked Gaines if he was representing MABL or both the county and MABL. He also asked the board whether the review of the Lewistown Borough ordinance would only consider the financial benefits to MABL or both MABL and Lewistown Borough.
Gaines said he only represents MABL and that the MABL board had retained a bond attorney who was unable to attend Wednesday’s meeting due to an a “Major Health Problem” that would prevent them from discussing it for now, but when the action is considered, MABL will only consider its own finances.
In other business areas, the board received a report from General Manager Craig Bubb on upgrading the aqueduct serving the Juniata Terrace Borough. Bubb said he had reached out to Norfolk Southern and the Pennsylvania Railroad to replace the aqueduct that runs under the railroad tracks, but he got the impression that this would essentially be one “Impossibility.”
Bubb and engineer Pat Ward suggested doing a video inspection of the existing pipe. If the water pipe is in good enough shape, the agency could install one “Slip lining” in the pipe that would significantly extend its service life and efficiency. Ward told the board that if the pipe deteriorates too much and a new main line is needed, MABL may need to contact the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to suspend the aqueduct from the existing road bridge over the tracks, a far more difficult and expensive option.
“I think it’s a no-brainer” Board member Frank Berrier noted the slip liner option.
With a 3-0 vote, the board passed a motion to begin the video inspection process and see if slip-lining was a viable option. Board members Jeff Rocco and Barry Bargo were absent.
Office manager Deanna Hassinger reported on individuals with criminal accounts who are at risk of being suspended or on individuals whose service may have already been interrupted. There was an emergency relief program that she would work with the county to get direct payments to utilities. Rager asked how people would use the program, and Hassinger said she was working on getting more details on how the system worked.
Also on Wednesday, the board of directors:
¯ Submit a payment to law firms Tucker Arensberg of $ 1,311.66 and Cozen O’Conner of $ 9,189.71 pending attorney review. Tucker Arensberg is the law firm that former attorney Timothy Searer is affiliated with. Cozen worked for MABL on bond issues and was part of the team that battled the lawsuit. These invoices are from December before the current card configuration.
¯ Approved a grant agreement for the Pa. Coalition for Oral Health, made available by the Pennsylvania Department of Health through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health for new equipment to add fluoride to water supplies. MABL must prepay the full cost, but the grant would reimburse MABL for the associated costs.
¯Passed Resolution 3-2021 ending all legal services through Cozen O’Conner.
¯ Approved the reallocation of the Conrad Siegel pension fund.
¯ Approved a motion calling on the Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association to forward all 2018, 2019, and 2020 records to the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs for an Unemployment Compensation Foundation offer.
¯ Approved an application that started the approval process for the Valley Street Project. Bubb noted that the project is complicated as it requires working with PennDOT and Verizon, which has fiber optic lines in this area.
The Lewistown Borough Council meets every third Wednesday of the month at 1:00 p.m. at MABL headquarters in Lewistown. The next meeting is planned for April 21st.
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