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Council discusses committee chair responsibilities

At the Jan. 4 Catasauqua Borough Council meeting, borough Manager Steven Travers reported the borough municipal complex remains closed because of potential COVID-19 community virus spread.

Councilmember Debra Mellish shared a concern there might not be enough financial oversight of borough bill payments if council members cannot view them because of the borough office closure.

Travers noted a council member would be allowed into the borough building to review bills and sign them. There are some bills a council committee chair must sign in order for the bills to be paid.

Travers also said he would have the bills delivered, if necessary, to a council member’s home for review and sign-off. Without naming committee chairs, Mellish suggested some bills might not be getting scrutinized enough to provide proper oversight.

Council President Vincent Smith said there is nothing in the borough code requiring a committee chair to read and respond thoroughly to an invoice the chair is required to review and sign.

He pointed out the borough hall closure is a response to mitigating the virus in the Catasauqua municipal complex.

Smith then directed Solicitor Roxann Steelman to review the borough code for guidance regarding committee chair duties.

Steelman noted there is nothing in the borough code specifically directing committee chairs on how they conduct their review of the invoices or bills they are required to sign.

In other business, council adopted, by a 4-2 vote, the ordinance establishing the 2021 tax rate of 7.35 mills. Councilmen Brian Bartholomew and Paul Cmil voted against the tax rate.

A second ordinance to institute a grant anticipation loan was passed. The goal is to facilitate the use of the $3.5 million grant already awarded to Catasauqua for the Iron Works project.

Bartholomew asked if additional grant dollars will be awarded to Catasauqua. Smith said he is confident more grant funding will be provided.

Council Vice President Brian McKittrick motioned to reappoint Fire Chief Richard Hertzog Jr. as the Catasauqua Fire Department chief throughout 2021. The motion passed unanimously.

In response to the reappointment of Hertzog, Travers voiced an appreciation for what Hertzog has done with his fire team, the amount of training hours and man-hours of the squad in the station and on calls.

Having an average of 11 firefighters responding to a fire call is “unheard of in fire service. [Hertzog] is doing a fine job there,” Travers said.

Additional business voted on, including three resolutions involving the 2021 fee schedule for refuse, water and sewer rates; the senior citizen full payment refuse discount; and the appointment of the delinquent real estate tax collectors, were all passed. The fee schedule resolution was passed 6-1, with Cmil opposing. The other two passed 7-0.

Councilman Cameron Smith reminded council the recently opened Willow Street parking lot, currently being used by residents, is to be developed as permit parking only. COVID-19 distractions have slowed that process.

Mellish indicated committee meetings need to remain virtual due to the continued COVID-19 community spread.

The public safety and general government committees have canceled meetings for January due to COVID-19. It is unclear if the recreation, public works and public utilities committees will meet.

The next Catasauqua Borough Council meeting is 7 p.m. Jan. 25. It is a workshop meeting and will be virtual.

Contact the borough office or visit catasauqua.org for the call-in number and access codes.