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Residents vying for seat on council

At the March 6 Catasauqua Borough Council committee meetings, the names of the six candidates for the empty council seat were announced.

Councilman Paul Cmil was voted out of council at the Feb. 20 meeting after evidence proved he moved out of the borough. According to the borough code, a council member must reside in the borough to serve on the council.

The borough residents interested in serving on council are Jonathan Fenstermaker, Virginia Schlegel, Tara Nicholas, Tammi Hauser, Robert Zakos Jr. and Richard Carrano.

The candidates will address council at the March 20 meeting to make their arguments as to why they deserve the seat. After the council members have the opportunity to ask questions, they will make nominations and vote.

In other business at the committee meetings, borough Manager Glenn Eckhart reported they are in the middle of doing a cellphone audit for the borough. He noted there are 65 billable numbers in the borough, costing about $2,500 monthly.

The audit has shown about 20 of the numbers have no activity. Eckhart said the next step is to check in and see if those numbers are needed and, if not, eliminate them.

The general government committee discussed the codification of borough ordinances and codes. The cost for this service is not to exceed $3,685. Eckhart noted the official codification has not been done in four years.

The public work committee report included a discussion of reviewing water tapping fees. The engineer report also noted these fees need to be updated to more realistic numbers. It was mentioned the current numbers reflect pre-COVID-19 times.

In the planning and zoning committee report, Councilwoman Jill Smerdon mentioned concerns about what she called the “sober house” on Walnut Street having more beds than permissible. Also, she noted the ordinance requiring junk yards to be enclosed with opaque fencing is not being followed.

Eckhart noted these issues are being looked into by the new code enforcement officer.

It was also noted some residents have made complaints about neighbors putting their garbage out early. Eckhart reported the next round of garbage bills will include a notice reminding residents of the ordinance detailing when it is permissible to put out their trash.

It was also questioned whether Mascaro is picking up when it is supposed to. It was mentioned residents are noticing later pickup times.

Eckhart said he will look into the contract but said he believes staffing issues may be part of the reason for the delay.

During the public safety committee report, Eckhart noted they are still working on finalizing the new rates for part-time police officers. He said they are hoping to present something to council at the next meeting.

Eckhart also noted he will be attending a preliminary hearing regarding the recent vandalism on the municipal building. He said he is seeking restitution for the hours and efforts required to clean it up.

Smerdon said she’s been approached by residents about police officers parking in the Sheckler Elementary School parking lot. Police Chief Doug Kish said those officers are doing paperwork. It was asked if they could be doing their paperwork somewhere else.

Additionally, there are two requests for handicapped parking spots on Church Street. Council Vice President Howard Cunningham said he would like to hear Kish’s recommendation before council votes on the issue at the next meeting.

Regarding recreation, it was noted donations for the summer concerts continue to come in, and they are starting to look at scheduling. It was reported they have received about $10,000 so far, which is about half of the goal.

The topic of having food and/or beer trucks at the parks during the concerts was mentioned. Eckhart said they are working with the solicitor to craft agreements for the vendors. He noted they are planning to have 15% of proceeds go back to the borough as part of the agreement.

Zakos questioned if there will be a police presence during these concerts, especially if there is going to be alcohol sold, as a matter of public safety. His suggestion would be taken into consideration.

There was discussion about the summer program through Suburban North Family YMCA. Eckhart noted the cost breakdown was reasonable, and logistics to run the program without the YMCA would be considerable. Smerdon said she wanted to be sure the program, being paid for by the borough, is only open to borough children.

Eckhart also noted he is looking into a park revitalization grant that might help with the pool area. His research into taking out the current pool and refilling the area found the process is costly, but grant funding can help.

After the committee meetings, council convened for a special meeting to vote on two items.

The first was awarding a request for proposal for a strategic management program proposal to Ryan Hottenstein, of FSL Public Finance LLC. Eckhart noted the request was advertised, but this was the only response.

The second approval was to authorize the remainder of the payment for the new generator at the wastewater treatment plant. The payment, in the amount of $24,712.50, was authorized for Martin Energy. The generator is expected to be shipped shortly.

After business, council heard from a resident asking about parking concerns. He noted there is a handicapped parking space in the 600 block of Third Street for a resident who has since died. He said parking is tight on the street and noted the reserved space is no longer needed.

He also raised concerns about parking permits and limits. He said a neighbor has about eight cars, and a number of them do not move. He also shared concerns about a commercial trailer taking up space.

The resident said he does not want to bother the police officers on duty with parking complaints, so he brought his concerns to council. It was noted they are working on an ordinance to address unattached trailers parked on roads. Eckhart took notes about the other concerns and said they would look into it.

Mary Beth Finnerty, borough administrative assistant, reported she is working on a survey of the handicapped spaces in the borough to check the validity of the current reserved spaces.

Before council convened for executive session, Eckhart reported there had been an error in the original meeting schedule. The April business meeting will be held April 24, the fourth Monday of the month.

The next borough council meeting will be held 7 p.m. March 20 in the municipal complex, 90 Bridge St.