Tracy Slater (above, left) and Dawn Bluhm invite members of the Laceyville Business Association and other community-minded individuals to meet at the borough building on Tuesday, May 8 to discuss the fate of the organization and ways to ensure that popular seasonal events will continue in the borough.
Photos and Story by Rick Hiduk
(Also published in the Rocket-Courier)
Sometimes, organizations created with the best of intentions don’t stand the test of time, and that seems to be the case for the Laceyville Business Association (LBA). At one time, the efforts of its members paralleled work done by the borough’s council and employees to erect and maintain street lights, signs, and landscaping and conduct a variety of seasonal events. Community Day, an annual summer street fair, will not be held this year, and remaining members of the Association are looking for ways to prevent other events from folding.
The potential demise of the LBA goes beyond the Halloween parade and haunted house, Easter egg hunt, and Christmas decorations on Main Street. A relatively new borough council is scrambling to gain control of situations that were once handled by dedicated volunteers but with little or no oversight by the council.
Mayor Phil Brewer related that, while borough officials always appreciated what the Association did, communication between the two entities was poor. “It was a lack of teamwork,” he suggested. As some businesses in the borough have closed and other business owners have retired or stepped down for personal reasons, any cohesiveness that the Association once had has been lost.
LBA vice president Dawn Bluhm and member Tracy Slater approached the council at their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday and asked for suggestions. The last time they tried to hold an Association meeting, only three people showed up, which did not represent a quorum. Bluhm has been unsuccessful in searching for the Association’s official records, including bylaws. A tub assumed to hold the information was discovered to hold only lists of volunteers, fliers from past events, and photos – “lots of memories,” as Bluhm put it, but no documentation.
“We know how you feel,” council president Randy Brigham replied. “We’re starting from scratch too.”
Borough secretary Courtney Salsman agreed, noting that the council was never fully aware for what tasks the Business Association assumed responsibility.
Brigham said that he stumbled upon a back-up supply of lamp posts and glass globes for Main Street in the basement of the hardware store and has learned of items stored at other homes and businesses. Jeanne DeRemer contacted the borough recently to let officials know that she had taken the banners home last fall to hand-wash and store them and wondered if the borough would like for her to put them back up. Brigham admits that the borough has no central storage facility, and council member Kristi Fassett suggested that the items are safer where they are now.
The borough also learned that the Association had always maintained the grassy areas near the river bridge and around the Laceyville signs on Route 6, which council members would have included in their 2018 budget had they known. They are wondering what else might be left undone and where other supplies might be kept.
Brewer and the council members were unanimous in their sentiment that it is not up to the borough to dissolve the LBA nor to assume its previous responsibilities. They encouraged Bluhm and Slater to make another attempt at bringing together all interested parties to see what could be salvaged of the Association or to create a new group that would keep the popular holiday events going.
“There’s no sense in trying to feed something that’s going to die in a few weeks,” said Brigham. “Whoever and whatever the Association is needs to be more cohesive and needs a mission statement. It may fall under a different name.”
“I think it’s good for the town of Laceyville to have something,” Brewer stated.
“We do not want these events to end,” council member Henry Laboranti concurred, noting that he would support whatever plan Bluhm and Slater could bring back to the board after considering all options.
“It’s good for the community’s spirit,” Bluhm remarked, agreeing to host a meeting at the borough office on Tuesday, May 8 at 5:30 pm.
Sewer Shutoffs Imminent
AnnMarie Ruane of the Laceyville Sewer Authority presented the board with a list of 12 customers with significantly overdue bills and asked that water service to their homes be terminated as soon as possible. “The list has gotten bigger and so have the amounts,” she stated, noting that some of the delinquent bills are higher than $5,000. “There’s a lot of money out there, and the sewer plant is getting old.” Even the smallest parts of the 24-year old facility can cost thousands of dollars each to replace, and the emergency fund is depleted.
While he didn’t disagree with her request, Brigham was cautious in his approach to the situation. “We’ll have to keep an eye on this because shutting off water can lead to other problems,” he remarked.
Ruane was undaunted and insisted that only the borough’s full cooperation would help the authority gain control of the situation. “We manage our money very well,” she told the board. “We have never operated in the red, and we don’t want to.”
Fassett was willing to go along with Ruane’s request but encouraged her to consider all options for collection of overdue payments and to consider offering monthly, rather than quarterly installments, even if a finance fee had to be assessed.
“You want to keep them as customers,” Brigham agreed.
Final notices will soon be posted on the doors of the 12 residences and no further warnings issued. Ruane asked if Officer Kevin Costello could escort her to at least one home where there are several large dogs, which he agreed to do.
Mowing Bid Accepted
Council members received four bids for mowing in the borough this year and were happy to award the contract to Shey Sterling and Laceyville Lawn Care since grass has suddenly started growing quickly.
The first thing to be mowed will be the ball fields at Donovan Park, which sparked another lively conversation. The old bleachers there are unsafe for anyone to be on, and Brigham reported that someone had torn off the caution tape that he had applied a few days prior. He has since spray painted danger warnings on them, but council agreed that they simply need to be removed from the park as soon as possible. It was also agreed that any organizations planning to use the park need to register with the borough and show proof of insurance to cover their activities there.