Photos and story by Rick Hiduk
(Also published in the Rocket-Courier)
This past year produced excessive rains and intermittent flash flooding that pushed Laceyville residents and authorities to the limit. So, it was not surprising to learn that borough council president Randy Brigham had been taking a serious look at tractors and other maintenance equipment over the past month. The borough had also purchased a used cargo crate for the storage of equipment and emergency signage acquired during 2019.
Brigham had noted since the spring that the borough didn’t even own a shovel, let alone have a maintenance crew nor plan to deal with the ongoing issues like flooding and erosion. Steadily, the council members have come together in the course of these mini disasters to accumulate a number of tools and begin to speak in more long-range terms of ways to better take care of Laceyville.
Tuesday evening’s meeting was technically a public preliminary budget review. Not only were there no residents in attendance and only one member of the media, council members and treasurer Kenneth Johnson agreed that some information that was not available during a recent budget workshop had yet to be plugged in to the draft that was distributed on Nov. 7, a copy of which was given to the Rocket-Courier.
That said, not much was discussed on the budget other than a confirmation by the board that there would be no increase in taxes in the coming year. Council also agreed to conduct another workshop within in the next few weeks to fill in some blanks and round out the edges of the rough document they had so far produced.
As one compared numbers from the past two years and projections for 2019, however, what becomes immediately apparent is a lack of figures in the columns associated with the police department. A used police cruiser was purchased and upgraded for the borough this past year, and Officer Kevin Costello (below) was given a promised raise when the vehicle became available. Nonetheless, some residents in town questioned the need for the department in lieu of the budget crisis. Tari Trowbridge told council in July that she was unconvinced of its value.
Looking at an average annual budget for the borough of about $150,000 and the amount budgeted for the police department, she said, “I don’t feel that we’re getting $73,000 worth of effectiveness.” The figures represent combined amounts that include Costello’s salary, the vehicle, and other supplies. Noting the routine presence of a State Police patrolman in the borough, Trowbridge added, “It’s not like we don’t have any police protection in town.”
When asked on Wednesday morning by the Rocket-Courier about the apparent lack of proposed funding for the police department in 2019, Brigham stated, “We’re not at the point where we can make a statement. We’re really trying to get our numbers together, and we don’t want to speak too soon.”
More on Maintenance
Council approved a request by Brigham to bid on some used equipment that he has already tested that will be available at an auction in a few weeks. Compared to even the best prices the borough has been offered for newer equipment by several dealers in Bradford County, council is hopeful that a successful bid will save them money in the long run on both purchases and being able to perform more of their own maintenance.
Whichever 30-to-40 horsepower tractor the borough buys, a mowing deck, bucket and back lathe were also deemed priorities by the council. A backhoe and fork could be added later, Brigham remarked. “We can use shovels until then.”
A grant application for the replacement of the Franklin Street bridge has been submitted for review. Council has been working with Lehman Associates of Altoona to secure a grant that will fully cover the cost of replacement with no monetary match from the borough. Few residents in the borough have expressed any concern about the closure of the bridge last spring, but council learned that it would cost more to demolish it than to replace it.
A price tag has yet to be put on a permanent remediation for the poor drainage under Main Street that was the catalyst to flooding issues throughout the summer, nor has the borough been able to secure an engineer who could devise a plan for the diversion of storm runoff that deludes the west end of town.
In light of recent news that Wyoming County has a surplus of liquid fuels funds for bridge and road repair that is meant by PennDOT to be distributed to municipalities, council members agreed to fine tune their estimates and visit the county commissioners soon with a request for funding for their most needed projects.
Park Plans Forthcoming
Council member Henry Laboranti indicated that a “beautification plan” will be unveiled early in the new year and that residents can expect improvements to the ball park on the opposite side of the river and other green spaces in an effort to provide attractive recreational areas for residents and visitors.
In addition to playground equipment, Laboranti hopes to add picnic tables and benches to Donovan Park in the coming year, as well as make improvements to the boat launch there.
“We’ve gotten some really nice feedback from the people that we would like to see that,” Laboranti related. “Our vision is for a miniature state park.”