Meshoppen Residents Demand ‘Jake Brake’ Ordinance
By D.C. Koviack
Residents attended the regular meeting of the Meshoppen Borough Council on Monday night and demanded that council initiate a “no engine brake” ordinance and erect signs. The subject has been raised at previous meetings, but never before have residents come to speak on the subject.
“Meshoppen Borough needs a Jake Brake Ordinance,” said borough resident Herb Bevan. Bevan lives on Auburn Street in the borough. “It’s just a couple of odds and ends, not the regular guys going up and down the hill,” countered Council President John Bunnell. However, Bunnell promised Bevan he would contact the borough’s solicitor, Attorney Jonathan Foster, and see what progress has been made on drafting an ordinance.
“He’s the one who’s doing it,” Bunnell said. “I can’t stand the noise any more,” Bevan continued. “You don’t need engine brakes going down that hill. I drive truck myself; you don’t need ’em. We need to do something, it’s out of control.”
There was also some discussion about whether or not the state via PennDOT has to weigh in on the establishment of an engine brake ordinance. However, no determination on this was made. Another resident, Joe Moren, complained about the dumpster provided for flood refuse. Moren said he was recently told not to throw his refuse in the dumpster provided by a local businessman for flood cleanup, and added that his cleanup was delayed because he was in the shelter for 28 days following the flood.
“It’s over with, the flood was three months ago,” explained Bunnell, adding that the dumpster was never the borough’s and as such they have no authority over it. Moren agreed that he had been throwing old roofing material in the dumpster; not only is that dumpster now no longer available for flood refuse, reiterated Bunnell, roofing material is not flood damage.
Moren also complained that when power washing was being done after the flood, his property was not cleaned. “That was all volunteers helping the citizens of the borough,” replied Bunnell. “We had nothing to do with it,” Bunnell said again. Learning that Moren had come to check on his property while he was in the shelter, Bunnell added further that Moren should have been able to speak with the volunteers doing the power washing and providing the dumpster with regard to cleaning up his property. “I didn’t tell [the volunteers] to wash [it] or not,” Bunnell continued.
The borough, it was pointed out, did not provide any aid to its residents: FEMA and PEMA provided water and food directly while volunteers did cleaning and hauling as they could. Councilman Jack Vaow asked Moren if volunteers came to help him clean out his property.
“That was a joke,” Moren replied. “A joke?” Vaow queried. “They were all volunteers,” Bunnell interjected. “If you didn’t like the way they did it, we can’t help that.”
Most of Meshoppen Borough has recovered from the flooding, but the First Liberty Bank has yet to re-open and there is no news about if or when the post office will re-open.
The cost of the annual audit was discussed, especially in light of the fact that all the borough’s records were lost in the flood. The audit will cost $4,000 for the borough, $3,000 for the water company and $3,000 for the sewer company; this is approximately what it cost last year. Borough Secretary Phyllis Adams will have to reconstruct the receipts and payments prior to the audit. “And I had everything ready, too, by the last week of August,” Adams noted wryly. The flood took place during the first week of September. The motion was made, seconded and passed to go forward with the audit. It should be done in January.
Once again, delinquent customers of the water company were discussed. Some who have been taken to court and ordered to pay have still not paid, and the borough is unsure about what can be done to obtain the money owed them. A new rule allowing garnishment of wages for civil actions may enable some money to be recouped, but it may not be in a timely fashion.
Borough Police Chief John Krieg asked council about hiring a full-time officer for the borough. “We can certainly justify it if you go by activity in the borough,” Krieg said. “We have over 350 criminal incidents this year,” he continued, explaining that most of his time is spent doing criminal work, and the day-to-day patrol and traffic work is getting neglected. Krieg also said it was imperative to hire a full-time officer because part-time officers feel they have no incentive to stay, and turnover of part-time officers is high. The possibility also exists for Meshoppen Borough’s police force to cover a neighboring municipality; however, negotiations are still underway and no decision has been made. Krieg said that with two officers, covering two municipalities would be much more efficient. Shifts would be arranged so that the municipalities are covered for more hours in every day as well.
“Ninety percent of what we do is criminal, it’s completely reversed from the way it was when I started 20 years ago,” Krieg explained. He added that most of the criminal incidents are drug and alcohol related, either indirectly or directly. Once negotiations are further along with the other municipality, Krieg and Mayor Bruce Marshall will report back to council. Krieg was authorized to continue negotiations with the other municipality; it is likely that the details about the new officer and about coverage for the second municipality will be finalized in January.
The budget for the borough for 2012 was also reviewed. There were no major changes from previous years’ budgets and it was adopted unanimously. Bunnell raised a concern that the figures were not certain because of the loss of borough records in the flood. Adams assured council that she has asked all appropriate parties to send records so she can rebuild the borough records, but has yet to receive some. Should the figures, which will be in by January, prove that the 2012 budget needs to be changed, amendments can be made at the January meeting.