Not a silent night…East Cocalico supervisors field questions in lively last meeting before holiday

By on December 22, 2015

Just like Santa Claus spoke not a word but went straight to his work in Clement Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas,” the East Cocalico supervisors sparingly answered questions and passed the proposed $5,284,995 million 2016 budget at their Dec. 17 meeting.

“There’s no change in the 2.05 mill tax rate, which is 20.5 cents for each $100 of assessed value,” said Supervisor Chairman Doug Mackley. “Street lights are assessed at 60 cents per frontage foot.”

The 16 residents in the audience represented nearly a five-fold increase from the usual attendance, and they had some questions and comments.

When a resident asked if there would be a brief, verbal explanation of the budget, Mackley said, “What do you want to know? You have it in front of you.”

No one else asked for any type of budget summary.

Visitors received a copy of the printed budget that was posted online, which gave categories of expenses and didn’t explain exactly what items each heading covered.

Mackley responded to resident Jeff Mitchell, who asked if police costs for Denver Borough were revised.

“Yes, we recalculated their 2016 rate and corrected the clerical error,” said Mackley. “Their rate is $478,000, which includes $7,371 for post-retirement health care.”

Mitchell asked if the reduction amounted to around $22,000 to $23,000. Mackley said “it was about that.”

Mitchell asked if East Cocalico had a police contract with Denver for 2017.

“Not yet,” said Mackley.

Supervisors Alan Fry and Noelle Fortna supported deficit spending for the swimming pool when Mitchell questioned the more than $60,000 loss in 2015, with similar losses for other years. (Fry is also recreation director for the township for which he earns additional compensation.)

Fry said pool rates have remained the same for several years and he personally would recommend a slight increase for next year. Both Fry and Fortna said the community pool is an expected amenity when people buy a home, even though a small percentage of total residents join and/or use the pool.

“We provide a place for kids to go in the summer for recreation on a daily basis,” said Fry. “We also supply jobs for teenagers and young adults as lifeguards and in other roles at the pool.

“The swim team is a place for children to develop competitive swimming skill. Some of our kids have won swimming scholarships when they go on to college.”

Another issue to elicit several audience comments was the news that, after re-advertising a second time, as required by law, there were no bids on the approximate seven-acre tract of land at 1925 N. Reading Road. That acreage was given back to East Cocalico Township by DenTech, who purchased the remainder of the parcel.

Resident Larry Paul said at one time that unsold parcel “was a dump.” There was discussion about the high tension wire, under which could be parking, but not construction due to access for repairs being necessary.

Residents Brian Wise, Brian Paul and David Hollinger all expressed support for supervisors considering listing the tract of land with a real estate agent to give a wider audience of possible buyers.

Paul stressed the need to sell the land rather than the township retaining ownership.

“Don’t be land speculating with our money,” he said.

Mark Hiester, township manager, said that since the land has been advertised twice the township may legally deal with anyone who is interested in purchase.

Asked by a resident what the tract’s appraised value is, Mackley said he didn’t know.

“I don’t have the numbers in front of me and I don’t want to give out a wrong number.”

The resident asked for a ballpark figure and thought Mackley, or other supervisors should recall that figure.

Mackley, annoyed, responded: “Are you calling me a liar?”

The other supervisors, as well as Hiester, each indicated that they could not recall the figure.

At the end of the meeting, the supervisors met in executive session to discuss “personnel.”

Mackley, responding to a query the day after the meeting, confirmed that Jonathan Zaun, who had accepted a “recall from furlough” letter, was resigning from the East Cocalico police force.

Zaun submitted his letter of resignation in person at the supervisor’s executive session.

Corporal Terry Arment, originally appointed Officer in Charge (OIC) for the remainder of December 2015 will be OIC until a new chief is named.

Supervisors have not announced how they plan to fill the vacancy created by Chief George Beever’s retirement.

In other business, supervisors:

* Heard Zoning Officer Tony Luongo’s report of 18 new single family residences in 2015. Two zoning board cases are scheduled in January 2016. One continues a resident’s variance request for truck and trailer parking in a rural residential zone. The second case concerns code variances requested by Foxbrooke Development, proposed for Route 897 south.

* Supervisors approved Union Barrel Works temporarily closing the first block of North Reamstown Road on New Year’s Eve from 11:30 p.m. to 12:15 a.m.

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