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MAI NLI NE newspapers
Vol. 165 No. 25
Ebensburg Borough discusses sidewalk project, dog park
Thursday, February 6, 2020
Newsstand Price 75¢
By Gina Bianucci
of Mainline Newspapers
The Ebensburg Borough Council discussed the 2020 sidewalk project and the proposed dog park location at its Jan. 27 meeting. The council heard from the street committee that Peoples Gas decided to cancel a project to replace gas lines in the northern section of town. Peoples Gas advised the committee that any plan to replace gas lines will be delayed eight or more years. Since the gas project is abandoned, it would be possible to complete both phases of the sidewalk project at the same time. However, the staff’s preference is to do the work in two separate phases over the two years as planned. Borough manager Dan Penatzer said that having the project in two separate phases will minimize inconvenience on the north side of town. This would also negate the need for an interim wearing course of blacktop in the northwest quadrant and keep the project manageable for smaller contractors. The council agreed to complete the project in two separate phases. Penatzer said the staff wants the street committee to review the plans to have everything finalized by the council’s February meeting. The two new council members who joined the street committee, Jeff Ball and Michael Owatt, along with council member SEE SIDEWALK, PAGE 3A
Bishop Carroll students Lexy Buyack, Makaylah Koscho, Alayna Pryzbys, Kallie Gailey, Emma Becquet and Tia Bradley celebrate winning the volleyball tournament during Bishop Carroll’s Catholic Schools Week celebration Friday, Jan. 31. Submitted photo.
Ebensburg Municipal Authority underbills BVMA
By Allie Byers
of Mainline Newspapers
The bulk water rate that the Blacklick Valley Municipal Authority (BVMA) pays to Ebensburg Municipal Authority will increase, according to Ebensburg Borough manager Dan Penatzer. Penatzer attended the Jan. 29 BVMA meeting to more thoroughly explain a letter he penned to them dated Jan. 9. The letter states that Ebensburg received a 10 percent increase in the bulk water rate charged by the Greater
Penatzer requests back payment of $17,082
Johnstown Water Authority. They received no notice of this increase that took effect Jan. 1, but the BVMA will notice an increase on the March bill. The letter also states that the water purchase agreement between the two authorities, date June 2004, “first stipulated a rate of $1.80 per 1,000 gallons with a minimum purchase of 20,000 gallons per day.” According to the letter, the rate from Johnstown has increased several times since then,
however the rate charged to the BVMA was “increased accordingly, but only for each 1,000 gallons in excess of 20,000 gallons.” The increase was never applied to the BVMA’s “base rate” for the first 20,000 gallons of water. The rate for the BVMA will increase from $2.48 per 1,000 gallons to $2.73 per 1,000 gallons, effective the January-February billing period. According to Penatzer’s letter, “it is
of Mainline Newspapers
SEE BILL, PAGE 7A
Local governments required to advertise meeting dates and times
By Ron Portash
Ethan Schilling and Alayna Przybys have fun at Bishop Carroll’s Snowflake dance held Jan. 25 at the school. Photo by Kristin Baudoux.
necessary for Ebensburg Municipal Authority to bill BVMA the difference between what was actually billed and what should have been billed.” The difference, which is $17,082, will go back to 2015, when Johnstown first increased its water rate, through 2019. “I’m here with apologies and I guess embarrassment that we did that and we’re looking for some solution,” said Penatzer.
Although it seems like a waste of money to some local government officials, there is a reason why boroughs, townships and municipal authorities are required to advertise their meeting times and locations. It is the law so the public can actively participate in their government. For the second time in two months, a Luzerne County agency had to postpone action and schedule re-votes because of a failure to follow the guidelines established by the state's Open Meetings Law. The law requires government agencies to give public notice of the year's meeting schedule before the first regular meeting of the calendar or fiscal year. The first notice must provide the dates, times and locations of regular meetings for the next 12 months. The notice must be posted at the governmental office and in a newspaper of general circulation published in the political subdivision. This law was developed to ensure the public has the necessary information and sufficient time to prepare to participate in governmental decisions and was enacted by the state legislature so the public could not be ignored by their own government.
The meeting schedule must be “prominently” posted in the local government's primary office or at the building where the meeting regularly takes place and must be visible to the public. Special meetings or meetings that are rescheduled that are held outside of the municipality's regular schedule are required to be advertised at least 24 hours in advance through a newspaper advertisement and public posting before the meeting can be convened. Most locals residents have failed to take up the opportunity to publicly participate in their borough, township or authority governments. Most meetings have, at best, a handful of local residents who attend the meetings. Many municipal meetings have no public interest unless a controversial topic is on the agenda. A simple question by a citizen in November 2019 forced the Luzerne County Board of Elections to re-ratify all of the votes in the prior 10 months after it was discovered the meetings were not properly advertised. A legal ruling determined that a remedy of re-ratifying voters was open to the board because the lack of advertising was inadvertent and not willful. SEE MEETING, PAGE 9A