Council passes Greencastle budget and parries on grants

PAT FRIDGEN

With little fanfare, the 2011 budget for the Borough of Greencastle was approved Monday night. Borough Manager Kenneth Womack told borough council he had received no public comment on the numbers. The tax levy remained steady at 11 mills, with the six members unanimously in favor of that as well. The general fund budget was $1.67 million, up from $1.5 million in 2010. While the property tax rate has been the same since 2004, Womack told the board at a previous meeting that it would be difficult in the future to keep up with capital and infrastructure improvements at that rate. He said it might be necessary to raise taxes in 2012.

During the budget discussion H. Duane Kinzer said $15,000 to upgrade the lobby of the police department into a Safe Haven was not included. Council had discussed the possibility in the past. He wanted a place for a victim to seek safety, with bulletproof glass, a lock on the door and a phone to call 911. Police Chief John Phillippy said the quote he obtained was $18,000. Paul Schemel countered that while the concept was good, it probably wasn't the right year to spend the money.

Kinzer asked to use remaining money from the $50,000 allocated in 2010 for the various strategic plan committees. Approximately $31,000 was left. He wanted to use $15,000 to look for grants, chastising councils past and present for being lax in going after such funds. In addition to the Safe Haven, another project he favored was imprinted macadam crosswalks to dress up Center Square.

"We don't have very good marked crosswalks because the state has not done their job," he declared.

His motion, seconded by Craig Myers, was to use $20,000 for beautification and a Safe Haven. Mayor Robert Eberly stressed that all of the committees should have access to the money, and all members agreed any spending had to be approved by council. The remaining $11,000 from 2010 would go back to the general fund.

President Charles Eckstine, Myers, Kinzer, Paul Schemel and Matt Smith voted in favor. Harry Foley initially abstained. He explained that he did not like the uncertainty of applying for grants, which carried unknown costs. He then changed his vote to yes.

At a special meeting Nov. 23 Kinzer had also wanted council to consider seeking grants to aid homeowners and businesses in improving water quality and energy efficiency, but the others turned down that idea as a municipal task, since individual companies had similar programs available.

Later Schemel addressed the attitude toward grants.

"I'm offended by the use of grant money for non-essential uses," he said. Though he voted in favor of the motion, he noted that grants were taxpayer monies too, and should be used for valid causes such as safety and commercial activity.

"I caution us not to be pigs at the trough at public expense," he concluded.

Womack said funds were tighter and often grant applications required connection to a comprehensive plan or community objective. He added it could be a fulltime job just finding the grant opportunities, but writing them wasn't that difficult.

In October Greencastle hired grantwriter Ginny Lays to work with Greencastle Downtown Inc., a nonprofit created through the Revitalization Committee. Kinzer said she would be used for the new search. "We're paying for her expertise."

Other business

The council accepted "with regret and appreciation" the resignation of Mark Singer, who took a job in November that precluded him from serving on council. Anyone interested in an appointment to council should submit a letter of interest to Womack. The person will be selected Jan. 3.

On the recommendation of Eckstine, the council appointed Joel Fridgen as chair of the Greencastle Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Committee, and as members, Janet Pollard, director of the Franklin County Visitors and Convention Bureau; Bonnie Shockey, Allison-Antrim Museum; Ted Alexander, local historian; and Randy Phiel, Cumberland Township supervisor and re-enactor.

Citizens were reminded that an ordinance prohibits the parking of unattached towing trailers on city streets, and police would be issuing tickets. Also, the free parking downtown was restricted to two hours, as noted on the meter covers. Violators could also find a ticket on the vehicle window.

Gannett Fleming was authorized to move ahead with the final design phase of the U.S. 11/Route 16 intersection improvement project. The cost was estimated at $104,000.