Philipsburg meeting protocol questioned|
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
By Tyler Kolesar Staff Writer
PHILIPSBURG - A council member voiced his dismay over not recording meetings at last night's Philipsburg Borough council meeting. Previously, Walt Chorle has told council he would like to see each council meeting recorded, yet no action had been taken. Chorle again brought up this point last night, stating he feels the minutes are inaccurate.
In the past, Borough Manager Jan McDonald said meetings were recorded. However, they did not have an efficient way of copying the meeting if a citizen asked for it. McDonald said they now have the ability to transfer, as they purchased a new recording device. McDonald said it would be up to council on whether or not they would like meetings taped.
Citizen Betsy Ross also agreed with Chorle, saying the meeting minutes can be inaccurate at times. Various questions then arose about the minutes, such as how detailed the minutes should be, how long to keep recordings if they choose that route, can the general public contest the minutes, etc. Solicitor Patrick Fanelli said the minutes are technically supposed to show who was in attendance, who made motions, who seconded them, what the votes were, etc. Fanelli said some municipalities he represents have thorough minute notes, as they include how specific conversations/discussions went during the meetings. Fanelli said he neither supports nor disagrees with this method, stating Philipsburg Borough has what is needed in their official minutes.
Fanelli said should the meetings be recorded, the borough could destroy the tapes after the minutes from the previous month are approved. A discussion then took place on how long they could keep the tapes. Fanelli also said in terms of inaccuracies, once minutes are approved by council, then technically what is on the minutes is what took place, regardless of inaccuracies. If there are inaccuracies, Fanelli said it should be brought up by council members and changes should be made before they're officially approved. Ross asked whether or not citizens could protest the minutes, to which Fanelli said they could not.
Secretary Shelley Walstrom said she can't possibly write every word that's said at the monthly meetings.
"I'm not a stenographer," said Walstrom.
Chorle said with new technology such as the Internet and other media, they should have no problem recording the meetings. President Fred Grauch said he feels the current system works, and that there's no need to record the minutes. Grauch said they chose to go with minimal notes for minutes roughly four years ago, and he feels it should stay that way. No action was taken on whether or not to record future meetings.
In other news:
• council member Harry Wood said Heritage Days went extremely well. Wood thanked everyone for the hard work people put in, as well as the borough crew for cleaning up before the event.
• Chorle said he did research and said revenues are down by six percent this year from last year. He then said council should consider cutting back wages to help alleviate the lost revenue. No action was taken.
• Chorle said on Feb. 14 he had requested the personnel committee to complete McDonald's review, to which it has not been completed.
• Ross requested the 30-minute time limit citizens have in the borough building during the day to be lifted. Ross said when looking through books at the building, you do not have ample time to properly look through them before having to leave. Council agreed, and they revoked the time limit by a vote of 6-0. Council member Barb Gette was absent.
• Chorle took offense to a Public Works/Street Committee meeting in late June, stating the meeting got out of hand. When Grauch asked if Chorle was in attendance, Chorle said he was not.
• engineer John Clabaugh said the Cold Stream Dam Project is still in the hands of the state right now, and the borough is awaiting further approval in order to continue.
• council approved the new healthcare broker contract with Central Insurers Group by a 5-1 vote, with Wood voting no.
• council unanimously approved switching to UniFirst for borough uniforms, as well as allowing Chester Hill Borough's two borough workers on the program to allow them to receive the discounted rate. The change will save the borough approximately $1,500.
• Grauch told Chorle that when asking questions to a committee chairperson during the regular council meeting, Chorle should give two weeks' notice for the questions.
Grauch said at times people do not know the immediate answer to the questions, but instead find out after the meeting. Chorle said he would give two weeks notice if they have their committee meeting before the regular meeting. However if they do not, Chorle said he would continue to ask the questions during the regular council meetings.
The next regular meeting is scheduled for Aug. 20 at 7 p.m. at the borough building.