By ANNE HOLLIDAY
WESB/WBRR News Director
Tempers flared during Tuesday’s Bradford City Council meeting.
Foster Township supervisor chairman Jim Connelly Jr., who is also a landlord in the city, asked how the city plans on paying off its 2012 bond.
Mayor Tom Riel said the city has set aside money for this year’s payment, and then started to explain why the city needed to borrow money, giving the “deplorable” condition of the streets as one reason.
Connelly interrupted, saying he agrees the streets are in deplorable condition, but he didn’t need an explanation on why the city borrowed the money. He wanted to know if the city is going to have to raise taxes to pay it off.
Riel asked if Connelly was finished; Connelly said he asked Riel a question; then they talked over each other for a few seconds.
“Mr. Connelly,” Riel said, “here is how it works here: A citizen stands and addresses council and we respond. We don’t banter and go back and forth like you do in the township …”
“Don’t pick on Foster Township …” Connelly said. “I asked you a question.” “And I asked you a question,” Riel said, “Are you finished?”
After a few more seconds of similar back-and-forth comments Connelly said, “How are the taxpayers going to pay a half a million dollars in debt? Answer it. …”
“Don’t demand I answer it,” Riel said. “I’ll answer it and if you interrupt me you’ll be found disruptive and removed from the room. We’ll continue to cut our expenses and increase our revenue, something we’ve been doing each and every year.”
“We wouldn’t have borrowed the money if we didn’t think we could have paid it back,” Riel said.
So there won’t be a tax increase? Connelly asked.
“One would hope that we wouldn’t have one,” Riel said.
Connelly then talked about the city’s millage rate, and said when he sees a half a million dollars in debt service being paid out, he knows people can’t afford it.
Riel started explaining cost-cutting measures in the city, including having about 20 percent fewer employees than they had in 2008. Riel then said employees pay for their health care, which is something they didn’t do before. At that point Connelly and several other Foster Township residents in attendance got up and left council chambers.
You can listen to part of the exchange here:
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, council approved the purchase of a custom fire engine and itemized list of small equipment at a price not to exceed $520,000.
You can hear Fire Chief Chris Angell talk about the truck, and the process of buying a new truck here:
Councilman Rhett Kennedy explained that there is a requirement regarding “years of service,” and the truck they are putting in reserve will exceed the years of service. Having a new truck qualifies the department for a number of grants.
Council also enthusiastically accepted quotes from 6-V excavation to demolish dilapidated buildings at 8-10 Thompson Ave. for $4,340; 72 Jefferson St. for $4,468; and 77 W. Corydon St. for $2,680.
Riel noted that the money is coming from the Community Development Block Grant Program. Councilman Fred Proper thanked OECD Executive Director Sara Andrews “for finding a way to at least get a couple of the house we’ve been dealing with for what seems like years.”
Andrews said the process is continuing and Angell will be bringing her a list of the next three properties on Wednesday.
On a related note, council approved a payment of $2,131 to attorney Greg Henry from the Code Enforcement Fund.
Council also approved a change order for the Pine Street Pedestrian Bridge project that resulted in a net increase of $10,597. The project is funded through the CDBG program, a Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Grant and a private donation.
“We didn’t hold back any funds from paving streets to build that bridge,” Riel said. “If we hadn’t gotten the grant another town would. I’m glad you were able to secure that, Sara, despite some people’s views on it.”
“I think it’s a real nice addition to our downtown area and our trails system,” Andrews said.
She said the bridge should be ready for foot traffic within the next couple of weeks. She said the contractors are waiting for handrails, and still have some painting to do.
Also Tuesday, council approved the promotion of City of Bradford Police Officer Jason Daugherty to the rank of sergeant.
Daugherty said he is excited about the promotion, and said he is proud of how far the department has progressed over the past few years, and he believes the department’s future is bright.
Daugherty completed all necessary steps through the City of Bradford Civil Service Commission to obtain the rank of sergeant.