— The issue of parking in the coal pockets surfaced once again at Monday night's meeting of the Honesdale Borough Council.
Councilman Bob Jennings, chairman of the safety committee, brought up the issue Monday and he says the time has come to get it resolved.
The problem has been ongoing for years and mainly involves ownership.
The coal pockets are owned by the Stourbridge Railroad Company, Honesdale National Bank and a few spots by the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce.
The main problem came when the railroad company changed ownership. The new owner, Paul Brancato, has so far refused to sign any agreement with the borough.
As it stands, the borough is setting aside $1,000 a month for payment to Brancato, but that money is simply setting in an account.
Jennings said to date, there is $37,000 in the account. He called it a "total waste."
Because the borough does collect money for parking in the coal pockets, the department of public works does maintenance and snow removal in those areas.
"Why should the taxpayers pay for maintenance of the coal pockets when we don't own the property?" asked Jennings.
Borough solicitor Rich Henry told the council he met with Broncato more than a year ago and he "promised to get back with us."
That, he said, has never happened.
Councilman Harry DeVrieze said it didn't make any sense that someone was due $37,000 but has not collected the money.
"None of it makes a great deal of sense," said Henry.
Council president F.J. Monaghan said the borough has "tried on numerous occasions" to get the matter resolved.
Henry did say since the borough is collecting fees for people to park in those areas, the borough does have some liability in maintaining the areas.
Jennings said it is his understanding there are only 62 permits in the coal pockets and he said the usage of the parking meters has gone down.
He also pointed out the borough spent a lot of money for parking meters targeted for those areas but they were later used in other areas of the borough.
Last year, Rich Doney, head of the borough's public works department, said he thinks the borough should get out of the business of the coal pockets. He said in years when there is a typical winter, the borough is losing money by doing snow removal and maintenance.
It was in January of last year when the borough council voted to resume plowing and maintenance of the areas. The previous council had voted to stop any maintenance and plowing of the coal pockets.
At that time, Henry was directed by the council to make an attempt to get the problem resolved. Though he did did meet with Brancato, nothing has since been resolved.
At the end of Monday's discussion, Monaghan decided to appoint a special committee to work in getting the problem resolved. Though Monaghan said he personally likes the idea of having parking in the coal pockets, he also said he agreed with Jennings that the issue needs to be finalized.
Appointed to the committee were Jennings, Mayor Ed Langendoerfer along with council members Jim Brennan and Juanita Pisano.
During his report, Langenoderfer brought up the issue of recycling in the borough.
"I know there is confusion," said Langendoerfer.
That confusion comes in the form of borough residents knowing the right information.
Langendoerfer said the borough does single-stream recycling for free while others charge for the service.
The mayor said he is concerned that borough residents don't realize they can get the service for free. Langendoerfer emphasized the borough does it that way as a service and it is paid for through property taxes from borough residents.
Brennan, however, said he would like to see the program phased out and "it may be better" if the residents pay the fees to private companies for recycling.
Brennan suggested "quietly" phasing out of the program.
"I didn't bring it up to do away with the service," stressed Langendoerfer.
Monaghan said the borough is "morally obligated" to continue the program for the rest of this year.
Monaghan said the council will be discussing the issue to see what direction to take in the future.
Members of the Summer Arts Academy approached the council about an opportunity this year to make the downtown parking meters more colorful.
Ellen Silberlicht and David Hammill were at the meeting and told the council they would like to have a program similar to one which has been used in York.
Silberlicht told members because of a tough economy, getting sponsorships and doing fund-raisers has become more difficult.
The Summer Arts Academy takes place each June and involves 40 young people from Wayne Highlands, Western Wayne, Wallenpaupack and Forest City school districts.
It is a week-long academy in which artists come in and help out the students. Practicing artists are broughy in for daily workshops which includes exchanging of ideas and personal development.
She said this year, they would like to raise money in a different way.
The concept is for the students to paint parking meters in front of various downtown businesses. Those businesses would sponsor the student. The cost is $50.
She pointed out that the meters done in York were painted in 2006 and are still in very good shape today. Silberlicht believes the meters would add color to the downtown area and also be a talking point for local residents and visitors alike.
Members of the council were receptive to the idea. They did ask that Summer Arts Council officials submit something in writing that if the meters do fade, the council will provide the manpower and paint to take them back to their original state.
If any local business is interested in the project and would like to sponsor a student and have them paint a parking meter, they can send a check for $50 tyo Summer Arts Academy, c/o Ellen Silberlicht 459 Terrace Street, Honesdale, PA 18431.
Mike Slish, chairman of the parks and recreation committee, said grant money has been approved for upgrading of the playground equipment in Central Park.
The money is through the Community Development Block Grant program and he is also hoping more will be approved for the next cycle.
Slish said there are many possibilities in upgrading the playground and he urges anyone to share their ideas.
Also, he said there might be other people or businesses who might want to help out with the upgrades.
The council discussed two issues related to the police department.
One concerned appointment of a negotiations committee as the contract with the police union expires at the end of this year.
Monaghan appointed himself, Slish and Scott Smith to the negotiations team. He also urged all members of the council to be involved with the process.
In another matter, money was approved to have civil service testing for three patrol officers. It was stressed this was only for eligibility and not hiring. The purpose is to have people in place should a position come open.
Currently, there are no names on the list.
The council will hold a special meeting next week to discuss the anchor building project on Main Street.
The special meeting will be at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 19 at borough hall.
Monaghan said the borough solicitor has to review all of the documents before a decision can be made.