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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Taxes, boxes spike disputes during meeting

  • Monday night's two-and-one-half hour marathon of a Honesdale Borough council meeting may have been way too long, but it did not lack big issues.
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    Monday night's two-and-one-half hour marathon of a Honesdale Borough council meeting may have been way too long, but it did not lack big issues.
    One of those issues was the fact the council mistakenly raised taxes this year. Finance committee chairman Scott Smith said it was his mistake.
    We commend Smith for taking responsibility when it comes to the error.
    However, that doesn't make the fact taxes have gone up any easier to swallow for the taxpayers in the borough.
    The mistake will net the borough about $75,000 in extra revenue this year. Smith said he wants to set that money aside in a separate account to offset taxes in the next year.
    That seems like a reasonable move since the damage has already been done.
    But councilman Jim Brennan said he wanted to spend more than $50,000 to purchase a loader for the Department of Public Works. DPW officials just discovered their loader is broken and unfixable.
    This proposition is walking on shaky ground.
    Brennan emphasized he's not talking about using any of the $75,000, rather, taking money from projected surpluses this year.
    That may be true, but no matter how you slice it, the money has to come out of the pocket of the taxpayers.
    It would seem the borough should have been setting aside money for equipment replacement all along. Machines break.
    Otherwise, they should finance the equipment and pay it off over time through the DPW budget.
    We agree with Smith and think those funds should be set aside and maybe taxes could even be lowered next year.
    As for the loader, that money should come out of the DPW budget, even if it means trimming back in other areas.
    We could think of a lot of good uses for $75,000, including another police officer, but that has not been budgeted.
    The council needs to follow the proper steps and not try to capitalize on an honest mistake.
    Another hotly discussed issue involves "knox boxes."
    The council is proposing to require all commercial building owners in the borough to install these boxes.
    The boxes contain a key to the building and can be opened remotely by the 911 dispatch center at the request of the fire department.
    The concept is for firefighters to be able to get into buildings more easily in emergencies rather than breaking down doors.
    The concept is good and used in many places across the country.
    However, the ordinance being proposed is a requirement by the borough, not an option for the business owners. If owners don't comply, they can be fined.
    Page 2 of 2 - Again, the borough is walking down a slippery slope.
    Many people believe it is up to the individual business owner if they want one of these boxes installed or not. They don't want to see yet another government mandate which will also mean another business expense.
    It's an interesting issue and one which should cut right to the heart of people who think there is already too much government intrusion in their lives.
    The bigger issue here may be the fact the knox box matter has not been discussed much publicly and now it could be a month away from being enacted.
    The council might want to step back a bit and think about giving the public more time to digest this matter before any final decisions are made. We've gone this long without the requirement, surely a couple more months wouldn't make that much of a difference.
    For the general public, this might not sound like that big of a deal. But for business owners, it is a big deal. This could be just one more stake to the heart that drives a business out of Honesdale and to another location.
    That is something nobody wants to happen and the council had better think about this long and hard before making any firm decisions.
    There's more riding on this than meets the eye and caution should be used.
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