Funds for anchor building win approval

— Borough councilman Mike Slish resigned his seat on Wednesday.

Citing professional and personal obligations, Slish submitted a letter of resignation which was read during a special council meeting called about the anchor building project in the borough.

"My time in office, although rewarding, has come with unforeseen consequences to my career and family obligations," said Slish in the letter. "With my increasing work demands and family obligations, I feel that I cannot sufficiently fulfill my responsibilities on council ..."

Slish was chairman of the Parks and Recreation Committee and helped spearhead the drive last year to get the borough's pool refurbished and open.

Although the letter was read at Wednesday's meeting, no action could be taken by the council because of public notification requirements. A special meeting was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. today for the council to take action on the resignation.

"It is my hope that my position is filled by a worthy candidate of your choosing," he wrote.

Slish also said he would be taking his name off of the 2013 general election ballot.

Slish was elected to a two-year term in 2011 to fill a vacancy on the council. It was first thought he lost that election to Juanita Pisano, however, a recount made Slish the winner.

Pisano has since been appointed to the council to fill another vacancy.

In his letter, Slish said he wants to "remain involved" in the effort to get a modern, handicapped accessible playground in Central Park. He has worked with the Leaps and Bounds Committee, which said it would obligate funds for that playground should it win approval by the council.

"I am truly sorry for any inconveniences that this may cause," wrote Slish about his leaving the council. "I appreciate your acceptance of this resignation."

Anchor's away

The reason for the special meeting was to discuss funding obligations for the anchor building project in the borough.

The anchor building project was approved by the council and involves a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Economic Development (DCED). More than $250,000 was approved.

The council then agreed to loan that money to developers Smith & Morris, who are using the funds to rehabilitate a portion of the former Sullum's building on Main Street.

Smith & Morris are obligated to pay back the loan to the borough, which will then use that money to generate other loans for businesses in Honesdale.

But the project has been controversial in recent weeks, including how the money will be paid to contractors working on the building.

Finance committee chairman Scott Smith said he met with developer Mike Morris recently to go over the bills which have been submitted for approval.

Borough solicitor Rich Henry told the council on Wednesday they should follow certain protocols when it comes to approving receipts. He also stressed the council is not approving payments but giving the go-ahead of DCED officials to review the bills and make the payments.

He also told the council they must make sure there are proper inspections done to verify the work has been completed. He said Bob Bates was appointed by the council to verify the work.

That, he said, is different than the standard Universal Construction Code inspections.

What Henry is talking about is making sure the items which were purchased are physically inside the building.

Smith said "some" of that has been done but not everything.

As for the UCC inspections, councilman Harry DeVrieze said it is his understanding those are up to date.

DeVrieze was later appointed to the special subcommittee overseeing the anchor project. He replaces Slish on the committee which also consists of Smith and Pisano.

Henry also told council members there were "some concerns" raised by officials from The Dime Bank about how the system is supposed to work with the anchor building funding.

"My concern is the bank is relying on the borough," said Henry.

He said if "there is a problem," the bank will go back on Smith & Morris but also said they could "come back on the borough" if the processes aren't followed correctly.

Henry stressed that DECD officials are the ones who make the final approval on any payments.

"They will make the decision if it is okay under the program," said Henry.

Toward the end of the meeting, a motion was made to approve various line items relating to the building. The total was around $108,000. The motion passed 5-0. Councilman Bob Jennings was not at the meeting.

Council also voted 5-0 for the subcommittee to forward four other invoices to DECD once they are verified.

Moving forward, new receipts must win approval of the full council.