Borough Spending and Finances Key Issues in Leetsdale Council Race
Challengers question audit report, borough spending and hirings.
Tuesday's outcome of the Leetsdale Council race could affect the future of some borough staff positions, plans to reinstate the police K-9 program and ultimately, the way in which borough affairs are carried out in Leetsdale.
A slate of four candidates who banded together and swept the May primaries as part of a concerned-citizens group have been outspoken about their opposition in the way the borough is being run and they’ve made clear their plans to change things going forward.
Democratic candidates Joseph McGurk, Linda Michael, Melanie Dunn and Republican candidate Jeffrey Weatherby, who ran on the "Citizens for Leetsdale" ticket, all said they intend to reassess borough spending practices and hirings, and bring more transparency to local government.
The group hopes to fill three four-year seats, and to have Michael elected to one two-year seat as the Republican write-in nominee pitted against Incumbent Democrat Councilman Benjimen Frederick. Michael said she would prefer that her supporters cast a vote for the two-year seat.
If elected, Michael of Oak Drive said she wants another review of the audit because she said the current council never properly reviewed the results for the public. Borough officials say the audit was reviewed with the public. Michael said she’d like to know if there was anything questionable.
“Not that I’m trying to beat a dead horse, but I want to know the condition of things when I’m elected,” she said. “I personally am very concerned about looking at inventory and audits.”
Frederick of Victory Lane said if re-elected, his hope is to continue making progress, particularly with parks and recreation. According to a flier that was circulated supporting Frederick, part of the progress includes lowering the budget from last year and hiring a borough manager, estimated to have saved the borough $250,000. Frederick said he knows the flier has been circulated in his support, but he personally had nothing to do with the flier.
“Within the last four years, we’ve had great progress with the borough ... and I would like to continue it,” Frederick said.
If elected, McGurk of Beaver Street said the first thing he will do is get rid of the borough manager, a decision he said he’s been clear and open about in the past because he doesn’t believe the borough needs a full-time manager earning $70,000 in salary and benefits. McGurk said Sandy Bajsec, a junior clerk in the borough office, also would be laid off while current staff member, longtime secretary Liz Petalino, would be retained.
“Sandy Bajsec loses her job, Paul Scimio loses his job, Liz Petalino is restored to secretary-treasurer and we go back to the former government we had prior to them,” McGurk said.
Dunn of Broad Street said the current council has been “spending money like crazy,” from authorizing the purchase of a new garbage truck and dump truck to hiring a borough manager and preparing to hire a full-time public works employee.
“The point is, there’s an awful lot of spending going on,” said Dunn, pointing out that Hussey Copper is a major contributor to the borough and recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
“I think that our whole game plan if elected is to try to evaluate and assess the expenses and get things under control,” Dunn said. “It doesn’t have to be as extravagant. It’s a small town.”
Jeffrey W. Weatherby of Washington Street said he became fed up with the way the borough operations were being run so he decided to step in the race. He said his top priority will be fiscal responsibility and accountability.
“It’s spending my money as well as spending everyone else’s,” Weatherby said.
When it comes to resurrecting the borough’s K-9 program, most of the challengers said they haven’t been provided enough information to make a decision.
McGurk said he is leaning toward not having a dog, but Frederick said he supports it “100 percent.”
“I think it would be beneficial,“ Frederick said.
Clarification: A flier circulating in support of Benjimen Frederick states that council, with the help of the borough manager, has saved $250,000 and lowered the 2011 budget from last year. The story incorrectly attributed those statements to Frederick.
This story was updated at 10 a.m. Nov. 7.