AUSTIN — Several council members briefly viewed the budget for the first time during the Jan. 6 meeting, then unanimously approved the budget in the amount of $632,013 with no tax increase.
A resolution designated the current 17 tax mils collected to be used as follows: 12.5 mils general fund, 2 mils street lights, 1.5 mils fire protection and 1 mil for roads.
The council also approved a three year contract with the Austin Volunteer Fire Company for fire protection to its residents, with council member Craig Hooftallen voting against it. The annual contract amount of $9,322.14 is based on 1.875 mils of the 2019 municipal assessment for the borough and all surrounding municipalities.
AVFD personnel began contract and budget preparations in February 2019 and presented council with the proposed contract in September. Valenti tabled the contract in October and due to lack of a quorum in December the contract went unsigned with fire protection services expiring Dec. 31 at midnight.
Chief Nate Burgett said he is happy to see the contract approved, as the alternative would have been to implement a fire fee schedule, which would be a burden to the taxpayers. Valenti noted Council currently collects 1.5 mils for fire protection and will absorb the $1,900 difference by other means of funding. A tax increase will need to be made in 2021 budget, Valenti said.
Valenti said council could not be held as a “lame duck” after the November meeting as they can’t saddle incoming council with new business that ends past the current year, including the fire contract. Even though there was no December meeting, Valenti said there is a resolution in place which allows the treasurer to pay bills when there is no meeting.
During the reorganizational session, meeting dates were set for the first Tuesday of the month, beginning at 6 p.m. Meetings will be held at the Austin Borough Office on Turner Street unless otherwise noted.
Valenti said 2019 was a tough time for meetings and he hopes 2020 can be better.
The council noted no further action has been taken on the burned house on Foster Street. The council will be contacting its solicitor regarding this on-going matter as there are concerns for health and safety issues. Although the borough has an ordinance for dangerous structures, the current property owner has a demolition permit which does not expire until 2021. Valenti noted a committee will be established to meet regarding this issue.
A lengthy discussion was held on the Grace Street Paving Project. Now that the project is complete, the council is struggling to get its reimbursement of $7,800 from the dirt and gravel grant program.
Several years ago, the council paid IA Construction to install pipe/cross drain, dirt and gravel on Grace Street in preparation of future paving. Representatives from the program are now saying the council did not follow the specifications outlined in the grant for the work completed and funding has been denied. Several emails were exchanged by the borough and D&G throughout the project with a time line given for completion of the work. D&G did not respond to the emails nor did they show up on site when the road was paved.
In the meantime, the council has approved paying IA Construction for recent work completed less the grant funding until the solicitor has reviewed the matter.
Nate Burgett reported the Main Street issue was settled outside of court. Charges were filed with the district magistrates office on the School Street issue and since that time, the property owner did proceed to get a dumpster to clean up the property. If unpaid fines are not paid, a court date will be set and charges will not be dropped.
Burgett continues to monitor properties for excess junk and will continue to work with the borough on new resolutions/ordinances for houses that need to be torn down.