- Last Updated on Monday, 29 February 2016 02:27
By Jill Brown
At the January 25, 2016, Monessen City Council meeting, the Monday after the weekend blizzard, there was a small crowd in the normally full room. Immediately, Council went into executive session for about 35 minutes.
Upon Council’s return, they explained the reason for the session: Councilwoman Lucille D’ Alfonso said that that they are going to have temporary furloughs; one executive employee, one meter maid, 5 employees total, and are going to need to be reinstated. She said, “We are obviously at the point now where we need to make some difficult decisions.” She later suggested they have a budget committee to meet all throughout the year.
According to Mayor Lou Mavrakis, Council also had discussed other serious financial problems. He stated in his address –“State of the City of Monessen-2016” – “As I look back on my last two years as mayor of the City of Monessen, I cite the following reasons why Monessen cannot move forward… $13,583,565 debt to be paid over the next 28 years.”
The mayor went on to say, importantly, something he has said before: “This city has lost over $250,000 on operating this building in 2014 and 2015. We had a chance to sell it to a well-known investor that was going to spend 3-5 million dollars to update and beautify it, but this Council voted 4-1 not to sell. I was the lone vote to sell....”
Mavrakis said in his address: a mandated holding tank cost $1,000,0000, $250,000 in CDBG funds were spent on the amphitheater, and the downtown clock cost $50,000. In Jan. 2014, Finance Director D’Alfonso compiled an administration budget $586,000 less than the previous year. Finally, Mayor concluded, “I plead with Council to reconsider my ideas and try to save our city.”
Resident Tony Orzechowski said, “We’re in bad shape. We can’t afford to pay our bills. We didn’t just fall into a pit all of a sudden. Did you not see this coming?”
Councilwoman Patty Bukowski said, “I’m glad you’re perfect and never made a mistake in your life. There was no negotiation. That police contract was signed before we saw it.”
Councilman Ronald Chiaravalle said, “We are trying to fund expenditures when we don’t have a budget to make cuts. You cannot make a wish list when you’re making a budget. As far as the police budget goes: A contract is not a contract, until it’s ratified.”
Bukowski said, “This has been happening for years. I can’t see reopening the budget.”
In the mayor’s Dept. of Public Affairs report, an upcoming event on April 18 will be Sammy Vasquez vs. Mark Shrader at the Monessen Civic Center. This will be a worthy fundraiser to raise funds for the center’s roof.
The meeting continued into the late evening, with questions for Council about the city’s finances and a complaint about not having a fire hydrant on one angry resident’s block. Without resolutions, and at a late hour, the meeting was finally adjourned.